Rice’s legal team receives Mansfield Certification in nod to diverse leadership initiatives

Rice is the only higher education institution in this year’s cohort


Rice University’s Office of General Counsel joined more than 60 other legal teams across the country by achieving 2023 Mansfield Certification. Designed by Diversity Lab, this structured certification process helps ensure that everyone at participating law firms and legal departments has a fair and equal opportunity to advance into leadership positions.

Rice University’s legal department joined more than 60 other legal teams across the country by achieving 2023 Mansfield Certification.

“We’re very pleased to bring this well-deserved recognition to Rice,” said Omar Syed, vice president and general counsel. “Our legal team has worked its hardest to identify diverse outside attorneys and law firms for us to retain, and to ensure that new team members match Rice’s appetites for cultural progress, curiosity and internationalism. This recognition is also an obvious credit to many other corners of Rice. After all, it takes a tireless HR team to help us find gifted candidates to interview and hire; outstanding diversity, equity and inclusion advocates to motivate us to consider new ideas and affinity groups; and a phenomenal grounds team to make our campus the inspiring, inclusive environment it is for our visitors and employees.”

By obtaining this certification, Rice joins the ranks of companies like United Airlines, Accenture, Hewlett-Packard and U.S. Bank.

To achieve certification, Rice documented how its legal department implemented a behavioral science and data-driven approach by expanding the pool of qualified talent considered for new positions to include at least 50% historically underrepresented individuals, such as women lawyers, racially and ethnically underrepresented lawyers, LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities. In addition, Rice’s legal team took similar steps when deciding which outside law firms to consider hiring for special projects.

Mansfield’s methodology, which has proven to build more diverse leadership teams, is rooted in changes to systems and processes, not exclusivity or discrimination. Instead of instilling quotas, set-asides or requirements unrelated to an individual’s qualifications, Mansfield ensures that opportunities for advancement are inclusive by broadening talent pools. As part of the certification process, Rice tracked its talent pipelines and enhanced the transparency of leadership roles and advancement processes.

Nearly one-third of participating legal teams, including Rice, opted into “Mansfield Certification Plus,” a designation reserved for legal departments that voluntarily measure the outcomes of their inclusive processes and have achieved positive results.