Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 15

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

 

EPISODE FIFTEEN | DIVERSE INVENTORS

 

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 14

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

 

EPISODE FOURTEEN | CATEGORY B DEGREES

 

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 13.5

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

 

EPISODE THIRTEEN 1/2 | OUTSIDE COUNSEL REQUIREMENTS

 

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 13

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

 

EPISODE THIRTEEN | DESIGN PATENTS

 

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 12

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

 

EPISODE TWELVE | PATENT BAR ELIGIBILITY

 

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 11

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

 

EPISODE ELEVEN | INTERSECTIONALITY

 

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Why Continuing Remote Work Options After the Pandemic Will Support a More Diverse and Inclusive Work Culture

Why Continuing Remote Work Options After the Pandemic Will Support a More Diverse and Inclusive Work Culture

By Elaine Spector

Women have been advocating for change with regard to work/life flexibility for years.  For decades, choices for women starting a family while working in a law firm setting have been limited: either return to work full-time to stay on the partnership track or return to work part-time and be put on the dreaded “mommy track.” Women in partner roles would often return to work within days of giving birth.  That is just how things have always been, the model many women had no choice but to follow.  So, it is no surprise that many women, myself included, defaulted to the “mommy track,” or worse yet, left the practice of law entirely.

In addition to a lack of flexibility regarding part-time work, law firms have been reluctant to allow flexibility with regard to remote work.  Often, law firms equate lawyers who want to work remotely with a lack of commitment. As such, if a law firm actually agreed to a remote work arrangement, the lawyer working remotely would be taken off the partnership track.

While the pandemic has been a struggle across the world, a lot of women are quietly cheering from their homes.  Finally, our employers are forced to allow us to work remotely, and now they see that we can work well at home.  In fact, for some of us, working at home is where we shine. We are happy, less stressed, and feel some sense of control and balance.  At least, that is the way I feel.

I began working remotely a few years before the pandemic hit.  My firm allows for any lawyer at the firm, regardless of the numbers of hours they work or whether they show the requisite face time in the office, to make partner.  And I did.  Remotely.  Working part-time hours.  Many of my female colleagues at other firms have reached out to me to ask, “How can we keep the remote work going?”  “How do we continue to develop relationships and culture within our firm?” and “Can someone make partner while working remotely?”

As offices begin opening back up, I encourage law firms to look at this time as an opportunity to re-evaluate their outdated policies regarding remote work.  Despite the physical separation, you can build a firm culture focused on nurturing relationships.  Relationship building is the core of culture, inclusion, and ultimately, success at your firm.  Here are five tips to improve your firm culture while working remotely.

  1. Assign each lawyer in leadership an associate or member of support staff to meet with weekly.

It is critical to continue to build relationships in the remote work environment.  How do we replicate water cooler conversations?  One way is to require leadership to meet weekly or biweekly with both lawyers and support staff via a video call.  This type of face-to-face interaction is so much more engaging than a telephone call, as we have all experienced over the past year.  When holding the call, talk about your life to whatever extent you feel comfortable sharing, just as you would at the water cooler.  Set up a rotation within the firm, so that leadership is meeting with different individuals throughout the year and be sure to mix it up from those who typically work closely together.  This personal connection, untied to any pressing work matters, will transform your internal relationships.

  1. Hold monthly firm-wide meetings.

Get in the habit of holding monthly firm meetings, which include both lawyers and support staff.  The firm meeting is a great place to talk about your shared vision, to highlight people who have done exceptional work that particular month, and to address any issues that might need attention.  The firm meeting is also an opportunity to get to know each other.  Have a few employees present about their families/backgrounds, or cultural holidays and celebrations.  The days of keeping your family and work life separate are over!  An appropriate overlap, where employees feel the firm knows what is important to them, will make everyone feel more comfortable and supported in the workplace.

  1. Form firm committees that meet regularly.

A game changer at our firm was when one of my colleagues suggested forming committees focused on firm goals, such as diversity, employee relations, recruiting, automation, and new client development.  These committees perform optimally when the majority employees of the firm participate in at least one committee.  It is important to firm culture and work satisfaction that everyone at your firm has a voice, which also inspires innovation and progress.  The committee work furthers important objectives at your firm, while forging important relationships among your employees as they work together to create and implement new initiatives and reach common goals.

  1. Start a Book Club.

A virtual book club is yet another way to build relationships among employees of your firm.  The topics can range from fiction, to self-help, to business-oriented books.  A book club allows support and professional staff yet another way to get to know each other on a personal level, which is important for firm culture.  Participants can grow better through sharing their perceptions of what was read and have a better sense of camaraderie.  When employees feel seen and valued, the work environment becomes so much more effective and fulfilling.

  1. Talk to your staff virtually.

It is important to replicate face-to-face meetings as much as we can.  These interactions are crucial to developing meaningful relationships.  Face-to-face meetings allow you to see expressions on your colleagues’ faces and talk on a more personal level to allow for a more understanding culture.  Make it a policy at your firm, that when you would ordinarily walk into someone’s office, to instead, make a quick Zoom or Teams call with video always on.  After all, you wouldn’t force your colleague to speak to you through a closed door in the office – why make them talk to a blank screen?  Again, virtual face-to-face meetings are integral to developing a highly effective, remote working environment.

CONCLUSION

It is far past time to shift perspectives from the old rigid mindset to embracing a more diverse work force.  One where we, as women, don’t have to give up the important job of raising our children, while also providing top quality service to our clients.  In addition, lawyers should not be excluded from partnership because they work remotely or prefer to work a reduced schedule.  An attorney can contribute just as much to the success and advancement of the firm, its culture, and its future without packing in the hours.  In fact, the benefits of working a flexible schedule may contribute to more growth and innovation in the firm, as, from my own experience, those who work reduced-hours tend to be less stressed and more engaged.  Flexibility is essential for advancing talented women and other lawyers seeking balance in their life and careers.

Law firms have essentially two options for proceeding when offices begin opening back up.  Return to the way you ran things, pre-pandemic, with rigid work policies and lack of flexibility.  Or, embrace the future, where environments of flexibility and freedom reap the benefits of a happy and productive workforce.  You choose.

 

Forbes Features Research on Gender Gap by Harrity’s LaTia Brand & Elaine Spector

Harrity’s LaTia Brand & Elaine Spector’s research regarding the the gender gap and lack of diversity in the field of patent law, specifically as it pertains to the mechanical and electrical engineering space, was quoted in a recent Forbes article.

“Although some patent practice areas where women are well represented, such as biotechnology and chemistry, other areas continue to lack significant diversity. According to an Article published by Elaine Spector and LaTia Brand for the American Bar Association ‘women account for only 11.4 percent of patent practitioners with a technical background in electrical engineering and only 11.1 percent of patent practitioners have a technical background in mechanical engineering…”

Read the full article on Forbes.com.

 

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 10

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

 

EPISODE TEN | THE LOST GROUP

 

 

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Elaine Spector On Improving Diversity In The Patent Bar

Jack Karp interviews Harrity’s Diversity Co-Chair, Elaine Spector, on improving diversity in the patent bar for Law360 Pulse.

“Few areas of the law are more white and more male than the patent bar, says Elaine Spector. She’s trying to change that.”

Read the full article on Law360 Pulse.

 

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 9

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

 

EPISODE NINE | RACIAL BREAKDOWN OF THE PATENT BAR

 

 

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Ensuring Women and Diverse Candidates in the Patent Bar: We Must Address the Root of the Problem

By Elaine Spector

“The expectation of firms to create programs that bring more diverse candidates into the field, rather than merely manipulating data to check boxes or achieve unrealistic quotas, will help address the issue from the ground up.”

https://depositphotos.com/63016893/stock-photo-multiethnic-group-of-people.htmlAs we celebrate Women’s History Month, it is important to point out the role of women in the field of patent law. Women have been members of the patent bar since as early as 1898, when Florence King became the first woman registered to practice before the U.S. Patent Office, as well as the 685th registrant. She became a lawyer first, and then went back to school to obtain a degree in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering so that she could register on the patent bar. As a woman patent practitioner with a mechanical engineering degree, I feel a lot of gratitude to women like Florence King, who paved the way for me. Yet, despite her trailblazing efforts over a century ago, there is still a considerable lack of gender diversity in the patent bar…

Keep reading on IPWatchdog.com. 

