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Nilan Johnson Lewis Achieves Diversity Lab's Mansfield Certification Plus Recognition

Certification affirms that diverse leadership is in place to ensure an inclusive workplace and a path to leadership

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (October 10, 2023) — Nilan Johnson Lewis (NJL), one of the largest women-owned law firms in the country, announced today that it has achieved Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Certification Plus recognition for 2022-2023. The Mansfield Rule, named after the first female attorney in the U.S., is a structured certification process designed to ensure all talent at participating law firms has a fair and equal opportunity to advance into leadership. The Mansfield Rule is focused on broadening the talent pool for consideration, including those historically underrepresented in the legal profession, and to facilitate transparent pathways to leadership.

To achieve Mansfield Certification, a firm must demonstrate that it has implemented and is following an established set of best practices to provide talent a fair and equal opportunity to advance into leadership. Less than half of this year’s Mansfield Certified firms join Nilan Johnson Lewis in receiving the “Plus” designation, a special recognition for not only taking steps to increase inclusivity but making measured success in doing so.

Leadership roles in Mansfield-certified firms are comprised of at least 30% historically underrepresented lawyers—such as women lawyers, underrepresented racial and ethnic lawyers, LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities. In addition, as part of the certification process, these firms must demonstrate their efforts to enhance transparency related to leadership roles, advancement processes and compensation policies.

Data shows that Mansfield early adopters—those law firms certified in the inaugural year—are diversifying their leadership at roughly double the rate of non-Mansfield firms.

The percentage of attorney leadership roles at Nilan Johnson Lewis currently held by historically underrepresented persons is nearly double the Mansfield threshold. The firm’s commitment to fostering an inclusive workplace has been a core value of the firm since its founding in 1996, and was reinforced when the firm became certified as a women-owned business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) in 2022. Earlier this year, NJL added to its roster of women leaders by appointing a chief attorney talent officer to oversee attorney development and complement the firm’s DEI initiatives.

“Though DEI programs around the country have been under the microscope this year, we have and will continue to work tirelessly on all aspects of diversity, from considering and hiring talent for important and fulfilling roles, to advancing them into elevated positions, to helping our increasingly diverse clients realize their own goals around inclusivity,” said Amanda Cialkowski, Nilan Johnson Lewis president. “Receiving Mansfield Certification Plus recognition is a meaningful affirmation of our efforts and desire to be an exemplar in the profession.”

“It’s well known that diverse candidate pools and leadership teams disrupt damaging unconscious biases,” said Deborah Autrey, Nilan Johnson Lewis attorney and co-chair of the firm’s DEI committee. “We’re pleased to be a part of this industry-specific certification program which mirrors our own goals, values, and ideas.”

NJL is one of more than 200 law firms achieving 2022-23 Mansfield Certification in the U.S. and Canada. The Mansfield methodology, which has proven to build more diverse leadership teams, is rooted in changes to systems and processes, not exclusivity or discrimination. Mansfield ensures that opportunities for advancement are inclusive by broadening talent pools instead of instilling quotas, set-asides or requirements unrelated to an individual’s qualifications.

“At a time when efforts to expand opportunities to underrepresented groups are under attack, these Mansfield firms are making their advancement processes more open and transparent,” said Alyssa Jarvis, director of Mansfield & Strategic Innovations at Diversity Lab. “The firms honored today for achieving Certification have articulated and broadened the paths to leadership. The expectations, and avenues to success, have never been clearer. And this commitment to transparency benefits everyone. I am proud to work with each of these firms.”

About Nilan Johnson Lewis

Nilan Johnson Lewis is an innovative, independent, women-owned law firm that is a first choice for organizations across the country seeking deep expertise to solve their complex business challenges and disputes. Diversity is a core founding value of NJL. In 2022, the firm became certified as a women-owned business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), a significant milestone in NJL’s ongoing commitment to fostering an inclusive workplace and being a law firm that delivers exceptional results by celebrating and advancing the diversity of its members. The firm has deep expertise in five areas of law: labor and employment, corporate and transactional services, health care, business litigation and product liability/complex tort litigation. Learn more at

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