OUTstanding: City lawyers recognised for innovative LGBT+ initiatives

February 10, 2020

4 min read

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What's going on here?

Over 20 lawyers at top law firms have been named as LGBT+ leaders in the OUTstanding LGBT+ Role Model Lists 2019.

What does this mean?

Every year, diversity and inclusivity (D&I) membership organisation INvolve produces lists of top business leaders under the categories of 100 LGBT+ Executives, 50 LGBT+ Future Leaders and 50 Ally Executives. Lawyers account for about 20% of these lists, of whom about two-thirds work at US, magic circle or silver circle firms such as Eversheds Sutherland, Linklaters, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Reed Smith. Most of the other one-third work as general counsel (GC) at multinational corporations such as EY, Hyatt Hotels, Soundcloud, Post Office, BP and Nokia. The lawyers who are “Executives” and “Ally Executives” tend to be partners or GC, while those who are “Future Leaders” tend to be Associates or Senior Associates.

What's the big picture effect?

The substantial number of lawyers who have been named in these lists, who are recognised for their work in defending and promoting the rights of LGBT+ people, is testament to an increasingly diverse legal profession. A 2015 survey by the Law Society found that 2.6% of practising solicitors were estimated to be LGBT+, with another 2.8% preferring not to say. It is difficult to know whether this represents the population at large, as sexual orientation has never been asked in a national census. An ONS survey in 2014 found that 1.9% of adults identified as LGB, however the government has estimated the figure is between 5-7%, which is supported by Stonewall as a reasonable estimate. This suggests that more initiatives are needed to encourage both the LGBT+ community to enter the legal profession and LGBT+ lawyers to openly and confidently “come out”.

So what have lawyers actually done to be named in these lists? In summary, they have worked both internally to further the agenda of their firms’ LGBT+ networks, and externally alongside LGBT+ charities such as Stonewall, GiveOut, JustLikeUs and DiverCity. In the top “Executives” list, Jim Ford (Partner, Allen & Overy) chairs his firm’s international LGBT+ network and launched its first LGBT+ allies group; Daisy Reeves (Partner, BCLP) is an LGBT+ Champion in her firm, drives its LGBT+ agenda in its 31 offices and is a founding ambassador of LBTQWomen; Daniel Gerring (Partner, Travers Smith) is a senior champion for LGBTQ+ equality, chairs its LGBTQ+ Network Group and sits on its D&I Board. In the top “Future Leaders” list, Jonathon Andrews (Solicitor, Reed Smith) is a board member of his firm’s LGBT+ and disability networks, and sits on the Law Society’s Equality Committee; Henry Li (Associate, Eversheds) founded his firm’s LGBT+ D&I programme in Hong Kong and organised Hong Kong’s largest Pride event in 2018; Eraldo d’Atri (Senior Associate, Clifford Chance) co-chairs his firm’s LGBT+ network, mentors junior LGBT+ lawyers and founded the firm’s LGBT+ Parents group. Those on the “Allies” list are not LGBT+ themselves but support LGBT+ inclusion, and these include Aisling Gannon (Partner, Eversheds) who has led “stand up, show up, speak up” initiatives through Pride week, and  Nathalie Hobbs (Partner, Linklaters) who speaks extensively on the topic of LGBT+ inclusion.

Activities which are likely to put partners in the running for these lists include undertaking regular D&I appraisals, developing policies to support LGBT+ employees, engaging in Pride events, hosting networking events for LGBT professionals in the wider business community, championing mentoring schemes for LGBT+ employees and fundraising for LGBT+ charities. Legal work also counts, such as providing Pro Bono advice to D&I charities, and contributing to online articles or theses on LGBT+ inclusion. A prerequisite for all these activities, however, is strong leadership and evidence of energetic and empathetic engagement with building LGBT+ inclusion. Associates and trainee solicitors, meanwhile, should become members of D&I committees, write blogs for LGBT+ charities and get on the speaking list for any internal or external campaigns or networking events. Employees don’t have to be LGBT+ themselves as they can still be allies, and with Associates making it to number 13, 17 and 22 as “Future Leaders” – above GCs and Senior Associates – there’s no need to become “leads” or “heads” of multiple D&I committees before being recognised for making a difference.

Celebrating the work of people who are driving LGBT+ initiatives is important for both recognition and to encourage other firms – be it magic circle, regional or local – to spearhead their own commitment to LGBT+ inclusion. It is encouraging to see many lawyers – from associates to managing partners – on the list, but a more diverse range of firms represented would be welcomed.

Report written by Arun Allen

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