 

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 8

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

 

EPISODE EIGHT | HISTORY OF WOMEN IN THE PATENT BAR

 

 

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 7

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

 

EPISODE SEVEN | DIVERSITY OF THE PATENT BAR

 

 

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Harrity Thought-Leaders Provide Comments on USPTO’s National Strategy for Expanding American Innovation

Harrity diversity thought-leaders Elaine Spector, Edward Kim, and Ayana Marshall provided comments in response to USPTO‘s National Strategy for Expanding American Innovation alongside other members of the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO)‘s Women in IP and Diversity & Inclusion committees.

“An important aspect for moving innovation with respect to under-represented groups is to understand the extent of the issue, and then track improvements with regard to innovation and commercialization.”
Read the full response below:

For more information regarding our diversity initiatives, visit harrityllp.com/diversity.  To see more diversity and inclusion resources, visit The Diversity Channel.

 

Diversity Dialogue | Strategies for Moving the Needle with Respect to Diversity of the Patent Bar

The first Diversity Dialogue webinar in a series of diversity-focused discussions hosted by Harrity’s Elaine Spector features HP’s Shruti Costales and MCCA’s Sophia Piliouras as panelists and covers challenging topics associated with increasing diversity in the patent field.

Some of the questions covered during the panel discussion include:

  • What is one action step patent professionals can take today to improve diversity for the Patent Bar? 
  • What do you think is the greatest issue affecting diversity in general? 
    Is it appropriate to apply the Mansfield Rule to the patent bar?
  • What alternative strategies do you believe would be helpful for moving the needle in the patent bar?  
  • Why do you think women and other diverse groups are not pursuing degrees/careers in the field?  And more!

Watch the full webinar below:

 

For more information regarding our diversity initiatives, visit harrityllp.com/diversity.  To see more diversity and inclusion resources, visit The Diversity Channel.

 

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 6

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

 

EPISODE SIX | BE A FIRM THAT GIVES BACK

 

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

5 Hiring Strategies For Diversifying The Patent Bar

By Elaine Spector

Law360 (March 1, 2021, 5:19 PM EST) —  Diversity and inclusion have garnered much attention over the past few years, particularly in the field of law, which is one of the least diverse professions in the U.S.According to the 2019 Law Firm Diversity Survey by Vault and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, over 80% of lawyers in the U.S. are white.[1] Not only are men overrepresented in the practice of law, but they outnumber women in equity partner positions nearly 5-to-1. In addition, around 90% of equity partners are white, and approximately 9% of equity partners belong to minority groups with only one-third of them being women of color.

Diversity statistics become even more troubling when we examine patent attorneys. The patent bar requires a hard science background, such as a degree in engineering, chemistry, physics or biology; however, the science, technology, engineering and mathematics field has historically been dominated by men, who, as of 2017, accounted for 76% of all STEM jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.[2]


For patent firms seeking to increase diversity in their practice, existing diversity data is problematic. For starters, 94% of the patent bar is white, as seen in Figure 1 above.[3] In addition, less than 15% of registered practitioners are women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community in the areas of computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering.

As registered patent practitioners move along their career paths, there is inevitable attrition, as reported in the Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Survey report. Accordingly, it will be difficult for firms practicing in the areas of computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering to improve their diversity numbers, particularly at the partnership level, given that the diversity numbers are so low before adjusting for attrition.

Diversity of the patent bar is not only important to those practicing in this profession, it is essential for broadening participation in the innovation process by underrepresented groups.

Innovation by underrepresented groups will start to improve when they can go to patent attorneys who understand them, who look like them, and who can relate to them. Improving the innovation ecosystem to include all groups of people will foster a more robust economy.

Despite the lack of diversity of the patent bar, an intellectual property boutique can increase diversity by first examining its hiring practice. For example, a rule similar to the NFL’s Rooney Rule can be implemented.

According to the Rooney Rule, for each new head coach position available, at least one candidate from an underrepresented group must be interviewed. In essence, to meet the requirements of the Rooney Rule, just one candidate from an underrepresented group would need to be interviewed for a position among a limitless number of other candidates.

This process can be taken one important step further — Rooney Rule 2.0. Instead of requiring only one candidate from an underrepresented group to be interviewed per position, Rooney Rule 2.0 requires such a candidate to be interviewed per each candidate who doesn’t belong to an underrepresented group.

This rule has been instrumental in increasing the diversity of applicants and, in turn, hires at my firm. In January 2016, prior to implementing Rooney Rule 2.0, 8% of my firm’s attorneys were women, attorneys of color, LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities. Today, 30% of our attorneys belong to those groups, nearly quadrupling our diversity numbers in five years through the implementation of just one policy.

If your firm is serious about increasing diversity, revisiting your hiring practices is a vital place to start. Here are five key hiring strategies to increase diversity at your firm.

1. Increase the pool of candidates from underrepresented groups to be considered.

As discussed above, implementing Rooney Rule 2.0 will help increase the pool of candidates from underrepresented groups considered. While rules like the Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Rule have become popular over the last few years, it is exceedingly difficult to fill equity partner and leadership positions when there is not a proper base of lawyers from underrepresented groups to consider for the role.

To achieve Mansfield certification, law firms are required to demonstrate progress in increasing diversity in senior recruitment and leadership decisions by affirmatively considering a minimum of 30% women, lawyers of color, LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities for these roles, including women, attorneys of color, LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities.

By comparison, Rooney Rule 2.0 requires a 1-to-1 ratio of attorneys belonging to these groups and those who do not interviewed for positions at every level, rather than just leadership roles. This creates a larger pool of candidates from underrepresented groups at earlier career stages, allowing individuals from these groups to gain the necessary experience to eventually secure a role in leadership, and firms to have more success in achieving Mansfield certification.

By implementing policies like Rooney Rule 2.0, firms can significantly increase the number of applicants from underrepresented groups considered for a position, thus increasing the number of such candidates hired at the firm and those eligible to fulfill the Mansfield Rule.

2. Prepare a job posting to attract candidates from underrepresented groups.

A properly worded advertisement can help attract candidates from underrepresented groups. For example, words like “competitive” and “leader” attract more male candidates, while words like “support” and “interpersonal” attract more women.[4]

In 2017, I came across a job advertisement for my firm that included the words “reduced hours available,” and “flexible schedule.” As a working mom, it was that very language that got my attention and ultimately persuaded me to leave an in-house position and return to private practice. It is also important to highlight reduced billable hour requirements, or elimination of such requirements, in job postings.

A simple advertisement to recruit women and minority candidates may read, “Remote Work, Flex Hours, Great Firm Culture.” You can also include information related to work-life balance, such as, “Work where you want, when you want, and how much you want,” or represent your firm’s culture by adding highlights, such as, “Casual culture, flexible schedules, positive people, supportive leadership, and a focus on giving back.”

Simply including words like “inclusive,” “people-oriented,” “friendly” or “forward-thinking” can also convey a welcoming message.

To garner the most attention from women and minority candidates, share videos created by your own employees discussing reasons why they love working at your firm. If these candidates can visibly relate to your employees, the wording of the posting will resonate with them that much more. After all, your job posting needs to be a reflection of the candidates you want in the role and show if your firm is inclusive.

3. Revamp your interview process.

I highly recommend revamping your interview process by migrating to the topgrading methodology.[5] In this method, interviewers ask all candidates the same questions — questions that are very specific to their job tasks and responsibilities. The interviews are immediately documented and scored by interviewers.

All interviewers can be trained specifically in this technique. Having a structured interview minimizes “bias by allowing interviewers to focus on work competencies rather than on what they have in common with the person being interviewed,”[6] as noted in the Intellectual Property Owners’ Association’s Practical Guide on Diversity and Inclusion. The guide further recommends including underrepresented minorities in the interview team.[7]

4. Include a component of blind hiring.

Blind hiring can be an important aspect of your application process when it comes to skill evaluation. Your firm may decide to require candidates to partake in a testing phase, such as submitting a writing sample or taking a writing test, as writing is an important part of a career in patent law. A candidate’s performance on such tests may be a crucial determinant in whether the candidate will move on to the next step of the job application process.

There is no question that many interviewers have implicit biases. Implementing a component of blind hiring addresses any biases, unconscious or otherwise, when evaluating any skills-based test.

In the area of patent law, tests can be administered to evaluate skills related to either drafting a patent application or responding to an office action. A mediator, who first receives the test, can assign an anonymous identifier to the candidate, replacing all identifying information on the submission. Evaluators can then be sent the writing sample without reference or access to any information on the writer of the sample.

Often, gender and race can be assumed from a person’s name, and additional information such as location, education and previous employers can carry other assumptions. This strategy will help to eliminate any implicit bias that may occur at one of the most critical steps in an interview process and will ensure that candidates move forward based only on their qualifications, rather than an interviewer’s preconceptions.

