Facebook pressures law firms to ‘like’ diversity

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Law firms representing Facebook must have women and ethnic minorities working on matters of the world’s largest social network or lose the business.

Facebook implemented a policy on Saturday that requires outside counsel to field teams that are at least a third women and ethnic minorities, according to the New York Times. The policy also states that firms must show that they “actively identify and create clear and measurable leadership opportunities for women and minorities.”

“Firms typically do what their clients want,” said Colin Stretch, Facebook general counsel. “And we want to see them win our cases and create opportunities for women and people of color. We think the firms are ready — our articulation gives not just permission but a mandate.”

Facebook’s new diversity policy for outside counsel comes after HP said in February that it would start withholding up to 10% of fees from law firms that do not have at least one “diverse relationship partner” or at least one woman and one “racially or ethnically diverse lawyer” each working on at least 10% of the billable hours for the company’s matters. HP has a one-year grace period for outside law firms.

However, it was also reported by the Times that Facebook is having its own struggles in improving diversity among its own ranks. Last July, the company’s leadership was only 27% women, 3% black, and 3% Hispanic ­­– even after a year-long effort to push for diversity in hiring. In the 12 months before July last year, the social network’s newly recruited senior executives were 29% women, 9% black, and 5% Hispanic.

In addition to Facebook and HP, other large corporates are also pushing for improved diversity among outside law firms they use. Ricardo Anzaldua, MetLife general counsel, will convene this month representatives from some 50 law firms the company retains, Times said. The firms are asked to ensure that “junior diverse talent” have “sponsorship among senior lawyers” and “get the best coaching and nurturing.” Underperforming firms have six months to improve or be booted from the MetLife law firm panel.

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