Six New Ideas From the Diversity in Law Hackathon

Nine teams competing in the Diversity in Law Hackathon gathered at Harvard Law School on Friday, after four months of brainstorming, to sell a discerning panel of judges their proposals to increase diversity in the legal industry.

The hackathon, organized by Diversity Lab and sponsored by Bloomberg Law, was the second of its kind. The first event, hosted in 2016, led to the creation of the Mansfield Rule, a policy that requires law firms to consider women and minority lawyers when it comes to promoting and hiring talent. Dozens of law firms have already implemented a pilot program of that rule.

Nine teams, each made up of law firm partners, legal department heads, and Harvard Law students, spent the last four months developing their “hacks” for law firm diversity.

“We’ve tried to manage diversity and inclusion or the lack thereof in isolation, but we haven’t really done what we can do as a community,” Caren Ulrich Stacy, CEO and founder of Diversity Lab, said during the event’s opening remarks.

R. Bruce McLean, former chairman of Akin Gump, with fellow judges at the Diversity in Law Hackathon at Harvard Law. Photo by Stephanie Russell-Kraft/Bloomberg Law.

The panel of judges included Paul Francisco, chief diversity officer at State Street; Melanie Heller, VP and chief of staff at Bloomberg Law; Ellen McGirt, senior editor at Fortune Magazine; R. Bruce McLean, former chairman of Akin Gump; Megha Parekh, CLO of the Jacksonville Jaguars; Therese Pritchard, chair of Bryan Cave; Judge Gregory Sleet of the District of Delaware; and Anne Trinque, GC of the Fiduciary Trust Company.

Here are the winning ideas:

First Place: D&I Dash

The Diversity & Inclusion Dashboard aims to fix one of the biggest problems that lawyers working on diversity issues come across: what do we do with all of our data? Between pressure from clients, American Bar Association recommendations, and in-house diversity efforts, some lawyers feel like they’re constantly answering surveys but not making any real progress.

Beginning with ABA data, the D&I Dash hopes to become a central clearinghouse of information, accessible to law firms, in-house legal departments, law students, and maybe even the public. By its third year, the website will be an interactive, iterative portal tracking information from firms and in-house counsel, including data on retention, promotion, and pay.

The team members behind the idea are Mo Cowan of General Electric, 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.

Second Place: Huddle

Huddle is an employee feedback app that allows senior lawyers to give young associates timely and objective reviews in real time. The app was designed to address unconscious bias that can creep into performance reviews.

The app is meant to be used as soon as an assignment is completed, and the interface asks specific questions like, “What was good about the associates’s draft motion to dismiss?” and provides multiple choice options like “effective writing” or “managed strict timeline.”  

The team members behind the app idea are Anne Davis of Arnold & Porter, Bill Dillon of Goulston & Storrs, Gianni Dimos of American Express, Chris Shumate of Liberty Mutual, Andy Sucoff of Goodwin, and Harvard Law student Leilani Doktor.

Tied for Third Place: In.C

In.C, which stands for “inclusive culture,” aims to create a measurable way to track inclusion at any given organization. Through the In.C tracker, employees can provide feedback on things like how much they feel they belong in an organization, how much they trust their team members, and more. Once it’s adopted by enough organizations, the In.C score can be a way for law firms and corporations to demonstrate to the public that they are dedicated to diversity.

The team members behind the idea are Jane Howard-Martin of Toyota, Mark Kesslen of Lowenstein Sandler, Joe Otterstetter of 3M, Darren Teshima of Orrick, Paul Werner of Sheppard Mullin, and Harvard Law student Jianjian Ye.

Tied for Third Place: Inclusion Imprint

Inclusion Imprint is a system designed to teach employees what inclusion is and to give them the tools to practice it. The interface works in three ways. First, it provides knowledge in the form of articles, videos, and other resources designed to explain concepts like unconscious bias and bystander intervention. Then, it provides behavioral change tips and action items, teaching users how to think before telling a joke or learn from their mistakes. Lastly, it tracks all of this through an app.

The team behind the idea is Tienne Anderson of Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare, Amy Carbins of DLA Piper, Peter Devlin of Fish & Richardson, Sean Fahey of Pepper Hamilton, Theos McKinney of Exelon, and Harvard Law student Li Pan.

Crowd Favorites: OppShop and NextGen10

OppShop is a software platform designed to give young lawyers the ability to pick projects in a clear and transparent way. It was designed to fix the problem of young women and lawyers of color feeling like they don’t have access to meaningful work opportunities early in their career. Through a simple interface, junior lawyers can create profiles, flag their availability and experience, and apply for projects. If partners try to use the same associate too many times without considering others, they’re sent an alert through the system.

The team behind the idea is Kelly Knivila of Stoel Rives, Jim McClammy of Davis Polk, Bob Rosenbaum of Dorsey & Whitney, Jeff Silver of PayPal, Naomi Waltman of CBS, and Harvard Law student Maddy Hong.

NextGen10 is a program designed to fix the leadership gap that keeps women and people of color out of top law firm and in-house jobs. Through a joint partnership, law firms and their clients will select diverse client-relationship lawyers and provide them with additional tools and opportunities to become leaders. “We’re trying to dig deep into the firm and look for someone, like a woman who has been on leave and who has great legal skills but just hasn’t been in front of the client,” said Natalie Moritz, chief litigation counsel at PNC.

The team behind the idea is Azam Aziz of Shearman & Sterling, Doug Bland of Vinson & Elkins, Julius Chen of Amazon, Natalie Moritz of PNC, Liz Zimmer of Pillsbury, and Harvard Law student Tony Meyer.