SVUDL Salutes Champions of the Legal Pipeline Challenge
Volume #4, Week of October 8, 2018
As a member of SUVDL’s Legal Advisory Committee, Caren Ulrich Stacy helps do what she does best: recruit, advance, and develop diverse talent from disenfranchised groups into the legal profession. As Board President of the US National Committee for UN Women, Silicon Valley and CEO of Diversity Lab, Stacy is particularly positioned to leverage the power of her networks to help SVUDL’s students—particularly women.
Her job has always required her to work with future attorneys “from the time they go to law school, through getting a job, until retirement.” After working in many of the top law firms around the world, Stacy gained a unique perspective on the struggles of disenfranchised groups trying to gain entry and advancement in the legal field. As a non-attorney, she explained, “What I saw was more important than what I experienced.”
Stacy said law firms feel an immense pressure to be both profitable and to be diverse. Yet at the same time, they are primarily “focused on this quarter, next quarter, and a year from now—not so much five years from now.”
That’s why she was “thrilled to meet Willie [Hernandez],” SVUDL’s Board Chair “and join the Legal Advisory Committee.” She explained, “Often law firms don’t invest as much in the pipeline as they do in the here and now—not as much in the high school student going to college, or the college student going to law school.” When considering that generally ignored early part of the pipeline, SVUDL’s model “gives [attorneys and law firms] the opportunity to be mentors, and it gives them a ready-made way to do so.”
Championing Diversity Through Innovation
During Stacy’s history combating gender bias, she observed that even in the most high-powered firms, the problem isn’t “a blatant desire not to give women access.” Instead, in every city, country, and different type of law firm, the same “systematic barriers” existed. She described inherent problems with the organizational and business processes: “Law firms were built by men for men.” And when the expectation is working “2200 hours a year, from one crack of down to the next, there’s breakdown in process.” She listed concerns endemic to human behavior, such as men and women not wanting to work alone together for fear of perception. She also mentioned the frequent social barriers that inhibit women’s advancement, such as childbearing and childrearing.
After noticing these barriers, Stacy began “creating innovative initiatives to boost diversity and inclusion.” Part of that work included a focus on bringing women back into the profession. When women had a gap in their resume, Stacy found they would be overlooked because firms would continually ask, “Gosh, how do we know [that woman] can hit the ground running, or that they weren’t fired from their last job?”
Stacy worked to create a research-based data bank through what she called “Moneyballing lawyers.” During this process, she developed an “algorithm for success,” which would change based on the type of organization and who was running it. This formula now boasts an 86 percent success rate.
After this strong showing, law firms wanted more diversity research from Stacy, so she created so-called Hackathons to bring 50 to 60 high level partners from law firms together to brainstorm ideas in a competitive setting. After pitching those concepts to judges, the winning strategies were implemented as trials. During this period, Stacy founded Diversity Lab, where she’s been incubating these ideas for five years now.
One of Diversity Lab’s greatest successes was the Mansfield Rule. It requires that at least 30 percent women and attorneys of color be considered for every leadership and governance role, equity partner promotion, and senior lateral position. Forty-one firms have been certified under the rule, which has already increased diversity as a result of its implementation. “Because there’s both external and internal accountability, we’re seeing movement,” Stacy said.
Persistence and Grit
Moving forward, she still sees several big challenges to creating diversity in the legal field. One striking struggle with lateral hires is the difference in how women and men present themselves during the process as candidates. For instance, Stacy said, “When we interview and there’s a man and a woman, she’ll tend to be very realistic.” On the contrary, the man will “unintentionally exaggerate what he’ll bring to the table.”
As a result, “When women choose to move, they don’t get valued as highly sometimes,” Stacy said. “All the data about value shows that [women] are not seen as positive negotiators, and the pay gap issue gets exacerbated.” In fact, her data shows: “Men tend to increase their salaries by double when they move.”
Still, Stacy believes the most difficult issue to address is attrition. “We talk about why women leave, but we don’t talk about why men don’t,” she said. “There’s still a societal stigma against work-at-home dads.” She added, “If men had the option, they might make the same choice: They are as unsatisfied with work-life balance, according to their data. But, men don’t feel like they have the same choice.”
The implication is that primary parenting is still seen as women’s work. And that is creating a problem for everyone in the profession.
Stacy would give any students who are interested in pursuing a legal career the following advice: “Don’t take no for an answer. Think of everything as ‘Not no, but not now.’” She suggests students “think of everything you can do to improve your pitch and your legal skills before you go back.” Most importantly, she emphasizes, “Then, go back!” From what Stacy has learned, “persistence and grit are the two most important skills to pursue a career in the legal profession.”
Every year since its inception, SVUDL has amassed a coalition of leaders across the legal profession to make generous financial contributions to support SVUDL’s debate teams in partner schools and after-school programs through the Legal Pipeline Challenge (LPC).
The LPC is a meaningful opportunity for law firm partners and corporate counsel to address, on a micro level, some of the inequalities in access that exist to educational enrichment opportunities in Silicon Valley. By supporting SVUDL, attorneys can help extend the skills and power of debate to talented and motivated low-income high school students and inspire some of these students to consider future careers in the legal profession.
The 2018 Legal Pipeline Challenge will take place from October 15-26. For more information, please contact Willie Hernandez, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and SVUDL Board Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org.