LGBT+ and the legal sector.
Diversity in the working world focuses on fighting discrimination to allow everyone to be treated fairly and equally in the workplace. The legal sector, despite leading legal change for equality, is often viewed as old-fashioned and restrictive, meaning LGBT+ employees can feel unseen or unacknowledged.
As the Pride celebrations continue to spread colour across our capital this weekend, promoting diversity and inclusion across all walks of life, we thought it would be a good time to champion the law firms and organisations who are working towards true equality in the sector.
Stonewall’s 2019 list of Top 100 Employers
In Stonewall’s 2019 list of Top 100 Employers, it was a law firm that was named most inclusive employer in the UK. The list, built from the Workplace Equality Index, evidence-based submissions and employee feedback, named Pinsent Masons as their number 1 employer, and a further sixteen City law firms secured places in this year’s list, including Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (2), Baker McKenzie (10), Dentons (15) and Travers Smith (25).This is a monumental shift and promotes the legal sector as a considerable profession to a wider audience whilst showcasing a movement towards real inclusion across many firms.
As part of this year’s pride parades, the Law Society of England and Wales, the Bar Council, and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) will be marching as #LegalPride. Under the banner 'All are equal under the law', they will march in London, Manchester and Leeds to highlight the work of lawyers to defend LGBT+ rights and to recognise the LGBT+ community’s contribution to the legal sector. #LegalPride is in association with the Chancery Bar, BLAGG, the Law Society Junior Lawyers Division, FreeBar, the Interlaw Diversity Forum, and the CILEx LGBT Specialist Reference Group. A very public show of support for the legal sector’s LGBT+ community, 2018’s #LegalPride involvement was a huge success and leaders are hopeful this year’s involvement will be equally as positive.
The InterLaw Diversity Forum
The InterLaw Diversity Forum is a volunteer-run organisation, and was established in 2008 “in response to a need for an organisation to address LGBT in the London legal sector”. Since its inception, it has expanded beyond LGBT+ to encompass all strands of diversity and inclusion, including Race & Ethnicity (BAME), Disability, Gender, and social mobility, with a particular focus on cultural change in the workplace and 'multiple identities'/intersectionality. A big player in changing traditional views of the legal profession as being predominantly, male, middle-class and white, the InterLaw Diversity Forum currently has more than 5,500 members and supporters from 215 law firms and chambers, and from 280 corporates and financial institutions.
The Law Society LGBT+ Lawyers Division
The Law Society LGBT+ Lawyers Division is a community for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) lawyers and allies. They provide an opportunity for LGBT+ solicitors to have their voice heard and their members work across private practice and in-house within corporate, public sector and not-for-profit organisations. They focus on bringing people together to share best practice and providing ad-hoc peer support and help LGBT+ solicitors to overcome isolation, address current issues and challenges in a supportive environment, delivering key news, regulatory and management information and bring together services that are relevant to their audience. They also champion successes of the community, holding events and celebrations to make the LGBT+ community recognised and visible in the wider legal profession.
Compared to statistics presented in 2009, the legal sector has a much more positive sentiment in its promotion and inclusion of the LGBT+ community in 2019, but there is still a way to go. As bigger firms invest in the time and effort to ensure they have the relevant policies, awareness and indeed culture to be truly inclusive, smaller firms may be falling behind.
Often heralded as an “additional tick box”, harbouring an inclusive and diverse environment is not at the top of every Partner’s priority list, but indeed it should be. Any firm failing to take action and introduce, and actively promote, an inclusive and diverse culture will find itself having to recruit from a reduced talent pool, risk a drop-in productivity and profit, and will reduce its appeal to new clients.