While skills-based tests are a great way to objectively screen potential candidates, measures such as anonymization must be taken to ensure the test grading is truly objective.

5. Be a firm that gives back.

The legal community needs to recognize the importance of creating an unbiased, equal and harmonious working environment for all legal professionals. Unfortunately, the lack of diversity is widespread in the legal field, and the numbers show the industry is moving at a slow pace to address the issue.

To truly move the needle, firms will need to develop programs to specifically increase the diversity of the patent bar from 80% white men to a breakdown more representative of the population as a whole, as well as enhance existing female and minority practitioners’ quality of practice in patent law. This may include free mentoring, tutoring or interning programs, and a focus on both current practitioners and students as young as middle school in order to garner interest in joining the field.

Whatever program your firm creates, it should focus on giving back by providing more resources and opportunities to diverse individuals and give representation to currently underrepresented groups. Not only will such programs contribute to moving the needle with respect to diversifying the patent bar, they will also draw candidates from underrepresented groups to your firm.


Elaine Spector is a partner at Harrity & Harrity LLP.

[1] Not only are men overrepresented in the practice of law, but they outnumber women in equity partner positions nearly five to one. In addition, around 90 percent of equity partners are white, and approximately 9 percent of equity partners are racially diverse minorities with only one-third of them being racially diverse women. https://www.mcca.com/resources/reports/2019-vault-mcca-law-firm-diversity-survey/.

[2] “Women in STEM: 2017 Update,” U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, Office of the Chief Economist ESA Issue Brief #06-17 (November 2017).

[3] “Diversity in Patent Law: A Data Analysis of Diversity in the Patent Practice by Technology Background and Region,” Landslide Magazine (September 2020).

[4] Gaucher, D., Friesen, J., & Kay, A. C. (2011). Evidence that gendered wording in job advertisements exists and sustains gender inequality.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(1), 109–128.https://doi.org/10.1037/a0022530.

[5] Smart, Bradford D., Ph.D. Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People. Portfolio, 2005.

[6] https://ipo.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/IPO-Practical-Guide-to-Diversity-and-Inclusion-Version-2-Sept-2020.pdf, p. 62.

[7] Id. at 60.

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 5

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

 

EPISODE FIVE | INCLUDE A COMPONENT OF BLIND HIRING/strong>

 

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Harrity & Harrity Diversity & Inclusion Report

Harrity & Harrity, LLP has released its 2021 Diversity & Inclusion Report, focused on identifying and addressing the lack of diversity in the patent legal profession.

Our Diversity Mission has always been to promote and nurture a respectful, highly engaged, family-friendly, and inclusive culture that values the diversity of our talented team by leveraging and learning from our team’s diverse backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, skills, talents, and capabilities. Our goal with this report is to educate the field on the root of the issue and both suggest and inspire innovative diversity-focused solutions to instigate change, so that the future of our field is representative of the diversity of our population.

Read the full report below or click here to download a PDF version

 

HARRITY & HARRITY DIVERSITY & INCLUSION REPORT
FEBRUARY 2021

THE ISSUE

The practice of law remains one of the least diverse professions in America.  Not only are men overrepresented in the practice of law, but they outnumber women in equity partner positions nearly five to one.  In addition, around 90 percent of equity partners are white, and approximately 9 percent of equity partners are racially diverse minorities with only one-third of them being racially diverse women.

Diversity statistics become even more troubling when we examine patent attorneys. The patent bar requires a hard science background, such as a degree in engineering, chemistry, physics, or biology; however, the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field has historically been dominated by men, who, as of 2017, account for 76 percent of all STEM jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce1.

Since 1950, less than 6 percent of USPTO registrants have been racially diverse (Fig. 1)2. For example, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, an average of 1.7 percent of registrants per year were racially diverse2.  During the 1990s, the average for racially diverse registrants increased to approximately 4 percent of registrants each year.  Despite significant increases in 2000 (16.2 percent increase) and 2013 (20.1 percent increase), respectively, the average USPTO registration rate for racial minorities since 2000 has hovered around 6.5 percent2.  Among racially diverse women, the numbers are significantly worse, hovering at an average of 1.7 percent of registrants since 19502.  In fact, there are more patent attorneys and agents named “Michael” in the United States than there are racially diverse women.  From 1950 until 1999, an average of 0.2 percent of USPTO registrations each year were racially diverse women, with the first being registered in the late 1980s2.  Since then, those numbers have improved very little, with an average of 2.2 percent of registrants being racially diverse women since 2000 (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Historical racial breakdown of patent practitioner registrations by year, including racially diverse female registrations

For patent firms seeking to increase diversity in their practice, existing diversity data is problematic.  For starters, less than 15 percent of registered practitioners are diverse (race, gender, LGBTQ+, individuals with disabilities) in the areas of computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering2.  As registered patent practitioners move along their career paths, there is inevitable attrition, as reported in the Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Survey report3.  Accordingly, it will be difficult for firms practicing in the areas of computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering to improve their diversity numbers, particularly at the partnership level, given that the diversity numbers are so low before adjusting for attrition.

Diversity of the patent bar is not only important to those practicing in this profession- it is essential for broadening participation in the innovation process by underrepresented groups.  Innovation by underrepresented groups will start to improve when they can go to patent attorneys who understand them, who look like them, and who can relate to them. Lowering barriers to the innovation ecosystem to include all groups of people will foster a more robust economy.

CURRENT APPROACHES

The lack of diversity in the field of patent law is no secret, and several approaches have been tried in an effort to drive change, with two of the most popular approaches being internship and mentoring programs.  These programs help STEM/law students and new patent agents/attorneys improve their skillsets; however, these approaches do little to move the diversity needle in a meaningful way.  If they were truly impactful, we’d have seen more significant results over the many years these programs have existed.  Even if internships and mentorships focus strictly on helping diverse groups, the programs still only help the minuscule number of diverse individuals who are already in the field, which does nothing to increase overall diversity numbers in patent law.

The Mansfield Rule® is another well-meaning approach for addressing diversity in the legal profession, specifically when it comes to diversity within leadership roles.  To achieve Mansfield Certification®, law firms are required to demonstrate progress in increasing diversity in senior recruitment and leadership decisions by affirmatively considering a minimum of 30 percent diverse candidates for these roles, including women, attorneys of color, LGBTQ+, and lawyers with disabilities.  Today, women account for a mere 20 percent of all USPTO registered attorneys and just 5 percent of all registered patent attorneys are racially diverse2.  Therefore, it becomes statistically impossible for every patent law firm to have diverse candidates make up 30 percent of their leadership talent pool. The data doesn’t get much better for the general legal profession either, which has less restrictive requirements to practice as compared to patent law.  As of 2019, all racial minorities combined make up just 17.48 percent of practicing attorneys, and only 3.43 percent of all attorneys include individuals with disabilities or that are openly LGBTQ+3.  While women account for just over 36 percent of all attorneys, women of color only account for 9 percent (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. 2019 Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Survey overall law firm demographics

The Coca-Cola® “Heavy Stick” approach is similar to the Mansfield Rule®; however, it actively punishes firms that do not meet certain diversity requirements.  According to a January 2021 article by Bloomberg Law4, “Coca-Cola® is forcing its outside counsel to staff at least 30% of new matters with diverse attorneys, with at least half of that billable time going to Black lawyers in particular.” The corporation’s General Counsel, Bradley Gayton, stated he hopes to increase the overall diverse billable hour staffing requirement to 50% within the next two years, calling the initiative “one of the legal industry’s most rigorous outside counsel diversity programs yet” and withholding a nonrefundable 30 percent of fees from firms that fail to meet diverse staffing metrics4.

As with the Mansfield Rule®, this approach poses several logistical issues based on the fact that only 3.45 percent of attorneys are Black (Fig. 3).  Even after adding in all racially diverse attorneys, Coca-Cola® is limiting its legal talent force to less than 18 percent of the legal field (Fig. 3).  Applying this approach to the patent field produces even worse results.  For example, 86.5 percent of all intellectual property attorneys in the United States are Caucasian, meaning just 13.5 percent are racially diverse5.  Looking at the patent field specifically, merely 1.7 percent, or 578 of the total 34,000 registered patent attorneys are Black (Fig. 4).

The “Heavy Stick” approach is sure to result in some level of quality reduction for client work products, because work is assigned based on physical characteristics instead of relevant legal skills and experience.  Coca-Cola®, and others adopting the “Heavy Stick” approach, should expect a downward shift in quality, and perhaps also timeliness, efficiency, and expertise, if they decide to eliminate their existing standards in favor of this new diversity driven approach.

