June 2, 2020

The Mansfield Rule and the lucrative world of law firm diversity marketing

       Back in 2017, O'Melveny ran a publicity campaign proclaiming their adherence to the Rooney Rule a.k.a. the Mansfield Rule. That rule requires "at least 30 percent of the candidates considered for various law firm positions, including ... lateral positions, [to be] women and attorneys of color." 

       Out of curiosity, I just skimmed O'Melveny's press releases, and clicked on every release announcing the hiring of a new partner. According to these press releases, the last nine partners O'Melveny hired, Mr. Adam RogoffMr. Michael Hamilton (who was sued for discrimination at his prior firm), Mr. Tim Evans, Mr. Todd Boes, Mr. Christopher Owens, Mr. Terrence Dugan, Mr. Michael Dreeben, Mr. Jeffery Norton, and Mr. Jason Kaplan, are all white men. Not that there's anything wrong with hiring white males; I'm a white male. But I wonder if O'Melveny actually considered any women or minorities for these positions.

       Diversity Lab is the organization that created the Mansfield Rule, and "certified" O'Melveny's compliance. So I wrote them to see what goes into such certifications. 

       Unfortunately, I haven't heard back and, after looking into them, I don't expect to. I say that because I took a moment to search the IRS website for Diversity Lab's financials. All nonprofits who receive $50,000 in annual contributions must file Form 990, which is made available to the public. But I couldn't find Diversity Lab in any listing of nonprofits, even though they appear to function on more than $50,000 of revenue a year. They have a staff of thirteen people and one of their efforts seeks $5 million from law firms. That's because Diversity Lab appears to be a for-profit company, registered at its owner Ms. Caren Ulrich Stacy's $4 million home (to confirm this, search for "Diversity Lab" here, after selecting the "LLC" option.) 

       I wish I didn't have to say something so cynical, but I hope Diversity Lab isn't some cash cow that provides dubious diversity imprimaturs to law firms that contribute to Ms. Ulrich Stacy's pocketbook. There are other organizations that do that. For example: 
  • MCCA, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, validates firms if they pay $1,500 to $150,000 a year (they have eight tiers of contributions, see pp. 1, 23.) 

       But these organizations don't claim that firms complied with an objective metric like the Mansfield Rule. It's one thing to give firms a vague "you value diversity" gold star, but Diversity Lab is certifying compliance with a hard and meaningful rule. Imagine two consumer websites: One gives automakers a nebulous "quality" award, in exchange for money, and the other gives automakers a "99% defect free" award, in exchange for money, without actually checking defect rates. Both would be problematic, but the latter especially so. 

       And these other diversity organizations are actual nonprofits with publicly disclosed finances (and notice that their Presidents, Robert Grey, Joel Stern, and Jean Lee received salaries of about $400,000$320,000  and $370,000 from organization funds respectively -- which makes you wonder how much Ms. Ulrich Stacy is paying herself, that she would rather have her organization pay taxes than become a nonprofit and disclose her compensation. Apparently there's a lot of money to be made by providing diversity marketing materials to law firms.) 

       I will update this post if Diversity Lab responds to my request for information.


       There's apparently a fifth organization with the same business model as the four above, the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance run by Ms. Manar Morales. Their imprimatur will cost firms $5,000 to $10,000 per year. A sixth organization, Practice Pro, is run by Niki Khoshzamir. She doesn't disclose how much she charges for first-tier, second-tier or third-tier status on her "diversity partners" website

       There's also Ivy Planning Group, run by Mr. Gary A. Smith and Ms. Janet Crenshaw Smith, who recently sold a package to O'Melveny. The package includes a new diversity podcast that Mr. Smith will do for them. I don't know what they're charging, but their price list for other services is here
o'melveny, omm, discrimination, diversity, grift, Mary Ellen Connerty, JeeHo Lee, Catalina Vergara, o'melveny, omm, omelveny, Darin Snyder, Jared Bartie, Diversity Lab, MCCA, NAMWOLF, Jennifer Winslow, Lisa Kirby, Anand Sokhey, Kate Johnston Ryan, Lindsey Boyle, Amber Boydstun, Leila Hock, Ellen Ostrow, Toni Wells, Marc Farraye, Natalia Marulanda, Erin Hichman