Microsoft’s Law Firm Diversity Program 2020 awards and the next evolution of the program

three executives walk in a courtyard

Since 2008, Microsoft’s Law Firm Diversity Program (LFDP) has been a vehicle for the company to partner with our strategic partner law firms to advance diversity in the legal profession. We report annually on the program’s results, spotlight top performances among our law firm participants and provide insight into how we will evolve the program in the next year to drive continued progress.

This year, we are pleased to share that we continue to see diversity gains by our program participants and to announce that Perkins Coie and Latham & Watkins have earned special recognition for their diversity achievements and contributions to our program.

We’re also announcing that in this fiscal year, we will expand the program bonus pool and the number of law firms that can participate to drive more and faster progress with a greater focus on African American, Black, Hispanic and Latinx representation in leadership.

Continued progress in 2020

The LFDP is an incentive-based program that rewards participating firms for increasing diversity within the firms, with a specific focus on:

  • diverse attorneys working on Microsoft matters
  • diversity within the firm’s partnership
  • diversity within the firm’s executive management

This last fiscal year, participating firms were eligible to earn a full bonus of up to 2 percent of their annual fees by meeting diversity targets in each of these areas. For purposes of the program, we define increases in diversity as greater inclusion of women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and veterans.

For the 12th consecutive year, diversity has increased within the teams working on Microsoft matters from participant firms. This year’s gains contributed to nearly a 30 pecentage point overall increase in the percentage of hours worked by diverse attorneys on our matters since the program launched. Since we added a focus on diversity in firm leadership to the program in 2015, diverse representation among management committees has increased by 12 percentage points, and diverse partner composition has grown from 33% to over 38%.

This growth represents commitment, innovation and partnership across our partner firms participating in the program. Given the health and economic crises caused by COVID-19 this year, we are especially grateful to our partner firms for their steadfast focus on creating a more diverse and inclusive industry and legal system during this time. Though we celebrate the gains we have made within the program, we have much more work to do as individual organizations and a profession, and it is as important as ever that we do not lose focus.

Our 2020 Law Firm Diversity Program award recipients

This year, as last year, we have two special awards within the program:

  • “Top Performer” for the firm that made the greatest gains across the diversity focus areas for the program
  • “Most Innovative” for the firm recognized, by a vote of their peers within the program, for exceptional innovation in efforts to increase diversity and inclusion at their firm

We are pleased to share that Perkins Coie is this year’s Top Performer, and for the second year in a row, Latham & Watkins is our LFDP Most Innovative firm.

Perkins Coie logo

Top Performing Law Firm – Perkins Coie

In the last five years, Perkins Coie has achieved impressive progress against LFDP program goals, growing diverse attorney hours on Microsoft matters by 12.3 percentage points (from 56.7% to 69%), and a 10.3 point increase in overall diverse partner representation at the firm (from 33.6% to 43.9%). Perkins Coie has also made great progress in diverse representation on its management committee, with over 64% of their committee members identifying as women, minorities, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities and veterans. Perkins Coie’s proactive approach earned the firm recognition on Fortune’s list of Best Workplaces for Diversity last year and has positioned the firm as a leader for diversity in the profession. We celebrate Perkins Coie’s efforts and congratulate their earning of this year’s award.

Latham logo

Most Innovative Law Firm – Latham & Watkins

The LFDP Most Innovative award was created last year to incentivize real, meaningful and sustained progress through innovation as a core principle for the LFDP. For the second consecutive year, Latham & Watkins has been recognized by a vote of its peer participants as the LFDP Most Innovative firm. This year, the firm won over its peers with two new initiatives intended to create a culture of allyship at the firm and reward firm timekeepers for investing their time in diversity and inclusion efforts.

Encouraging allyship  

Latham & Watkins created an allyship campaign that aims to provide practical steps on how to be an ally, highlight examples of allyship at the firm and facilitate “safe space” opportunities for everyone to engage in meaningful dialogue about diversity and inclusion, and allyship. The firm anticipates the campaign’s launch in the coming year.

Earning credit for diversity and inclusion  activities  

Latham & Watkins launched a program starting this year where associates and counsel can earn up to a certain number of bonus-eligible hours working on activities.  In this way, Latham & Watkins understands that providing this credit is an incentive that underscores not only the importance of diversity and inclusion contributions, but also helps increase engagement, both of which are key toward making headway in this space.

We believe that innovative ideas and approaches are necessary to move our profession forward. We also believe that when it comes to diversity and inclusion, sharing ideas will help us all to accelerate our progress. We celebrate Latham & Watkins’s commitment to innovation and sharing, so that others can learn from their efforts.

Expanding the Law Firm Diversity Program to drive greater progress

While we are grateful for all the progress in the last year and in the last 12 years, we can’t lose sight of the fact that there is much progress to still be made. Indeed, the data on this is quite sobering. Numerous reports from the last year find that we are far from the diverse and inclusive profession that we need to be.

For example, though Asian American, African American and Black, Latinx and Hispanic, and Native American people comprise between 35% and 40% of the U.S. population, Law360 reports in its 2019 snapshot that only 10% of partners at the firms it surveyed identified with these communities.

The data also reflects that the pace of change for some demographics has been too slow, particularly in leadership and for African American, Black, Hispanic and Latinx people. The National Association for Law Placement reports that representation of Black or African American partners rose only a quarter of one percentage point in the 10 years between 2009 and 2019, from 1.7% to 1.9%. Similarly, in the same period, representation for Latinx partners grew less than one percentage point, from 1.6% to 2.5%. At this rate of change, reaching proportional representation for these communities will take more than 50 years. We must make faster progress, and that progress must be inclusive of all diverse communities.

With this context in mind, Microsoft is taking three steps to evolve the LFDP this year:

  1. Inviting more firms to participate in the program
    In past years, the program has been open to our 12 to 15 strategic partner firms. This year, we are expanding the program to include more than 20 additional firms who also do a substantial amount of work for us in the U.S. Similar to our strategic partner firms that have been longstanding participants, the firms that are new to the program will be rewarded for year-over-year growth in diversity on the team that services Microsoft’s matters, within their leadership at the partner level, and within their management committees.
  2. Increasing the financial incentive for progress
    Starting this year, we are increasing the potential bonus within the program for strategic partner participants from 2% to 3% of their annual fees.
  3. Putting a greater focus on growth of African American, Black, Hispanic and Latinx people in leadership
    One third of the bonus that firms are eligible to earn will be allocated for growth in representation of African American, Black, Hispanic and Latinx peoples within the firms’ partnership ranks.

Additionally, this year we worked with our law firm partners in the United Kingdom to pilot a version of the LFDP in that region and they recently announced the law firm winners of their pilot year.

With this latest evolution of the program, we increase our commitment to diversity and inclusion by strengthening our partnership with our law firms to make continued progress together over the next year.

Sources and where to learn more about the journey toward increasing diversity in the legal profession:

The legal profession must not let COVID-19 weaken our commitment to diversity

Left Out and Left Behind on the experiences of women of color in the profession published by the ABA Commission on Women

NALP 2019 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms

2019 Law360 Diversity Snapshot

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