The overriding problem among the diversity approaches discussed above is that none address the root cause of the diversity issue: the numbers.  It may be idealistic for an organization to say that it will hire a specific number of diverse candidates or counsel; however, when it comes time to make diverse hires, where will these diverse individuals come from?  If, for example, every organization requires that 30% of their work goes to Black patent attorneys and, as we know, there is a pool of 578 of them5, how much work can those attorneys handle?  What happens to the firms whose fees are withheld because these 578 attorneys already have too much work on their plates?  How is it statistically viable to meet these standards, and what impact will it have on the health and work/life balance of the 578 attorneys?

HARRITY ADVOCATES FOR A NEW APPROACH

For the reasons above, we believe that the Coca-Cola® “Heavy Stick” approach (i.e., an approach that punishes law firms that do not meet certain metrics) is not the correct approach to improve diversity in the legal profession, especially when the standards cannot be met with today’s pool of diverse attorneys.  Instead, we recommend a “Carrot” approach, which rewards firms that innovate when it comes to diversity solutions.  With the “Carrot” approach, companies can require firms to create and implement new diversity solutions, and explain how these solutions actually help solve the diversity numbers problem in the legal profession.  The expectation of firms to create programs that bring more diverse candidates into the field, rather than merely manipulating data to check boxes or achieve unrealistic quotas, will help address the issue from the ground up.  Companies should encourage and reward innovative and disruptive diversity solutions however they see fit.  Whether this be awarding the firms with the most disruptive and beneficial solutions with a nominal monetary amount, investing in programs themselves through sponsorships or scholarships, or other applicable incentives, firms will switch their focus from scrambling to find diverse attorneys or recruiting from competing firms to making a lasting impact in the field.

HARRITY’S DIVERSITY SOLUTIONS

Our Diversity Mission has always been to promote and nurture a respectful, highly engaged, family-friendly, and inclusive culture that values the diversity of our talented team by leveraging and learning from our team’s diverse backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, skills, talents, and capabilities.  At Harrity & Harrity, we are committed to The Rooney Rule 2.0, a hiring policy we pioneered that demonstrates our firm’s commitment to our Diversity Mission is not just lip service.

The Rooney Rule is a National Football League policy that requires league teams to interview one minority candidate for every head coaching or senior football operations job opening.  However, this means that if 1,000 individuals apply to the opening, only one minority individual needs to be considered and the other 999 can be white males.  Our Rooney Rule 2.0 takes this policy a step further; we are committed to interviewing one female or minority candidate for every male, non-minority candidate interviewed for any position at our firm.  While this is similar to the Mansfield Rule® in that diverse candidates are considered, the Rooney Rule 2.0 applies to all positions at the firm, not just leadership roles.  Prior to implementing our Rooney Rule 2.0 in January of 2016, 8 percent of Harrity & Harrity attorneys were diverse.  Today, 30 percent of our attorneys are diverse, nearly quadrupling our diversity numbers in five years through the implementation of just one policy.

We also remain committed to producing top quality work for our clients, so unlike the “Heavy Stick” approach that selects candidates based on physical characteristics, our candidates must go through a rigorous hiring process, which includes skills-based testing.  Once a candidate submits their test, all identifying information is removed to eliminate potential scoring bias and is replaced with an anonymized code prior to sending the test to a separate grading team.  We aspire to grow our diversity numbers; however, we cannot sacrifice the quality of our work or the value of our clients’ IP assets.  Our process allows candidates to be screened based solely on their abilities, rather than physical characteristics.  Once hired, every individual is reviewed based on a scorecard that relates to their position and includes strictly objective metrics to be graded on (timeliness, work product volume, efficiency, etc.).  This process allows individuals to be reviewed solely based on their job performance, and again removes the likelihood of bias.

We recognize that our high standards for quality limit the overall pool of eligible candidates, and that not enough diverse individuals exist in that pool in the first place.  To fix the root cause of this problem – the lack of diversity in the legal profession – requires a long-term approach to be measured in years, not months or days.  Several factors contribute to this problem, which, in turn, requires a multi-pronged solution:

  1. Insufficient number of diverse students entering law school. This aspect requires educating young diverse individuals about legal career opportunities in high school and undergraduate programs; putting programs in place to steer these individuals toward law school (e.g., pre-law classes, scholarships, tutoring for LSAT, summer internships, etc.); and encouraging underrepresented groups to participate by addressing and eliminating historical obstacles (e.g., lack of financial resources, college readiness, institutional stereotypes, lack of focus and self-motivation, lack of assistance and engagement6).  This aspect has at least a 3-year lead time to see results.
  2. Insufficient number of diverse students entering STEM programs (which is a prerequisite to a career in patent law). This aspect must be tackled at the middle school and high school levels to increase enrollments in undergraduate programs.  The above approach can be applied when students are in middle and high school STEM programs to inform them of legal opportunities.  This aspect has at least a 2-year lead time (assuming high school juniors are the most advanced targets) for changing college admission rates, and at least 6 years before individuals graduate high school, complete undergraduate degrees, and can enter law school.  Realistically, it will take 7 to 9 years before law school graduation demographics change noticeably for the patent field under this solution.
  3. Insufficient number of mid and upper-level attorneys that are diverse. This aspect requires that firms provide targeted training, mentoring, and work opportunities to diverse attorneys to grow their skills and help them advance within firms.  Merely advancing people based on physical characteristics and regardless of skillset will impair quality delivered to clients and will blemish diversity efforts going forward.  This aspect has at least a one-year lead time because meaningful training for a narrow skillset takes at least a year to complete.  Lead time will be longer for more varied or advanced skillsets.

Using this knowledge, Harrity’s Diversity Committee has dedicated many hours to creating, implementing, and evolving Diversity Programs that are focused on serving the legal community by helping to increase the number of diverse legal practitioners and enhancing their quality of practice in patent law.

Minority Firm Incubator Program:  We hired our first Minority Firm Incubator (MFI) candidate in 2020.  This program was established to help train, cultivate, and launch minority-owned patent law firms.  The program consists of four phases: Drafting Patent Applications, Prosecuting Patent Applications, Firm Management, and Firm Launch.  In the fourth year, program participants have the tools, knowledge, and experience required to launch their own patent law firms with the added benefit of established corporate relationships based on Harrity working with our clients to send work to a graduate’s new firm.  Firm leaders will receive ongoing mentorship from Harrity to help ensure their success.  The goal of the program is to increase the number of minority owned law firms.  Incubator programs are vital because they help jumpstart a new law firm in the same way venture capital funding helps startups ramp up their operations.  Minority-owned firms are less likely to have access to the capital and resources needed to run a sustainable business, and the Harrity MFI reduces these obstacles by connecting new firms with clients and by providing personalized training to the firm’s leadership team.

Minority Firm Incubator 2.0:  In an attempt to make our Minority Firm Incubator program more impactful to the patent field, we are developing an enhanced version of our program.  This program will be both a virtual and condensed version of our current MFI and focus on helping diverse individuals launch their own patent firms and help existing, struggling minority-owned firms to succeed.  The program will teach best practices of firm management and focus on improving quality processes within the firms, which will in turn allow them to give better pitches, win more business, and produce higher quality work product.

Annual Women’s Patent Law Workshop:  We are currently planning our Fourth Annual Women’s Workshop, to be held May 2021.  This four-day virtual workshop introduces the field of patent law to female science and engineering students, law school students, and recent graduates.  Women from across the country join us for skills training in patent preparation, prosecution, and writing; career and resume mentoring; patent bar preparation; and to learn first-hand from partners at major law firms, leaders in university tech transfer, and in-house counsel about their experiences as women in the legal field.  By engaging women at the early stages of their careers, we hope to encourage them to join the patent field and provide them with tools to do so successfully.

The Harrity Academy: Launched in September of 2020, the Harrity Academy is a free virtual program comprised of three courses that introduce diverse participants to the field of patent law; provide exclusive training, practice materials, and mentorship; and teach how to effectively and efficiently draft and prosecute high-quality patent applications.  The goal of this program is to help increase the number of diverse candidates entering the patent field by targeting diverse students in STEM programs and law schools; newly practicing attorneys; and early career engineers.  Courses are held each Spring and Fall, with 20 participants per class, and are voluntarily taught by Harrity attorneys.

The Diversity Channel:  In January 2021, Harrity launched The Diversity Channel, a collection of resources aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion in the patent field by sharing ideas and sparking conversations.  The channel includes published articles on the issues surrounding diversity in the legal field; Driving Diversity, a weekly vlog produced by Diversity Co-Chair Elaine Spector with consumable tips to drive diversity within an organization; and Diversity Dialogue, a series of webinars held throughout the year featuring diversity-thought leaders that provide the benefits, challenges, and processes associated with increasing diversity in the patent field.

