New Legal Industry Diversity & Inclusion Survey Goes Beyond Headcount

ChIPs and Diversity Lab Team Up to Measure Inclusion Initiatives in Law Firms

SAN FRANCISCO (October 30, 2018) – ChIPs, a nonprofit organization focused on advancing and connecting women in technology, law, and policy, has released the results of their ground-breaking Inclusion Blueprint Survey, a joint initiative with Diversity Lab that measures gender diversity in law firm leadership as well as the work experiences of women at the practice group level, with a particular focus on IP.

2018 ChIPs Honor Roll award presentation. Co-chair Katherine Minarik, Laura Burson accepting for Sheppard Mullin, Sangeeta Shah accepting for Brooks Kushman and Noreen Krall ChIPs Board Director. Photo credit Tracey Salazar.

“The Inclusion Blueprint Survey is different from traditional law firm diversity surveys as it goes beyond just measuring headcount,” said Karen Royer, Executive Director of ChIPs. “Our survey aims to encourage and support inclusion efforts by honoring law firms that have fair and transparent advancement and compensation processes that contribute to a higher representation of women in leadership. It also honors firms that make a concerted effort to track and measure equitable access to work experiences and opportunities to ensure there is a diverse associate pipeline on-track for equity partnership in the IP group.”

The Inclusion Blueprint survey was sent to 59 law firms, mostly in the AmLaw 200, by invitation from ChIPs. Thirty-five of the firms (60 percent) completed the survey. There were 46 total questions in three main categories, including: (1) gender representation in leadership; (2) inclusion activities and tracking at the leadership level; and (3) inclusion activities and tracking in the IP group.

In the last two categories, which made up the majority of the survey, firms were asked about their efforts to actively monitor and measure their lawyers’ work experiences, such as billable and non-billable work allocation, pay equity, gender neutral leave options, sponsorship opportunities, involvement in client pitches, origination credit, and other critical development and advancement opportunities. The survey’s chief architect, Caren Ulrich Stacy, CEO of Diversity Lab, explained, “The purpose is to ensure that diverse lawyers, specifically women, have equal access to these opportunities and to interrupt any unconscious biases that may exist within firms’ practices or structures.” Some of the survey questions included:

  • “Does the firm track and analyze non-billable activities (often called firm hours or office housework) for all partners to ensure there is an equal distribution of non-billable work across genders?”
  • “Has the firm conducted a pay equity analysis in the last five years and worked to make meaningful changes to remedy any issues and keep them from reoccurring?”
  • “Does the IP group track and monitor work experiences (e.g., taking depos, expert cross, drafting licenses) for IP associates to ensure that the types of assignments and experiences are being provided equitably to men and women?”
  • “Does the IP group track and monitor origination credit for partners in IP for expanding current work and bringing in new business to ensure a fair and transparent process and end-result across genders?”

Commenting on the survey results, Noreen Krall, ChIPs Co-Founder and Board Chair, said, “We are very pleased to announce that Brooks Kushman PC and Sheppard Mullin scored the highest overall points on the survey, earning ChIPs Top Honor Roll Awards. Congratulations to these two firms and the remaining top ten firms that are proactively tracking and supporting inclusion initiatives. These are the types of activities that will level the playing field and eventually move the needle on the representation of women in law.”

2018 ChIPs Honor Roll Firms

The following top 10 firms scored the highest on the survey, ranging from 39.5 to 36 points out of 46 total:

  • Baker Botts LLP
  • Brooks Kushman PC (Top Honor Roll Award)
  • Dechert LLP
  • Goodwin Procter LLP
  • Morrison & Foerster LLP
  • Perkins Coie LLP
  • Reed Smith LLP
  • Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP (Top Honor Roll Award)
  • Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
  • White & Case LLP

In addition, Goodwin Procter and Orrick were recognized as the two firms that ranked the highest in total points for tracking inclusion activities in both firm leadership and in the IP group.

ChIPs and Diversity Lab used a binary approach to measure the outcomes, specifically: one point for yes answers and zero points for no answers. And, as a bonus to recognize and encourage potential progress and next steps, they also awarded .5 points for each inclusion activity that firm management and/or the IP Practice Group Leader was willing to track and monitor in the future to ensure women and men have equal access to opportunities.

The top two firms, Brooks Kushman and Sheppard Mullin, will have the opportunity to: (1) prepare a CLE to showcase their expertise that will be made available to all ChIPs members; and (2) pitch two or more of the following legal departments for additional legal work. The remaining top ten firms will have the option to pitch one of the participating legal departments.

Participating Legal Departments

  • Amazon
  • Gilead
  • Apple
  • HP
  • Broadcom
  • HPE
  • Cleverbridge
  • Microsoft
  • Cisco
  • Nvidia
  • Dupont
  • Oracle
  • Facebook
  • Western Digital

“This survey was perfectly crafted to push the envelope,” said Sangeeta Gandhi Shah, Shareholder and Chief Diversity Officer at Brooks Kushman. “It delved into the thorniest issues within a law firm structure, namely the issues that continue to perpetuate the glass ceiling. At our firm, the survey prompted dialogue at the highest levels of management about the change that is needed and underscored areas for improvement. It also helped spur dialogue among in-house and outside counsel at the recent ChIPs Chicago chapter diversity roundtable. Although new, the survey has already served as an important catalyst for change.”

Laura Burson, IP Partner at Sheppard Mullin, also commented, “We work diligently in the IP group and across the firm to ensure that everyone has equal access to opportunities. It’s wonderful to see our efforts recognized. And although we did well on the survey, it helped us see a few blind spots that we plan to focus on over the next year and beyond. We applaud ChIPs and Diversity Lab for pushing us and all law firms to think about and take action on inclusion practices, not just diversity numbers.”