Can linking diverse support teams to compensation and billing force changes in the legal industry?

Mary Ann Hynes, the first woman general counsel at a Fortune 500 company, started her job with CCH in 1979 as a complete outlier in her company. "People used to come up the stairs from all over the building just to see what I looked like," she told attendees of the Wolters Kluwer ELM User Conference on Thursday.

Although Hynes felt that the legal profession had made great strides since she began her career, she noted that there is still great work to do. Despite graduating from law school at equal levels with men, women in private practice still make up only 18 percent of all equity partners. This number dwindles down to a meager 2.6 percent in looking at women of color.

Wolters Kluwer's Passport e-billing platform now includes a bolstered "Diversity Module" that allows companies to track the diversity of the partners and associates working on their matters, allowing them to see whether law firms are meeting their corporate diversity standards. The module tracks race, gender and other demographic characteristics of the partners and associates working on their matters alongside their billable hours, allowing companies to see whether legal service teams comply with their internal corporate diversity standards.

In some cases, users find that the law firms they work with don't meet the mark. For example, Don Knight, legal business manager at PNC Financial Services, cited an early use of the module at PNC. In doing so, the company found a large litigation matter with only one billable hour produced by an African-American associate.

Hynes, Knight and Stephanie Scharf, partner at Scharf Banks Marmor, all discussed ways the module might be able to shift diversity standards for law firms.