Patent Pathways:  While each of our Diversity Programs have the implicit goal of encouraging diversity and inclusion in the patent legal field, Patent Pathways will have the most direct impact on the least represented group (i.e., Black female patent practitioners), with a goal of increasing the number of Black female registered patent practitioners.  The program includes an introduction to patent careers, several weeks of patent preparation and prosecution training, and a clear pathway to taking and passing the patent bar.  This program will include corporate sponsorships for patent bar preparation courses as well as taking the bar, and potential law school scholarships offered to those who pass the patent bar.  Patent Pathways participants will also be matched with patent attorneys for ongoing mentorship opportunities and maintain a network of other Patent Pathway participants to help each other succeed throughout their careers.

Harrity’s Tutoring Program:  While internships and mentoring programs help diverse individuals who are already in the field, tutoring programs aimed at middle and high school students in math and science classes focus on encouraging diverse individuals to enter the patent field.  By enlightening students, at a young age, to education opportunities in the STEM field, we provide students with the encouragement needed to become interested in a patent law career, and give them the tools they need to pursue such a career.  Our proposed program consists of three phases:

Phase 1 – Provide free STEM tutoring to girls/women who are interested in STEM, starting as early as middle school and continuing through college.  This program will help increase the number of women who go to college to pursue a STEM degree and greatly increase the chances that they graduate with such a degree.  We recommend that all participants of this program be required to partake in free mentoring sessions, which will include an introduction to the patent field.

Phase 2 – Expand the program to include all categories of diverse students.

Phase 3 – Expand the group of schools and colleges involved.

Possible Expansion – Provide free English tutoring (since writing is an important part of a career in patent law).

The overall goal of the program is to increase the percentage of diverse USPTO-registered patent professionals in the patent field so as to better represent the diversity of the U.S. population.  This program requires partnering with skilled tutors for complex STEM courses and requires the support of corporate sponsors.

Internal Progress: In early 2020, we named our first female partner, Elaine Spector.  Along with her twenty years of experience in the patent field, Elaine serves as Co-Chair of the Harrity Diversity Committee, Chair of the AIPLA Women in IP Law Committee’s Global Networking Event and Outreach Subcommittee, Vice-Chair of IPO’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Co-Chair of IPO’s Diversity & Inclusion Outreach Subcommittee, and a Board Member and Secretary at the non-profit No More Stolen Childhoods.

As a firm, we are actively involved with several organizations that promote Diversity within the legal community:  AIPLA- Women in IP Law Committee; Association of Legal Administrators, ChIPs; IPO Diversity & Inclusion Committee; and Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA).  We will also be conducting monthly Affinity Group meetings led by Edward Kim, former president of the largest government-affinity group, USPTO-Asian Pacific American Network (APANET).  In addition, we are proud to report that all employees at the firm completed diversity and unconscious bias training in the last year.  We continue to work every day to ensure inclusion within our firm through open communication, weekly leadership check-in calls, and regular committee meetings which allow any member of our firm to participate in brainstorming initiatives for all aspects of our business development, including our Diversity Committee.

HARRITY SEEKS PARTNERS TO IMPROVE THE PATENT LAW PROFESSION

Imagine the future of our legal profession if companies adopted our proposed Carrot approach, where a majority of law firms are developing new and disruptive diversity programs to finally make the diversity issue a thing of the past. One of the largest obstacles we face in this battle is a lack of action. While current approaches attempt to address internal diversity counts, rarely are organizations creating external programs directed at fixing the root cause of the issue. The legal profession first needs to recognize that the problem is not that firms do not want to hire diverse candidates, but that a sufficient number of diverse candidates do not exist in the field in the first place. Using this knowledge, organizations that require law firms to seek practical and attainable solutions that bring more diverse individuals into patent law will be the ones responsible for revolutionizing the field with respect to diversity. In turn, we can create proportionate opportunities for diverse individuals to thrive in the field, such as described in the Mansfield Rule® and Coca-Cola® approaches.

That being said, Harrity & Harrity is currently taking action to tackle this issue head-on. As outlined in our aforementioned Diversity Programs section, we have dissected the causes of the diversity issue and created realistic plans of action to begin addressing diversity issues from the ground-up. While we recognize that this will be a long-term effort, we are confident that we can drive the field in the right direction, beginning now.

Next Steps:

Patent Pathways

This program is scheduled to launch in Spring 2022. Materials for patent training will be provided by Harrity, and classes will be taught by both Harrity attorneys and other leaders in the patent field. The goal of this program is to increase the number of Black female registered patent practitioners; however, this training is only successful if participants actually go on to take the patent bar. This opens up several partnership opportunities, including:

1. Exclusive Program Sponsorship: Pay for patent bar preparation course, patent bar exam, and USPTO registration fees for all of the women who participate in our Patent Pathways program. This equates to $500 per preparation course, $400 per patent bar exam and $100 per registration for up to 20 women in the class at a time.

2. Non-exclusive Program Sponsorship: Pay for one or more women for one or more stages of the patent bar registration process. This equates to roughly $500 per preparation course, $400 per patent bar exam and/or $100 per registration.

3. Scholarships: Offer law school scholarships to any number of women who both complete the Patent Pathways training and obtain registration with the USPTO. The amount of any particular scholarship is discretionary.

Harrity’s Tutoring Program

Providing diverse students with the resources needed to succeed in the STEM field at a young age will increase the likelihood of them going on to pursue a degree and a career in STEM, which is a critical first step for entering the field of patent law. With a long-term goal of increasing the percentage of diverse USPTO-registered patent professionals, students need to both be aware of this opportunity, and be equipped to succeed should they pursue it, which this program accomplishes. Our tutoring program will have several partnership opportunities, including:

1. Exclusive Program Sponsorship: Pay for full tutoring program for entire participant group, which includes multiple tutors for multiple schools. (cost TBD)

2. Non-exclusive Program Sponsorship: Pay for one or more tutors for one or more students. (cost TBD)

3. Scholarships: Offer undergraduate scholarships to any number of students who complete the tutoring program and enter a STEM program at an accredited university. The amount of any particular scholarship is discretionary.

We are actively seeking partners to join us in transforming the legal profession to one that mirrors the diverse landscape of our society as a whole. This starts with giving diverse individuals the tools required to enter and succeed in the patent field and encouraging early interest in pursuing a career in patent law. We feel that our Patent Pathways and Tutoring Program will do exactly that. However, these programs require the partnership of corporations and/or law firms to achieve a significant, nationwide impact. Will you join Harrity on the forefront of this transformation?

 

For more information on Harrity’s diversity initiatives, click here.  To contact us regarding this report, please email info@harrityllp.com.

 

CITATIONS

  1. Women in STEM: 2017 Update,” U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, Office of the Chief Economist ESA Issue Brief #06-17 (November 2017).
  2. Diversity in Patent Law: A Data Analysis of Diversity in the Patent Practice by Technology Background and Region,” Landslide® Magazine Vol. 13 Num. 1 (September 2020).
  3. Law Firm Diversity Survey, Overall Law Firm Demographics,” Vault & Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) Report 4 (March 2020).
  4. Coke GC Tired of ‘Good Intentions,’ Wants Firm Diversity Now,” Bloomberg Law (January 28, 2021).
  5. Dulabaum, Nina L.  “Barriers to Academic Success: A Qualitative Study of African American and Latino Male Students,” Innovation Showcase 11:6. League for Innovation in the Community College (June 2016).

The names and logos of third-party products and companies used in the materials are the property of their respective owners and may also be trademarks.

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 4

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

 

EPISODE FOUR | REVAMP YOUR INTERVIEW PROCESS

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 3

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

 

EPISODE THREE | WORDING YOUR JOB POST

 

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Elaine Spector Presents at 2021 TIGER Innovation Conference: Advancing Equity in Innovation

Harrity’s Elaine Spector, joined by Ayana Marshall, presented on diversity-related issues in the field of IP for Emory Law’s 2021 TIGER Innovation Conference: Advancing Equity in Innovation. The conference explored issues concerning gender and racial gaps in the innovation system such as access to resources for entrepreneurs who are women and people of color and the underrepresentation of diverse inventors in the patent system and included several expert speakers in this area.

Elaine’s presentation focused on Diversity in Patent Law: A Data Analysis of Diversity in the Patent Practice by Technology Background and Region, a topic on which Elaine & data analyst LaTia Brand co-authored an article of the same title. Elaine also discussed several of Harrity’s Diversity Initiatives aimed at addressing the lack of diversity in our field by increasing the pool of diverse candidates and providing resources for those individuals to succeed.

