In 2004, Intel joined more than 100 other corporations to call for concrete action to promote diversity in the legal profession. That declaration reflected the shared recognition by Intel and our peers that “the legal and business interests of our clients require legal representation that reflects the diversity of our employees, customers and the communities where we do business.” We pledged to “make decisions regarding which law firms represent our companies based in significant part on the diversity performance of the firms” and “to end or limit our relationships with firms whose performance consistently evidences a lack of meaningful interest in being diverse.” We earnestly believed that our call to action would prompt meaningful change in the legal profession and increase the number of women and minority attorneys representing Intel as outside counsel.
Fifteen years have passed since that call to action, and many corporations and law firms have made progress. At Intel today, we believe our outside counsel roster is among corporate America’s most diverse, and we regularly partner with our outside firms to provide opportunities to diverse lawyers, to set challenging representation goals and to award bonuses for outstanding progress. Over the years, we and our law firm partners have pioneered or adopted nearly every available tool to increase the diversity of our legal teams, including mentoring programs and clerkships. These improvements are part and parcel with Intel’s values-driven desire to become the world’s most inclusive company – a goal we support with our time, talents and resources. For example, in 2015 we set a goal to reach full market representation of women and underrepresented minorities in our U.S. workforce by 2020. We committed $300 million to achieve this goal and to support the broader goal of improving diversity and inclusion in the entire technology industry. We achieved full market representation of women and underrepresented minorities in our U.S. workforce in 2018, two years ahead of schedule.
But despite these improvements, for the legal profession overall, progress has been frustratingly slow – especially when it comes to retention and promotion. According to most surveys, at large U.S. law firms, only about 20% of full equity partners are women, and only about 8 or 9% are underrepresented minorities. Indeed, the data suggest that the largest 200 firms in the country as a group will not reach 50% women and 33% racial and ethnic minorities in their equity partner ranks – which would mirror the composition of recent law school graduating classes – for at least another 50 years.
That sluggish progress is not enough for our profession, and it certainly is not enough for Intel – where we pride ourselves on taking bold risks to achieve rapid progress. In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore penned Moore’s Law, a prediction of constant, momentous improvement that has become the driving force for progress in the computer industry. Our industry’s belief in our ability to achieve the core promise of Gordon’s prediction has driven thousands of engineers and scientists to produce ever-faster computer chips.
We believe that driving real progress in the legal profession’s diversity requires taking risk and being audacious, in the best spirit of Moore’s Law. In fact, we need a Moore’s Law of diversity in the legal profession and, even more, we need the fearlessness that goes with it. Today, we are taking a step toward that ambition by announcing something we call the Intel Rule:
Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, Intel will not retain or use outside law firms in the U.S. that are average or below average on diversity. Firms are eligible to do legal work for Intel only if, as of that date and thereafter, they meet two diversity criteria: at least 21% of the firm’s U.S. equity partners are women and at least 10% of the firm’s U.S. equity partners are underrepresented minorities (which, for this purpose, we define as equity partners whose race is other than full white/Caucasian, and partners who have self-identified as LBGTQ+, disabled or as veterans).
The Intel Rule adds above-average diversity to a small list of mandatory items we require from every lawyer in every retention: results, value, professionalism and diversity. We understand that doing this may deny to us the services of many highly skilled lawyers, perhaps including the services of some law firms with which we have worked for decades. But Intel cannot abide the current state of progress – it is not enough, and progress is not happening fast enough. At Intel, below average and average on diversity is no longer good enough to be a member of our regular outside counsel roster.
Initially, our diversity criteria will focus on equity partners. As many firms now have multiple tiers of equity partners, over time we intend to develop the data necessary to adopt and apply diversity criteria based only on the top tier of equity partners at firms. We also intend to develop the data necessary to apply our diversity criteria to firms worldwide. And, we will regularly increase our required percentages so that Intel is always using firms that are at the forefront of our profession’s progress on diversity.
In full candor, our internal discussions about the Intel Rule have not been without debate, even among those most passionate about diversity. There may be instances where a real need for a specialty, relationship or lawyer (for example, a local counsel relationship) requires us to depart from the Intel Rule, but we will make such exceptions rarely and only after determining that no suitable diverse firm is available. In the area of patent prosecution, which presents distinct challenges in the area of gender diversity, we will make appropriate adjustments to balance our goal to drive greater diversity in the legal profession with our needs for specialized (and sometimes unique) technical skills.
Today, we call on corporate law departments to also renew our shared commitments to take concrete steps to develop and hire diverse outside teams. At Intel, we pledge our more than $300 million in annual outside counsel spending to this goal, in the belief that by declining to hire firms that are average or below average on diversity will spur the progress our profession needs to bring about change now, not in 50 years – an effort worthy of the spirit of Moore’s Law.
Steven R. Rodgers is executive vice president and general counsel at Intel Corporation.