Students, Lawyers Team Up In Law ‘Hackathon’

by Naomi Nishihara on

The members of Team 9 won the Women In Law Hackathon

The members of Team 9 won the Women In Law Hackathon

Nine teams competed today (June 24) in the Women in Law Hackathon, a first-of-its-kind event hosted by Stanford Law School, Diversity Lab, and Bloomberg Law.

The event was a “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition meant to generate ideas and solutions toward the advancement and retention of women in law firms. Teams of seven, made up of Stanford Law students and lawyers from 54 participating firms, worked together for six months before presenting to the judges today.

Judges included Lucy Endel Bassli, assistant general counsel of Microsoft; Alan Bryan, senior associate general counsel of legal operations at Wal-Mart; and David Perla, president of Bloomberg Law.

The winning team, which pitched a new, holistic compensation model for law firms, was awarded $10,000 by Bloomberg Law, which they will donate to Ms. JD, a nonprofit dedicated to the success of women in law. The teams in second and third place will donate their winnings to the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas School of Law, and the National Association for Women Lawyers, respectively.

The event was hosted by Caren Ulrich Stacy, founder and CEO of Diversity Lab and the OnRamp Fellowship. Ulrich Stacy launched a program two years ago to help women lawyers find jobs after taking time off to raise kids. She hosted the event in an effort to generate ideas for measurable progress.

“There’s a lot of talk in the legal industry about stemming the drain of female talent, but much of it doesn’t turn into actual progress,” Ulrich Stacy told the Wall Street Journal.

18% OF LAW FIRM EQUITY PARTNERS ARE WOMEN 

The hackathon event also follows last month’s publication of the white paper, a Stanford Law research paper which found that only 18% of law firm equity partners are women, despite the fact that there is near gender equality in entry-level hires.

Erika Douglas, co-author of the white paper, is also a recent Master of Laws graduate from Stanford Law and competed in the hackathon. Her team, which came in second, focused on the fact that women leave the law profession at two main points: six to seven years in, and 16-17 years in.

Douglas cites origination credit as one of the main problems. Origination credit is part of most compensation systems in law firms, and gives greater weight to partners who are “credited” with bringing in and managing clients. Douglas believes that this system favors male partners, as origination credit is not always given to the people actually managing the clients’ cases.

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