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Jenner & Block is joining 36 other law firms to participate in a “Hackathon Alliance,” a second-phase initiative to help implement and pilot ideas developed during the inaugural Women in Law Hackathon that took place in the first half of 2016. The Hackathon – created by Diversity Lab in collaboration with Stanford Law School and Bloomberg Law – brought together 54 high-level partners from law firms across the United States to tackle the problem of the gender imbalance in leadership that has plagued law firms for decades. For six months, the partners worked in teams with industry leaders and Stanford Law students to create innovative solutions aimed at advancing and retaining experienced women lawyers in law firms. Their ideas were presented during a “Shark Tank”-style competition in June.
Partner Reid J. Schar served as Jenner & Block’s representative for the Hackathon, and his team won first place for its proposal of a gender-neutral compensation model titled SMART (Solutions to Measure, Advance and Reward Talent). SMART incorporates a firm’s values and culture, taking into account, in addition to billable hours and business generation, activities related to what women in law firms tend to spend more time on: advancing diversity, committee work, training, pro bono, etc. A SMART app and dashboard to help track progress towards goals, developed as part of the proposal, was previewed during the Hackathon.
The Hackathon Alliance has been organized to work with law firms that want to further develop and experiment with the ideas presented during the competition. The goal, according to Caren Ulrich Stacy, founder of Diversity Lab and creator of the Hackathon, is to “help forward-thinking firms experiment with new ideas that have the potential to move the diversity needle forward.”
Mr. Schar will continue to be involved in the diversity effort, leading Jenner & Block’s participation in the Hackathon Alliance. “I am very pleased that the ideas the Hackathon teams generated will be put into action. The legal profession must continue to implement strategies to support and promote diversity and inclusion, and I look forward to being a part of this initiative to boost retention and advancement of women lawyers.”
Jenner & Block has a long history of hiring and promoting women lawyers dating back to the 1960s, before most law firms were doing so and is focused on innovative initiatives designed to increase diversity at all levels. In addition to the Hackathon, the firm continues to participate in the OnRamp Fellowship program, which was created to provide women lawyers reentering the legal profession after a career break with an opportunity to update their skills and legal contacts through one-year, paid positions with top law firms, legal departments and banks in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada. Since joining the program, the firm has hired three OnRamp fellows – one of whom is now a full-time associate in the New York office.