Legal services sector: Good progress on LGBT+…
A landmark survey into the experiences of LGBT+ lawyers and LGBT+ equality in the profession conducted by the Law Society of England and Wales has identified significant progress, but more is needed.
As Pride events have been cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the legal professions of England and Wales – solicitors, barristers and chartered legal executives – will celebrate Pride events virtually.
The Law Society of England and Wales, the Bar Council of England and Wales and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) have adopted a Home and Away theme: celebrating the LGBT+ community under COVID-19 restrictions both in this country and overseas.
We'll release a series of video and blog interviews with members from each city whose Pride they were due to attend – Birmingham, London, Bristol, Newcastle, Leeds, Cardiff and Manchester. These will highlight the experiences of LGBT+ lawyers across the country.
Original dates for 2020 Pride events:
We'll also release a series of podcasts, discussing with lawyers from other jurisdictions how it is to be LGBT+ in their countries.
Get involved in virtually celebrating Pride this year by sharing how you’ll be celebrating, your experience of being LGBT+ in the legal profession or being an ally to the LGBT+ community on social media using the hashtags #LegalPride2020 and #EqualUnderTheLaw.
Michael Briggs, partner at Shoosmiths, shares how both he and Shoosmiths usually celebrate Birmingham Pride.
In Birmingham, we celebrate Pride Month in a variety of ways, which includes the marching in the Pride parade.
Previously we have marched with others LGBT+ groups, including the Law Society, SRA and Bar Council, which has been such an inclusive and rewarding experience.
This would have been the first year our established PROUD network was due to march in the Birmingham parade as a Shoosmiths group.
We’re proud to celebrate Pride Month, Birmingham Pride and all other Pride events throughout the year. This year is no different.
Whilst there may not be the usual parades and festivals throughout the summer months, we all know that we, and society, must continue to celebrate in one way or another, or even many.
We can still socialise - albeit remotely and/or by adhering to updated government guidance on social distancing.
We can still recognise what has been achieved in society since the Stonewall Riots took place on 28 June 1969 and the significant influence that LGBT+ community has had since. We can still strive for more in terms of achieving an inclusive and diverse society both in and out of work.
We can still support, volunteer, and /or fundraise for LGBT+ recognised charities. We just need to adapt a little, but that’s nothing new.
More than ever, this is a time to be inclusive, have a sense of community and think about others.
Paul Tenant, our chief executive, discusses the important role of the Law Society in supporting the LGBT+ community and how we can work together to create a profession we can all be proud of:
"In my opinion, the LGBT+ community is supported by the wider profession and I think we’ve seen improvements in the recognition and support of LGBT+ people within the profession in recent years.
However, this is not to suggest for a moment that there is not more to be done to ensure no one is discriminated against based on their characteristics and, equally, that people feel comfortable to be completely themselves at work and in all work environments. Encouraging openness and acceptance within the profession is key.
As the professional body for solicitors, it is important that we support the LGBT+ community all year round and have a clear plan and approach to support our members. We also have a responsibility to ‘walk the talk’ and offer the same support and inclusive work environment to our staff.
One of the real strengths of the Law Society is its convening power, the ability to bring a wide range of people together to focus on important issues impacting the profession, and we will continue this role to promote LGBT+ issues, concerns and actions.
Discrimination in any form is abhorrent and it is essential that all of us as individuals, managers, leaders and colleagues working and living within our firms or organisations create a tolerant, inclusive and supportive culture, work environments, and profession, that we can all be proud of."
In this video, Kira Wlkinson, in-house legal counsel at Slater and Gordon and one of our Social Mobility Ambassadors, tell us about her LGBT+ role model:
“In the London region we have missed the grand event. I have joined the Parade for many years and enjoy the atmosphere and the great camaraderie amongst those representing the profession.
Whilst it’s a really fun event it has the serious message that we all deserve to be treated fairly and equally.
The importance of these core messages sitting within the Rule of Law are highlighted this year more than ever with the Black Lives Matter campaign. I am sure that in the air of solidarity that pervades the Parade that would have been taken to the heart of those marching.”
"As an LGBT+ lawyer in London, law firms often sponsor LGBT+ community events.
However, as a BAME LGBT+ lawyer in London, I note that these events often take the place of firms addressing racial inequalities within the profession.
