Celebrating Pride in the legal profession

We celebrated Pride by listening to LGBT+ voices and learning how we can make meaningful progress to create a diverse and inclusive profession.
LGBT+ Pride flag illuminating the Palace of Westminster

We united with the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) to attend the Pride in London parade for the first time in three years.

The event marked 50 years since the first Pride march took place in the UK.

Before the event, we caught up with some of our LGBT+ committee members about their experiences in the profession. We asked them:

  • What does Pride mean to you?
  • Why should people in the legal profession get involved in Pride month? Why is it important?
  • What steps does the legal profession need to take for better inclusivity for LGBT+ solicitors?

Jacqui Rhule-Dagher

Litigation solicitor at Hogan Lovells International LLP

Jacqui is a black woman. She is smiling in front of a plain white background.

Pride is not just about a single month for me. It’s a state of being. It’s about living each day authentically, with integrity and proudly.

Pride month provides the opportunity to recognise the diversity in our community; while appreciating the work people put in historically to enable us to live and work freely.

The legal profession has made enormous strides over the years, but it must not become complacent.

It’s also hoped that any gains made during Pride Month will continue all year round. After all, we don’t shed our LGBT+ identities on the 1 July.

Firms who celebrate Pride month in a meaningful way may encourage more LGBT+ lawyers to be out in the workplace.

The Pride in the Law survey found that a lack of LGBT+ role models at work was the most cited pressing issue for gay men (42%), lesbian/gay women (55%) and bisexual individuals (78%).

Visibility matters. If you don't see people who look like you, you can start to think that there’s something wrong with the way that you look.

Many law firms will have LGBT+ inclusive policies and procedures.

The very best ones will be translating these into tangible actions. This will vary across firms, but some initiatives might include educating members of the profession on microaggressions and unconscious bias.

Firms with an intersectional focus tend to be the most successful in terms of achieving inclusivity.

They recognise that LGBT+ identities may intersect with class, gender, race and neurodiversity, for example. They also have an understanding that it is not the responsibility of the people who fit into those groups to speak out – it should be a collaborative effort between everyone in the profession

A white man, black woman and white woman are walking and smiling, holding a blue banner. They are outside in front of a crowd.

Jonathan Wheeler

Managing partner of Bolt Burdon Kemp

Johnathan is a white man. He is wearing a suit with a red bow tie and he is in front of a window.

Pride month is a coming together of our community, making a splash, and having fun.

It’s also a platform from which we can help raise political awareness of global inequality.

I think it’s imperative that our LGBT+ lawyers are visible – we can be great role models for our colleagues.

The Pride in the Law report found that 52% of respondents cited a lack of visible LGBT+ role models in their workplace as an issue for them and potentially a barrier to coming out and having permission to be themselves in the workplace.

Being out and proud as a member of the LGBT+ lawyers' community can surely help with this.

Seniors need to advocate for and ally with staff networks which should first be established by and for the community within the workplace.

Don’t pay lip service to the need for true equality and diversity within your organisations, and ensure you have a culture which empowers your employees to be themselves.

A large group of people gathered outside holding Pride flags.

Laura Thomas

Adult social care and education solicitor at Wigan Council

Laura is a white woman. She is wearing a purple t-shirt with a Pride flag on her back. She is standing in a crowd of people.

Pride means remembering the challenges of the community past and present, but also celebrating openly where we are today. Pride also means a sense of home to me and seeing a bit more rainbow about.

Pride month is a great way for firms and organisations to show themselves as LGBT+ supporters.

It also serves as encouragement to the next generation. There are so many brilliant LGBT+ people in the profession: why not them next?

More can still be done:

  • more inclusive gender options
  • more active employee LGBT+ networks

Progress has been amazing, even since my baby face has entered the profession, but there is more to do to be a truly inclusive profession.

A blonde, white woman is wearing sunglasses and standing amongst a group of people. She is holding a sign which says hashtag Legal Pride.

Tom Ketteley

Tom is a white man with a rainbow painted on his face. He is smiling in front of a crowd of people.

Deputy solicitor to the Infected Blood Inquiry

Pride gives me the freedom to be me! It's about saying, "this is me and I'm proud to be me".

I continue to hear students and junior lawyers struggle as they go back in the closet and hide their queer identities as they join the profession.

By being loud and proud I hope to challenge assumptions over who can be a lawyer. 

Our profession is stronger when we tap into diverse talent. We can find better solutions to the trickiest legal problems through being able to look at the same issue with different eyes. 

Diversity within the legal profession is a strength which needs to be nurtured and celebrated.

The Law Society 2021 Pride in the Law Report shows there is a mixed bag of experiences for LGBT+ lawyers, albeit with lots of encouraging signs of progress. 

We can't let progress stall.

I would like to see more of us rise to the challenge of being the visible role models we want to see in the profession and to make sure we continue to celebrate difference within our profession.

Find more about how we celebrated Pride

Our Pride in the Law research explores the experiences of the LGBT+ community in the legal profession and outlines how organisations can create supportive working environments.

Justin Farrance shares his experience coming out as a junior lawyer.

In happy people, happy firms, Tim Barnden takes us on a journey of his life and career from the discos of the 80s to leadership in a City firm.

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