You can watch the full presentation here:
Part 1

Part 2


To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 2

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’

EPISODE TWO | INCREASE THE POOL

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Driving Diversity with Elaine Spector | Episode 1

Join Harrity’s Elaine Spector as she shares tips and sparks conversations to drive diversity in the legal field in her weekly vlog, ‘Driving Diversity.’
EPISODE ONE | THE ISSUE

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

Elaine Spector Discusses Gender Gap on IP Breakfast Podcast

“Women are amazing advocates for other people, but not good advocates for themselves.”

Harrity Partner and Diversity Chair Elaine Spector was featured on the IP Breakfast Podcast with hosts Albert Decady & Emmanuel Coffy to discuss the gender gap in IP, her experiences as a female practitioner, and what needs to change to bridge the gap and give women the tools and confidences to succeed in a male-dominated field. Listen now at http://ow.ly/fyMu50CnogQ.

 

A Practical Guide to Diversity & Inclusion in the Legal Profession

The Diversity & Inclusion Committee of the Intellectual Property’s Owners Association has released ‘A Practical Guide to Diversity & Inclusion in the Legal Profession.’

The IPO D&I Guide is designed to help improve diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, with contributions by Elaine Spector, Carlyn Burton, Shruti Costales, Serena Farquharson-Torres, Gloria Fuentes, and Rachael Rodman.

Check out the full guide below!

IPO-Practical-Guide-to-Diversity-and-Inclusion-Version-2-Sept-2020

 

Diversity in Patent Law: A Data Analysis of Diversity in the Patent Practice by Technology Background and Region

Harrity’s Elaine Spector and LaTia Brand provide a deep-dive analysis of the lack of diversity in the patent practice for the American Bar Association’s Landslide® Magazine. Read the full article here:

 

Diversity in Patent Law

The Benefits of Incubator Programs for Minority-Owned Firms

The legal profession is making inroads in terms of diversity, but the National Association of Law Placement reports these gains as slow and incremental. The percentage of African-American associates, for instance, was 4.76% last year, finally breaching the previous milestone mark of 4.66% recorded in 2009. Unfortunately, women of color remain grossly under-represented, accounting for only 2.8% of associates last year — down from 2.93% in 2009. Clearly, the legal profession remains one of the least diverse industries, even with institutions like Harvard Law School reporting ever-increasing minority representation.

Invariably, this lack of diversity can only be addressed through change leadership and decisive action, like implementing diversity initiatives and offering incubator programs for minority-owned firms. This desire to make a difference compelled Harrity & Harrity managing partner John Harrity to incubate women- and minority-owned law firms. The legal industry needs more people like Harrity, with Maryville University noting that a change in society comes from those who have the courage to make a difference. This is why more people and industries need to grapple with social inequalities such as under-representation in various professions. But why are incubator programs important, and what are their benefits to minority-owned firms?

Giving necessary support

Incubator programs are vital because they can help jumpstart a firm in the same way venture capital funding helps startups level up their operations. This aid is the main benefit of incubator programs, which support up-and-coming law firms by providing a range of resources such as office space and professional services for a reasonable fee that is often paid out in installments or via negotiated arrangements. This support is invaluable to minority-owned firms, as they are more likely to have less capital and fewer resources to run a sustainable business.

Helping a firm focus on the core business

Crucially, being part of an incubator program can also help minority-owned law firms focus on their core business, which is to provide top legal services to their clientele. This is possible because the program already puts in place the necessary infrastructure to get the firm up and running. This gives all members the ability to fully focus on their cases, as they are freed up from having to accomplish mundane, day-to-day administrative tasks.

Expanding the network

Fast Company details how membership in an incubator program means gaining access to a strong professional network, including industry partners. This network expansion, in turn, opens up plenty of exciting possibilities, like collaborating with big firms, that are often non-existent for a firm in its infancy, especially if the firm is minority- or women-owned. Not to mention, being part of a growing network is also a public relations coup, as associations with bigger firms can help raise the profile of a smaller ones — without necessarily investing a fortune in marketing and PR.

Access to mentors

Another thing about being part of an incubator program is that it gives a firm access to mentors, who can then provide expert knowledge not only on the legal profession, but also on the best practices in terms of running a law firm. Take, for instance, the Minority Firm Incubator program, which is now accepting applicants for its second participant and whose goals include training, developing, and launching minority-owned patent law firms. As such, Harrity & Harrity’s finest get involved in the program and provide guidance to all participants — and by year 4, they already have the necessary knowledge to fully launch their firms.

A final word

We at Harrity & Harrity are committed to promoting diversity in the legal industry, and will continue to nurture our minority-focused programs and their participants to effect change. We hope that initiatives, like our Minority Firm Incubator, will not just begin to address the issue, but inspire others to be change leaders in diversity as well.

By Sharon Drew
Written exclusively for Harrityllp.com

Learn more and/or apply to the 2020 Minority Firm Incubator program HERE.

Harrity’s Third Annual Women’s Workshop

With COVID-19 sending everyone into lockdown, you may find yourself looking for something productive to do.  Now is a great time to learn something new.  Particularly since many events that would not typically be found online are now offering free virtual versions via live streaming and video conferencing.  The ability to get online provides access to innumerable resources to stay entertained and learn new skills.  It is the ideal time to reconnect with your goals and start achieving them.  For those interested in patent law, IP firm Harrity & Harrity, LLP is one of those resources.

Harrity’s Women’s Workshop

In response to the current climate, Harrity will host its third annual Women’s Workshop as an online program.  The workshop is a rare opportunity to learn basic patent preparation and prosecution skills, interact with some of the most prominent female patent lawyers in the industry, network with a diverse group of participants, meet with a writing coach, have live Q&A’s with practicing patent attorneys, access free career mentoring, and more.  The four-day program will take place May 18-21 and will be held live through online video conferencing.  It is entirely free and is available to engineers and law students or recent graduates with technical backgrounds who are interested in pursuing a future in intellectual property.  The program will allow participants to explore the lucrative opportunities provided by a career in patent law and learn what it takes to succeed, specifically as a female, in the patent field.

Why Attend the Program?

Obtaining a patent can be a complex process and requires several steps, including searching prior art, determining patentability, preparing and filing a patent application, and corresponding with the patent office through patent prosecution.  It can be a particular struggle to determine whether an invention is a new, non-obvious invention and how it differs from existing patented concepts when attempting to obtain a patent.

In Harrity’s Women’s Workshop, you will learn how to effectively draft and prosecute patent applications in order to get the patents allowed by the USPTO, an action that will officially patent an invention.  The skills to do so will be learned through a series of presentations, discussions, and practice assignments throughout the immersive program.

Speakers for the 2020 Women’s Workshop include female partners at top patent firms, the American Intellectual Property Law  Association’s (AIPLA) President Elect, IP Counsel for leading technology companies, the President of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s (MCCA) Advisory Practice, and the former acting director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  Each speaker will provide guidance on best practices in patent law and exclusive advice on how to succeed as a woman in this underrepresented industry.

For the first time, the 2020 Women’s Workshop will also include writing skills training by writing expert, Ed Good.  Ed is a globally recognized trainer in corporate writing skills with specific expertise in legal writing.  The program will also include resume and interview preparation and career mentoring for success in the patent field.

Upon completion of this workshop, participants will have a thorough understanding of what a career in patent law entails and have the tools required to pursue one.

Our Mission

At Harrity, We believe that the ‘practice of law’ is advanced by a more diverse legal team – with diversity of background, upbringing, education, and perspective comes quality legal innovation.  Our mission is to promote and nurture a respectful, highly engaged, family friendly, and inclusive culture that values the diversity of our talented team with diverse backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, skills/talents, and capabilities.

The Annual Women’s Workshop is part of our ongoing diversity initiative aimed to increase the number of women practicing in the IP legal field and climbing the ladder to success.  Harrity’s previous workshops are highly rated and recommended by past participants.

The virtual workshop will take place from May 18-21st and is completely free. Whether you are a science or engineering major, current student at a law school, or practicing attorney interested in intellectual property, the Harrity Women’s Workshop is a can’t-miss opportunity.  The application deadline to participate is April 30th, so don’t delay- Apply Now!

Addressing the Lack of Diversity in the Legal Field

Promoting the culture of diversity is important for all professions, but it is especially lacking in the legal field. In fact, the legal profession is among the least diverse professions in the United States.  Diversity and inclusion in the workplace help to identify and embrace different backgrounds and contribute to the overall advancement of the business.