To mark Black Pride and in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, firms need to create safe spaces to talk about race, as well as sexual orientation.
Bringing your ‘whole-self’ to work needs to be redefined by firms and the wider profession to include all protected characteristics, not just those that are more comfortable to talk about in the board room."
Coralie McKeivor, senior associate at CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP in Bristol, talks us through how Pride is usually celebrated in Bristol and what’s happening this year.
In Bristol, we usually mark Pride with the parade around the city centre and then a large outdoor festival with music and performances.
Most of the Bristol law firms will join in to march together as part of the parade under the #LegalPride banner - celebrating diversity and promoting an inclusive and diverse society.
It’s also fantastic opportunity to get to know others within the profession, and beyond, and has such a great atmosphere.
This year LGBT+ groups and networks are looking at how they can celebrate virtually and many firms celebrated Pride Month with virtual activities. Due to COVID-19 Bristol Pride has been postponed until September but we are all looking forward to celebrating online from 1 to 12 September. Bristol Pride will still provide an opportunity for people to come together to connect and to celebrate.
Even though COVID-19 has changed the way we have been doing things, we can also still continue to support, volunteer and fundraise for some organisations advocating on behalf of the LGBT+ community during this difficult period.
One local project by way of example is Freedom Youth, part of Off The Record, which is a gender and sexuality project for young people who identify as LGBT+. However, there are lots of charities and organisations doing amazing work that need support at the moment.
You may also want to check out OutStories Bristol - a website which collects the stories of LGBT+ people living in, or associated with, Bristol.
In this video Rachel Reese, vice-chair of our LGBT+ Lawyers Division Committee, is joined by her partner Emma to answer questions on Pride and Trans Pride Brighton.
They discuss how they’ll be celebrating this year, how Pride is usually celebrated in rural Kent and, the importance of being a trans ally right now.
Matthew Jones of Weightmans and Leeds Law Society talks about Pride in Leeds and other topics:
In Leeds, Pride is normally marked on the first Sunday of August. There is a large stage and meeting point at Millennium Square, which is at one end of the city centre. The march then goes from there through the city and ending at Leeds’ Freedom Quarter, where there is a huge street party. It is wonderful. For the last two years, the Leeds Law Society and the Law Society of England and Wales have taken part in the parade. There is no greater feeling than walking through the city celebrating pride with thousands of people.
Certainly not the same. That being said, we will still be celebrating. My partner and I will be wearing Pride t-shirts and meeting a couple of friends for a socially distanced drink. We’ll make up for it when we can have Pride celebrations again, I’m sure.
Well there is certainly a lot of hard work going into making it a very accepting sector. The Leeds Law Society and many local firms are working closely to raise awareness.
There is now dialogue between firms as to what they can do to help one another. It is really positive. That being said, I have spoken with students who are looking to begin a career in law and they still have the same concerns which I had many years ago when I embarked on my legal career, such as whether their sexuality will be detrimental to their chances of obtaining that all important training contract. So long as these questions are being asked, there is still a long way to go.
That’s a difficult one. Every day I see examples of how supportive this sector is. The participation of firms and regional Law Societies in their respective Pride marches for example, but then something happens which makes me question whether the support is there. I think what firms need to ensure is that their support of the LGBT+ community isn’t just lip service. That they are putting into action what they say they stand for and support.
Well it makes me feel comfortable that I can be my true self and still have a legal career. Not all firms may attend Pride, but knowing that our professional body is there at Pride brings comfort to me.
One of the main things is to be open and proud with your support. Pride is a great vehicle to do that. Another way is to educate themselves and take an interest in the LGBT+ community. Find out more. It’s not just Pride Marches and bars. There is a rich history and culture there waiting to be discovered. There are some fantastic books, articles and documentaries that shed light on the LGBT+ community and its history, from the Stonewall Riots to Section 28. Go and uncover it for yourself.
It is very difficult to select just one – I have so many, all for different reasons. If I were to pick someone from Yorkshire then there is a rich variety of LGBT+ role models to choose from such as Alan Bennett, David Hockney and Nicola Adams, many of whom were acknowledged by special rainbow plaques placed around the city in 2018.
From a legal perspective, then Master Victoria McCloud is certainly someone I admire. I also consider Jimmy Sommerville as a hero. Smalltown Boy is an incredibly powerful piece of music and still ranks as one of my favourite songs.
