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Moving the Needle: Q&A with Lisa Kirby on Upcoming Diversity Hackathon at LSSO RainDance Conference

For 16 years, the Legal Sales and Service Organization (LSSO) and the RainDance Conference has provided the legal industry with a venue to grow and explore new trends in sales and service. Over the years, RainDance has become known for introducing new approaches to generating revenue and delivering value. This year, we are excited to bring you our first Diversity Mini-Hackathon at RainDance 2019 on June 5 & 6 in Chicago, IL.  

The following Q&A with the hackathon leader, Lisa Kirby Chief Intelligence & Knowledge Sharing Officer at Diversity Lab, offers a peak into this problem solving methodology:

What is Diversity Lab?

We are an innovation incubator that leverages behavioral science, data, and design thinking to develop and test new solutions to boost diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. Some of our best known initiatives are the OnRamp Fellowship, a re-entry platform for lawyers who have taken a hiatus and want to return to full-time practice, and the Mansfield Rule, which asks law firms to certify they have considered at least 30% underrepresented groups for lateral hiring, partner promotions, and leadership roles. (Stay tuned for the Mansfield Rule: Legal Department Edition, launching in July 2019!)

What led you to try doing diversity hackathons in the legal profession?

We felt frustrated at the very slow progress the profession has made on diversifying its talent. Over the past two decades, we’ve seen women graduate from law school in equal numbers to men, but still only comprise 19% of equity partners. Minorities have been about a quarter of law school students in the same time period, but still are only 9.5% of equity partners. Mentoring programs, affinity groups, and numerous other well-intentioned initiatives haven’t moved the needle far enough fast enough.

Diversity Lab decided we needed to try something completely different and test a new framework that other more nimble industries use to solve tough problems. In 2016, we launched the Women in Law Hackathon, which was the first of its kind in the legal profession, and last year we ran two Diversity in Law Hackathons. Our hackathons have brought together more than 150 law firm partners and legal department lawyers to combine their brain power and perspective with current research to tackle the lack of diversity. One of our best known initiatives, the Mansfield Rule, was born out of the Women in Law Hackathon, and later this year we plan to launch several pilots arising from the Diversity in Law Hackathons.

A hackathon is an engaging and proven way to problem solve by bringing together teams in a structured ideation format.

Why is diversity & inclusion important for business development?

Clients are increasingly focused on their outside counsels’ commitments to diversity and inclusion. As client demands increase in this area, there is an opportunity for Business Development professionals to differentiate themselves within their firms, and help their firms stand out for having a visible and impactful commitment to diversity.  Business Development professionals are uniquely qualified to develop new ideas designed to serve both clients’ and firms’ priorities.

And, it’s well-established that diversity directly impacts organizations’ financial and cultural health. In the legal profession, a recent  LawyerMetrix study found a correlation between increased diversity and law firm profitability. Partners at firms who had greater representation of lawyers of color took home significantly more money – up to $20,000 per partner. This is likely in part because diverse teams are more effective because they are able to draw upon multiple perspectives to innovate and solve challenges. In a different study on gender diversity, mixed gender legal teams out-performed single gender teams on 12 key performance indicators, even though there were no meaningful differences between the teams led by the men and women partners.

There is extensive research on this outside of the legal sector. Although it’s too extensive to list all of the resources -- here’s one example.  A study of over 1700 companies across eight countries found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue. In fact, the more dimensions of diversity that were represented, the more innovative – and thus profitable – the companies became.

What is the “mini-hackathon” you are doing at RainDance?

Our mini hackathons combine elements of a full-length hackathon with some of the aspects of a design sprint to create a condensed ideation process.  Hackathons allow teams to benefit from a variety of perspectives, but they’re more than just free-flowing brainstorming. We follow a structured format designed to support teams in developing concrete new ideas that are crafted to be “sticky” within organizations.

Learn more about the  RainDance Conference on June 5 & 6 in Chicago, IL.

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