There are several factors that impede the prevalence of diversity in the legal field.  At Harrity, we are dedicated to overcoming these obstacles by providing opportunities for minorities and developing tools for diverse candidates to succeed.  Although the disparity of minorities practicing law, and especially minorities in equity positions, will take time to overcome, it is an obtainable goal if all firms work to address the problem.

Statistics Talk

The industry needs to recognize the importance of creating an unbiased, equal, and harmonious working environment for all legal professionals.  Unfortunately, the lack of diversity is widespread in the legal field, and the numbers show the industry is moving at a slow pace to address the issue.

In 2018, 85% of lawyers in the U.S. were Caucasian, according to the American Bar Association.  Another report on diversity in U.S. law firms found that racially diverse women are the most underrepresented group in the legal profession.  Other diverse groups underrepresented include LGBTQ2+ lawyers, lawyers with disabilities, and Black/African lawyers.

The Challenges in Recruiting Diverse Workforce

While corporate legal departments and law firms are working on more inclusive recruitment and hiring practices, there is still a need to address the lack of diversity.  Many barriers impede the advancement and retention of diverse lawyers in the legal profession.  Some of the factors that contribute to the lack of diversity include in-group favoritism, stereotyping, unconscious biases, and diversity fatigue.

Law firms should regularly participate in diversity training, utilize a diversity consultant, and review their own Diversity & Inclusion policies.  Firms should also consider concepts such as implicit bias, i.e., attributing certain attitudes or associating stereotypes with a person or group of people without our conscious knowledge, and self-assessment bias, in which females and minority groups tend to rate themselves lower on skill-related surveys than white males.

Other factors that contribute to the lack of diversity in the legal field are the socio-economic circumstances that often hinder minority groups, including limited access to quality education and other resources, and the high cost of pursuing a legal degree.  Outreach programs, financial aid, and internal training opportunities targeting low-income families can help legal professionals address this and ensure all demographics have the same access to a legal career path.

Importance of Diversity in the Legal Field

Law firms must welcome a diverse workforce as it promotes mutual respect, acceptance, and co-existence.  It is crucial to formulate new strategies when working in the legal world.  A diverse group of lawyers, with different backgrounds, ethnicities, and skills, can help each other in building strengths and overcoming weaknesses.

Diversity leads to innovative ideas, opinions, and strategies.  It improves the quality of service and ensures that the voice of marginalized groups is also heard.  A female lawyer or black lawyer can highlight the issues of their respective groups better than others.  Diversity helps law firms to adapt accordingly to unprecedented or less familiar situations.  It allows them to respond to diverse clients more effectively.

Above all, diversity and inclusion in the legal field prevent discrimination against skilled and qualified lawyers.  Many reports and studies show that diverse workplaces are more productive and that they have lower turnover compared to non-inclusive workplaces.

Final Word

Harrity & Harrity strongly believes that the practice of law can advance only when there is a diverse legal team.  Our Diversity Mission is to promote a respectful, family-friendly, and diverse culture that recognizes and values the diverse backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, skills, and talents of each member on our team.

In order to provide equal opportunity to all candidates, Harrity developed the Rooney Rule 2.0 with regard to hiring, which is based off of The Rooney Rule.  The Rooney Rule is a National Football League policy that requires league teams to interview one minority candidate for each head coaching and senior football operation job.  According to The Rooney Rule, only one diverse candidate needs to be interviewed, while there could be hundreds or thousands of non-diverse candidates.  The Rooney Rule 2.0 changes that rule to commit to interviewing a female or minority candidate for every male or non-minority candidate we interview for any position at our firm.

The Harrity Diversity Committee has implemented several other initiatives in order to grow and nurture diversity in the IP legal field.  The Minority Firm Incubator helps train, develop, and launch minority-owned patent law firms in an effort to recruit, retain, and advance attorneys who will contribute to the diversity of the patent field.  The annual Women’s Workshop is a free program that introduces female engineers and law students or recent graduates to the practice of patent law with guest speakers, patent skills training, career mentoring, and more.  The Harrity Academy provides minority candidates with exclusive training and practice materials for drafting high-quality patent applications.

The goal of these programs is to help increase the number of diverse candidates applying to positions within Harrity and the legal field, help improve skillsets and the likelihood that these candidates will succeed in the interview process, and encourage upward movement for minorities within their firms.

If more firms commit to implementing a comprehensive diversity plan, together, we can help bridge the gap by eliminating biases and encouraging diversity within the legal community.  It is vital that the hiring process focuses only on required skillsets and qualifications, regardless of gender, color, race, or religion, and that steps are taken to reduce discrimination and give minorities the opportunity to succeed.

If you are interested in reading the 2018/2019 Harrity Annual Diversity Report, it can be found here.  For more information regarding Harrity’s diversity initiatives, visit harrityllp.com/diversity.

 

Elaine Spector
AUTHOR

Elaine Spector

Elaine Spector is a Partner at Harrity & Harrity, LLP, a boutique firm specializing in intellectual property law. Her practice focuses primarily on the prosecution of patent applications, specifically within electromechanical technologies. Elaine is a driving force in the firm’s diversity and charity initiatives and serves on several committees and boards in relation, including AIPLA’s Women in IP Law’s Global Networking Event & Outreach Subcommittee, IPO’S Diversity & Inclusion Committee, and the non-profit No More Stolen Childhoods.

Harrity Welcomes First Minority Firm Incubator Candidate

WASHINGTON, DC (March 5, 2020) Harrity & Harrity, LLP has named James Bennin as the first Minority Firm Incubator candidate.  In October of 2019, the firm announced the formation of the Minority Firm Incubator, a program developed to help women and minorities establish their own law firms in an effort to change the disparity of minority-owned firms in the field.  James was selected for the program from a large pool of applicants due to both his expertise in IP law and his desire to create opportunities for minorities to succeed in underrepresented industries.

“Our firm’s Diversity Mission is focused on fostering inclusion within the legal community and encouraging the growth and success of individuals from all backgrounds.  The Minority Firm Incubator is a service-oriented program intended to further this mission by helping underrepresented groups flourish in a field where diversity is lacking.  James not only shares our beliefs on the importance of diversity in the practice of law, but is committed to using this role as a community outreach platform to help overcome the socioeconomic barriers that many minority groups face.  These values, in addition to James’s impressive background in intellectual property law, make him the ideal candidate to launch our Minority Firm Incubator program,” said Managing Partner John Harrity.

James is a patent attorney with nearly 15 years of experience counseling clients on matters related to intellectual property law.  His practice focuses on preparing and prosecuting patent applications in a variety of technological fields, including electrical and software technologies. James has experience in private practice and as an in-house attorney.  James began the program, which consists of four phases, on February 3, 2020.

In the first phase of the incubator program, James will focus on efficiently drafting effective, high-quality patent applications through the use of Harrity’s in-house tools and processes.  In the second year, he will focus on prosecuting pending patent applications.  The third phase consists of firm management training, during which Bennin will learn best practices for hiring and training attorneys, establishing and maintaining an office, managing human resources, accounting, and docketing, pitching and retaining clients, and more. At the beginning of the fourth year, James will launch his own firm.  In doing so, James hopes to reshape the perspective of minority-owned firms and improve the diversity of the legal field.

“Given my own background as an individual who was raised by a single mother in a low income household, was the first college graduate in my immediate family, and is a member of an underrepresented group in the legal profession, I am very grateful for and fortunate to have had great experiences in my legal career thus far.  I understand the obstacles someone with my background needs to overcome to be successful in this profession, and understand the importance of improving diversity in the legal field,” stated James.  “I want to use this program/platform as a means to give back in light of the great experiences in my legal career and to help provide a blueprint or guide to success for members of underrepresented groups, so they can see me as a testament that success in any professional field, and more particularly in the legal field, is a realistic possibility in their future.“

With James well underway in Phase 1 of the initial launch, Harrity has reopened the Minority Firm Incubator program to more applicants.  To learn more and apply to the Minority Firm Incubator, and to see Harrity’s other initiatives for driving diversity in the IP legal field, visit harrityllp.com/diversity.

 

About Harrity & Harrity, LLP

Harrity & Harrity is a leading patent preparation and prosecution firm specializing in the electrical and mechanical technology areas and is considered a Go-To Firm for the Patent 300®.  Our clients trust in our high-quality work, experienced people, industry leading innovation, and outstanding service.  For more information, visit harrityllp.com.

Harrity Creates Incubator to Launch Minority- and Women-Owned Law Firms

LAW.COM (October 3, 2019) After years of reading about new legal diversity programs with nothing to show for it, Harrity & Harrity managing partner John Harrity decided he wanted to try something new.

