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Metrics, Diversity, and Law

  • When: May 5–6, 2016, 11:30 am–2:30 pm
  • Where: Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, 340 E. Superior St, Chicago, IL 60611

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“Metrics, Diversity, and Law”

2016 Conference of the Research Group on Legal Diversity

Thursday & Friday, May 5-6, 2016  •  American Bar Foundation, Chicago

The Research Group on Legal Diversity (RGLD) is pleased to announce its 2016 Conference, dedicated to the theme of “Metrics, Diversity, and Law.”  The modern world is replete with schemes of measurement and assessment. In the law and other professions, metrics play key roles in the decision-making processes of gatekeepers at critical junctures throughout careers, and in drawing conclusions about successes and failures in efforts to advance diversity and inclusion. 

With this conference, the RGLD will spearhead a canvassing and critical analysis of metrics that influence legal and professional workplaces. These metrics include assessments of individuals’ characteristics—such as those involved in hiring decisions and performance evaluations—and assessments of organizational characteristics—such as measures of efficiency, diversity, and “quality,” from both firms themselves and external evaluators. We have conceived the event in collaboration with the Searle Center’s Workforce Science Project and in consultation William Henderson (Indiana University Maurer School of Law), Lee Webster (University of Texas Medical Branch), Deborah Weiss (Northwestern University), and David Wilkins (Harvard Law School). Conference content will focus significantly on the legal services sector, but will also include the broader world of law and diversity metrics in business, government, nonprofits, and the academy.

Key topics:  Despite some important previous research, there has not been a systematic effort to explore the role of metrics in legal diversity. The conference will focus on a number of pressing issues pertaining to the use of metrics in the legal profession and professional service firms. These include:

  •          What are the most influential metrics being used in professional workplaces?
  •          How sound are these metrics, and how are they deployed?
  •          What is the potential for developing standard data collection protocols to improve quality, interpretation, and effectiveness?
  •          Given the potential threat of litigation, does law impede the use of diversity metrics?
  •          What is the relationship between globalization and diversity metrics?
  •          And, a question connected to all of these issues: how do metrics shape legal diversity?

Key participants:  The conference will be designed to bring producers, consumers, and scholars of diversity metrics into critical conversation; specifically, it will feature presentations and comments from:

  •          Diversity professionals
  •          Human resources managers
  •          Standards writers
  •          Metrics experts
  •          Diversity consultants
  •          Attorneys
  •          Social scientists
  •          Legal academics

Key products:

  •          Conference papers will be published as an edited volume; Cambridge University Press is publishing a collection of previous papers, and a similar contract will be sought for selected 2016 papers.
  •          The 2016 Conference will also lead to the creation of a guidebook of applied tools and standards of best practice for law firms and other organizations navigating the world of metrics.  

Questions: Questions or comments about submissions, the conference, or the RGLD should be sent to Spencer Headworth, or 312-988-6534. If you wish to attand the conference, you must RSVP no later than May 1, 2016 to Cheyenne Blount at

The Research Group on Legal Diversity is a network of scholars convened by the American Bar Foundation to conduct empirical research on diversity in the legal profession and institutions of justice, as well as the impact of diversity on legal processes and legal institutions. It is co-directed by Robert Nelson, Ronit Dinovitzer, and David Wilkins. More information on the RGLD may be found under the “Research” tab on the American Bar Foundation’s home page,

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