D&I Dash: The Winning Idea From the Diversity in Law Hackathon

Members of the "D&I Dash" team at the 2018 Diversity in Law Hackathon. Photo by Stephanie Russell-Kraft/Bloomberg Law.

The creators of the D&I Dash, this year’s winning idea at the Diversity in Law Hackathon, hope that law firms can be convinced to publish data on recruitment, retention, promotion, and pay equity.

The Diversity & Inclusion Dashboard — “D&I Dash” for short — is designed to be a central clearinghouse of diversity information, accessible to law firms, in-house legal departments, law students, and maybe even the public.

“Organizations, law firms, and legal departments right now are submitting or collecting a lot of data,” said Mo Cowan, vice president of legal policy and litigation at General Electric. “Our idea is to present and use that data in different ways, make it much more actionable and user friendly.”

The idea will soon be developed and piloted by Diversity Lab, an organization dedicated to improving diversity at corporations and law firms. Cowan and his teammates wowed judges with the D&I Dash at the recent Hackathon organized by Diversity Lab and sponsored by Bloomberg Law, beating out eight other teams for first place.

Other members of the winning team were Beth Ybarra Crean of Bank of America, Lisa Genecov of Norton Rose Fulbright, Jason St. John of Saul Ewing, Brad Wine of Morrison & Foerster, and Harvard Law student Paras Shah, all of whom wore tracksuits during their pitch as a reference to the “dash” in D&I Dash.

The first data points for the website will come from the American Bar Association, which already requests various diversity metrics from Big Law firms, according to Cowan. Within three years, he and the other creators of the website hope it will be an interactive, iterative portal tracking information from firms and in-house counsel, including data on retention, promotion, and pay.

“It’s still a beta product,” Cowan said. “We’ve got to get from an idea to an actual design and product, and ultimately the product will only be successful as we get more and more people involved.” General Electric is already interested in the product, he said.

Of course, the success of the dashboard will depend in large part on law firms’ willingness to share their data.

“I think that firms have already embraced a large part of participating in the ABA’s initiative around reporting out diversity metrics,” said Morrison & Foerster partner Brad Wine. “And to the extent that we can make it easier for them in that process by aggregating that data and providing it to their clients, and then eventually making them comfortable with letting the public see it, I think it’s a natural outgrowth.”

Wine said it will likely take some time before granular law firm diversity metrics are made public. “We can phase it in over time and allow folks to open it up as they’re comfortable.” He said he expects Morrison & Foerster to be “one of the first firms to participate” in the D&I Dash.

Paras Shah, a rising 3L at Harvard Law who is working at O’Melveny & Myers this summer, said he believes the D&I Dash will eventually give law students “a better sense of what firms are doing in real time, on the ground.”

“Firms all preach about diversity and how diverse they are,” he said. “But I’m a first generation immigrant, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a room where no one looks like me or has a name like mine.” By putting diversity metrics out in the open, Shah hopes the D&I Dash will help change that.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Russell-Kraft in New York at srussellkraft@gmail.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom P. Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com