Northwestern Pritzker School of Law has joined a national initiative aimed at creating a more diverse legal profession. The Move the Needle Fund, a first-of-its-kind experimental “laboratory,” will test innovative approaches to improving diversity and inclusion over five years at five U.S. law firms. These pilots will serve as roadmaps for diversity and inclusion efforts in the legal profession and beyond.

The Move the Needle Fund is a unique collaboration between the Diversity Lab — an incubator for innovative ideas and solutions that boost diversity and inclusion in law — law firms, more than 25 general counsel, community leaders and Northwestern Law. Northwestern Law is the only law school partner.

Why it’s needed

For the past 10 years, law schools have consistently graduated classes made up of around 50% women, 33% racial and ethnic minorities, and 6% LGBTQ+ students. However, equity partnership in most large law firms is only 21% women, 9% racial and ethnic minorities, and 2% LGBTQ+ lawyers.

If the current rate of progress continues, equity partnership in the 200 largest U.S. firms (as a group) won’t reflect law school diversity percentages for women and racial minorities until 2057 and 2084, respectively, according to the Move the Needle Fund.

“For decades now we have been graduating classes that are approximately 50% women and are very racially diverse,” Kimberly Yuracko, dean of Northwestern Law, said in a press release. “We know how extraordinary all our students are, and we are preparing them to be the next generation of our society’s and our profession’s leaders. We have an obligation to ensure that our students live in a world that will recognize and reward their accomplishments fairly and without regard to their race and gender.”

How it works

In collaboration with the Diversity Lab, five law firms will invest $5 million over five years to create measurable diversity goals. The firms will work with scholars to experiment with researched-based methods to achieve these goals and publicly report their progress.

To achieve their objectives, firms will:

  • explore and experiment with new approaches to hiring, work/life integration, work allocation, sponsorship, promotions, feedback, performance reviews and compensation systems;
  • implement the winning Diversity in Law Hackathon ideas;
  • test evidence-based research such as the bias interrupters from the ABA and Minority Corporate Counsel Association study as well as other inclusion research from top academic institutions; and
  • crowdsource innovative ideas from other industries.

The Move the Needle Fund has chosen four of the five founding law firms. They include Eversheds Sutherland (U.S.) LLP, Goodwin Procter LLP in Boston, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in San Francisco and Stoel Rives LLP in Portland, Ore.

Firms will begin measuring their progress in January 2020. All details and outcomes will be shared through a D&I Dashboard, which will serve as a central clearinghouse for research, knowledge sharing and data.

You can participate

The Move the Needle Fund is accepting applications for a fifth law firm to join the initiative. The blind application and selection process will evaluate the firm’s diversity and inclusion goals, and willingness to experiment with new ideas and share the results.

For more information on the Move the Needle Fund and to apply, visit www.mtnfund2025.com.

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Photo of laura bagby laura bagby

Laura Bagby is Communications Director at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, where she develops and executes strategy to elevate the Commission among attorneys and judges in Illinois. Laura leverages communications channels to educate and engage with the legal community in support…

Laura Bagby is Communications Director at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, where she develops and executes strategy to elevate the Commission among attorneys and judges in Illinois. Laura leverages communications channels to educate and engage with the legal community in support of the Commission’s mission of increasing civility and professionalism to enable the administration of justice.