Clive Thomas, Managing Partner at Watkins & Gunn and past President of Cardiff & District Law Society talks about supporting the LGBT+ community and his personal heroine.
I think those who do not identify as LGBT+ can do a lot to support the LGBT+ legal community in their own area and help to create a more tolerant society. At my firm Watkins & Gunn we have set up a sub-brand we have called Watkins & One.
We did this to make our Equality & Diversity policy a living breathing thing rather than a document kept in a dusty drawer that is wheeled out for an annual review or an audit. Through Watkins & One we have raised the profile of LGBT + within the firm and helped shown our support by supporting events for the LGBT+ community.
In Wales the main event is the Pride Cymru March. Law Society Wales do a great job in hosting the event for the profession in Wales. It’s a fantastic opportunity for allies to celebrate the LGBT+ community and visibly show their support in a positive environment. It is such a shame that it cannot take place this year.
You can also get involved with your local law society. Cardiff & District Law Society have got a very active Equality and Diversity Committee that run events and raise the profile of the LGBT+ community.
My LGBT+ heroine is my own daughter Laura. Laura is a young newly qualified solicitor in Manchester. When she first came out, she was still at University. I thought that she had “chosen” a very difficult path and it may hold her back in her career. I was wrong on both counts - firstly “chosen” was completely the wrong word - as I came to understand; secondly that her sexuality may affect her career.
Rather than being held back, Laura has fully embraced it and wherever she has worked she has led the way in promoting awareness of the LGBT+ community in the law. She has also now taken her work to a national level and become the youngest member of the Law Society’s LGBT+ Lawyers Division Committee, having been appointed in April 2019. So I think Laura represents the brave young face of LGBT+ in our profession and I am very proud of her and all that she has achieved.
LGBT+ Lawyers Division Committee member, Laura Thomas of Tameside Council shares her thoughts about Manchester Pride and other topics.
Manchester Pride is the central huge celebration across the bank holiday weekend and a fantastic opportunity to bring the LGBT+ community together.There are also a number of smaller Pride events, including Salford and Tameside Pride, that occur on different weekends over the summer across Greater Manchester and have a more community feel.
I am fully of the opinion there really is a Pride event for everyone across Greater Manchester! This year Manchester Pride has embraced the online platform to provide events.
The Manchester LGBT+ legal community is large and ever growing. It has recently been strengthened by the inception of the Manchester Law Society Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and also has separate regular LGBT+ networking.
There are a variety of firms and organisations who operate thriving formal and informal LGBT+ networks. As ever, there are differing experiences across the community, however there have been recent initiatives such as the active recruitment of Magistrates who identify as trans in Greater Manchester, which show the continued positive steps to an even more inclusive community.
I think it is important to listen to the experiences of LGBT+ people and understand where improvements can be made with really simple changes, such as preferred pronouns in email signatures. It is also important to educate where possible i.e if someone uses terminology that is outdated to let them know the correct terms. I certainly have benefited from a great number of allies throughout my career thus far.
One of many LGBT+ heroes is Kate O'Donnell. She is a writer and actress, among many other activities she is involved in. We are fortunate to have a thriving trans community in Manchester reinforced by events such as Sparkle. I firmly believe Kate has been a driving force for this and is an energising voice for the LGBT+ community.
For this year's Pride special, our theme is Home and Away, celebrating the LGBT+ community under COVID-19 restrictions.
Our first podcast is a discussion with Heather Capell Bramble who lives in the United States.
Katrina Robinson MBE shares her experience of qualifying as a solicitor and discusses the importance of firms supporting LGBT+ colleagues and eliminating unconscious bias in the workplace.
In this podcast we speak with Tinashe Chipendo about his experiences of living, and working as a lawyer, in Manchester, and also about the experiences of LGBT+ people in Zimbabwe.
In this podcast, we speak with Allan Wernham who lives in Scotland with his partner.
Naosuke and Alexander are two of the co-founders of Lawyers for LGBT & Allies Network (LLAN), an organisation working to eliminate discrimination against LGBT+ people in Japan. They share their experiences and how they celebrate Pride.
Brett and Peter share their experiences of working as a LGBT+ legal professional in Australia and Taiwan.