Harrity & Harrity managing partner John Harrity was sick of reading about law firm diversity.

The effort to diversify firms, he agrees, is noble. But over the years he had read countless stories about how this new internship or mentorship program will mend the legal industry’s diversity problem. And despite all these efforts, nothing much has changed.

“We keep doing the same things over and over and over again,” said Harrity, who co-founded the IP firm 20 years ago. “If the programs were really impactful we wouldn’t be having these conversations today.”

After reading a book about apprenticeships, Harrity had an idea for something new: Why not incubate women- and minority-owned law firms?

he idea wasn’t a big hit when he first brought it before the firm’s diversity committee. The biggest objection was that the program would essentially create competition for the firm. Harrity didn’t see it that way.

John HarrityJohn Harrity

“The reality is that there’s a ton of work out there, much more than we could ever handle ourselves,” he said. “And if they’re really good and taking work away from us that means we need to up our game.”

Eventually, the program was approved, and Harrity got to work on structuring the incubator. For each of the next three years beginning Jan. 1, the firm will bring in one woman attorney and one male minority attorney. Candidates must be a licensed attorney with a degree in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, physics or a similar technical field.

The first year of the three-year program will teach the candidates how to draft patent applications. In the second year, the attorneys will learn how to prosecute pending applications. The third year marks a shift from legal practice training to management training. Participants will be taught how to hire and train attorneys, establish and maintain an office and pitch and retain clients.

At the beginning of the fourth year, the participants will each launch their own women- and minority-owned law firm.

The minority attorney incubator program has partnered with professional services firm Accenture, which will send work to the nascent firms to help get them off the ground and build a portfolio. Harrity hopes to bring in more companies as the apprenticeship develops.

Joel Stern, CEO of the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms, described the program as “novel” and “innovative.” Stern spoke with Harrity about the incubator when it was in development, and he applauded his firm for creating an unselfish and innovative program—especially in an area of the law that has traditionally been devoid of minorities.

He hopes that these new firms will join NAMWOLF, which just announced it had helped more than 100 minority- and women-owned law firms win $1.6 billion in legal spend since 2010.

“You can’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again. Harrity is trying something new and novel that I think is going to work,” Stern said. “Even if it doesn’t, he deserves credit. He’s subordinating his interests to help minorities thrive in the business.”

To learn more about the Minority Firm Incubator and Harrity’s other initiatives to drive diversity in the IP legal field, visit harrity.com/diversity.

 

By Dylan Jackson

Harrity Diversity

IP boutique seeks to show that new thinking on diversity is not just for Big Law

IAM (September 10, 2019) In the latest issue of IAM our cover story “the Boston Manifesto” is a call to action for the IP industry to increase gender diversity across all parts of the market. The piece, which subscribers can read here, reflects some of the challenges that women face in reaching senior levels, particularly in-house and in private practice. The article also contains some specific areas that all stakeholders should focus on.

This is a challenge confronting all parts of the IP system as stakeholders try to increase both the gender and racial diversity in their ranks. Arguably it is most pressing among the largest law firms that have struggled to grow the diversity of their workforce, particularly at partner level.

But it’s by no means only the denizens of Big Law who are zeroing in on how they can make their workforces more diverse. Last week Harrity & Harrity, a respected IP boutique with around 30 attorneys based in Northern Virginia, announced the launch of its minority firm incubator, an initiative designed to help foster the growth of minority-owned specialist IP law firms.

Starting in January 2020, the firm will recruit two minority attorneys who will be trained over the next four years not only in the ins and outs of patent drafting and prosecution work but also on how to launch and manage their own firms. To help those fledgling firms thrive, Harrity is signing up a group of businesses as programme partners. They have committed to giving any new firms work on a trial basis as and when they get off the ground. Accenture was the first to get involved, with somewhere between three and six companies ultimately expected to join on top.

Should the Harrity recruits decide that they’d prefer not to go down the route of owning their own firm then managing partner John Harrity said he’s “not going to kick them out the door”. However, he also said that he hoped the new programme would attract entrepreneurial types willing to take the plunge.

Harrity, who established his firm with his twin brother Paul, admitted that he needed to get over some doubts among his staff, such as why they would create more competition for themselves, before getting the initiative off the ground.

“There’s more than enough work to go around,” Harrity said he told his firm’s diversity committee, but he also admitted that there are plenty of concerns to be overcome outside of his own practice.

“One of the things that I’m finding out as we go out to the industry, talking to chief patent counsel at the largest filers, there’s a perception that minority firm means a firm that’s not good and is not going to be able to perform at a high level – we’re going to change that impression,” Harrity commented.

This is by no means his firm’s first diversity initiative. Three years ago it introduced a rule whereby it must interview a female or minority candidate for every male, non-minority candidate for any position. Since then it has gone from 8% diversity at the attorney level to 30% and Harrity insisted that this has had a marked effect. “It’s amazing how my firm has grown in the last three years, as we’ve taken this diversity journey,” he remarked. He pointed to a doubling in headcount, significant growth in revenues and profits, and more innovative thinking among the workforce as clear byproducts of having a more diverse practice.

“If you expand that out to the industry in general I think you’ll see the same types of effects and we’re going to start thinking differently which is really what the legal field needs to do,” Harrity maintained. He pointed out the irony of a lack of innovation on the subject among a patent community where much of the work is grounded in new ways of thinking.

“We’re in a field of innovation, that’s what the whole thing is about, and firms don’t do anything,” he claimed. That maybe an unfair accusation to lay at all IP practices but as Harrity’s new incubator shows, there is a growing realisation that more work is required to produce clear results.

To learn more about the Minority Firm Incubator and Harrity’s other initiatives to drive diversity in the IP legal field, visit harrity.com/diversity.

 

By Richard Lloyd

Harrity Minority Firm Incubator Video Thumbnail

Harrity Introduces Innovative Legal Diversity Initiative

Harrity & Harrity Introduces Innovative Legal Diversity Initiative

Program designed to launch minority-owned IP law firms

WASHINGTON (September 3, 2019) – Harrity & Harrity, LLP today announced its Minority Firm Incubator program, established to help train, cultivate, and launch minority-owned patent law firms. The four-year program seeks to address the growing issues surrounding the lack of diverse representation in law firm leadership across the industry.

According to a study by the National Association of Law Placement, women account for just over 12% of partner ranks in U.S. law firms, while minorities account for just 8% of all law firm partners.

“The Minority Firm Incubator program is an integral and innovative part of our ongoing diversity initiative to advance attorneys who will contribute to diversity in the patent field,” said Harrity Managing Partner John Harrity. “The statistics show the legal industry has work to do and that’s why our firm has dedicated time and resources to take meaningful action.”

The Minority Firm Incubator program is comprised of four phases:

  • Drafting Patent Applications
    In the first year, attorney participants will be trained to draft effective, efficient, high-quality patent applications in the technical areas of software, optics, telecommunications, computer networking, e-commerce, business methods, and others. Using the firm’s in-house developed automation tools, participants will learn how to draft like Harrity attorneys, who complete over 100 applications a year and many of whom average less than 12 hours per application.
  • Prosecuting Patent Applications
    In the second year, program participants will be trained to prosecute patent applications, negotiate with examiners, communicate effectively with clients, and ensure high-quality outcomes in some of the most difficult art units. Use of examiner analytics and uniform procedures will be emphasized to ensure that responses and other matters can be completed in less time and with a higher likelihood of success.
  • Firm Management
    In the third year, program participants will learn firm management skills, such as how to hire and train patent attorneys and support staff; how to establish and manage a law office; and how to pitch, manage, and retain clients.
  • Firm Launch
    In the fourth year, program participants will launch their own new patent law firms with already established corporate relationships. New firm leaders will continue to receive ongoing mentorship from Harrity to ensure their success.

Candidates must be from a protected, diverse class; be an attorney or a law student graduating in 2019 and have a degree in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, physics, or a similar technical field; be registered to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; demonstrate a record of academic and professional achievement; and have a sincere interest in starting a law firm.

Applications will be accepted from September 1, 2019 through November 18, 2019. Candidates should email their resume and an essay, limited to 500 words, as to why they should be chosen to be part of the program to incubator@harrityllp.com.

For more information, please visit https://harrityllp.com/incubator.

About Harrity & Harrity, LLP

Harrity & Harrity is the nation’s leading patent preparation and prosecution firm specializing in the electrical and mechanical technology areas and is considered a Go-To Firm for the Patent 300™. Our clients have come to trust in our high-quality work, experienced people, industry leading innovation, and outstanding service. For more information, visit harrityllp.com.