Law Firms’ Policies Reaffirm Commitment to LGBTQ Community

10 Min Read By: Rick Paszkiet

The Pride Parades were back this summer—after a two-year hiatus because of COVID—and the large crowds and enthusiasm demonstrated acceptance and support of the LGBTQ community in our society. Many business law firms are committed to serving and supporting LGBTQ staff, clients, and initiatives as part of their diversity programs.

Below is a sampling of how five business law firms have institutionalized their approach to LGBTQ inclusion through policies, working groups, and programs.

Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP 

The 2SLGBTQ+ Affinity Group at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP exists to ensure that 2SLGBTQ+ firm members are enabled and motivated to succeed to their maximum potential, while being comfortable bringing their full and complete selves to work. The Group works to support the recruitment, retention, and promotion of 2SLGBTQ+ talent to and within the firm. All firm members who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ and allies are welcome to attend the Group’s monthly meetings and events to support one another’s career development and discuss issues particular to the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

For 2022, the Group is kicking off Pride season with its second annual virtual drag show featuring a dynamic and diverse cast of local drag queens and a drag king who will dance, lip sync, and discuss everything surrounding drag, gender expression, allyship, and queerness. The Group will also be attending Pride runs and walks in Toronto and Vancouver to raise funds for local 2SLGBTQ+ community spaces and resources. In addition, the Group has recently announced that it is in the process of establishing an independent peer support group to better provide more well-rounded support to firm members who identify as 2SLGBTQ+. In recent days, the Group has begun exploring the possibility of hosting, together with the Parents of Young Families Affinity Group, a recurring drag story-time.

Finally, the Group has been working closely with the firm’s larger Inclusion and Diversity Committee to bring in speakers to address topics such as pronouns and gender/sexual identities, the progressive pride flag, and court challenges to anti-2SLGBTQ+ legislation.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP

Cleary Gottlieb believes that fostering interactions among lawyers with similar affinities, as well as those with diverse experiences and perspectives, makes the firm a more welcoming and supportive place—and one that is better positioned to serve the firm’s clients and support the Cleary community. Cleary’s affinity groups collaborate with firm leadership, conduct continuing legal education programs, raise awareness about topics relevant to the members of their respective groups, identify culturally relevant pro bono matters and potential partnerships, and organize networking activities. Affinity groups are empowered to be active participants in the firm’s efforts to achieve greater inclusion.

Cleary is pleased to support the LGBTQ+ Affinity Group and the Pride Professionals’ Affinity Network. These groups were created to connect LGBTQ+ associates and professional staff across the firm, and they have grown from the firm’s efforts to highlight the unique experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals. These groups cultivate an inclusive culture, where the values, voices, and perspectives of Cleary’s LGBTQ+ professionals are celebrated and reflected. Cleary is proud to host impactful and robust programming, including cultural events and talks with LGBTQ+ activists and trailblazers, to raise awareness about the issues these individuals face and the contributions they make to our communities. We regularly invite provocative and dynamic speakers to engage with our community, and we endeavor to showcase and highlight intersectionality, especially across racial/ethnic identities.

Additionally, Cleary Gottlieb engages and partners with leading LGBTQ+ stakeholders inside and outside of the legal industry. Cleary advances these efforts with national organizations and minority bar associations to demonstrate its solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and showcase and reinforce its dedication to supporting this community.

Covington & Burling LLP

Covington’s LGBT+ Affinity Group has a global presence and invites the participation of the firm’s lawyers and staff. The affinity group leads work closely with Covington’s Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Team to implement strategic initiatives in response to the needs of the LGBT+ community within the firm. Most recently, the group developed its first-ever strategic action plan focused on belonging, retention, and development of affinity group members. Their plan objectives will be accomplished through multiple activities, including hosting regular affinity group meetings; implementing inclusionary practices to support all LGBT+ colleagues in the workplace; and creating more visibility opportunities with key clients for LGBT+ lawyers. Covington’s LGBT+ Affinity Group also provides mentoring, learning, and development opportunities for its members and promotes intersectional efforts by collaborating on programs and events with the firm’s six other affinity groups.

In an effort to be more inclusive of individuals across the spectrum of gender and gender identity, the LGBT+ Affinity Group championed the firm-wide use of pronouns in email signatures. Words matter, and the use of pronouns in email signatures sends a clear message of solidarity and support to future and current Covington colleagues, as well as clients. In alignment with this initiative, the affinity group collaborated with the D&I team to develop a reference guide to instruct colleagues on how to modify their email signature blocks.

This year, Covington celebrated Pride in a big way, supporting the LGBT+ community in Brussels and Frankfurt (May), the U.S. (June), and London (July). These events encouraged Covington colleagues to learn about and reflect on the achievements and diverse identities of members of the LGBT+ community. These events included:

  • Participation in the London 2022 Pride March wearing an exclusive Pride Month T-shirt that was distributed to members in the U.S. and London offices.
  • A conversation with Amy Schneider, the most successful woman ever to compete on Jeopardy! This engaging discussion touched on her being the first openly transgender contestant to qualify for the Tournament of Champions, her role in amplifying trans voices, and how everyone can act as an ally for trans rights.
  • A discussion in partnership with UCLA’s Williams Institute on federal policy under President Biden, state legislation targeting LGBT+ youth, and what the Supreme Court’s recent decision on abortion rights could mean for the LGBT+ community.
  • An educational workshop on LGBTQI+ awareness that included colleagues in Brussels and Frankfurt.

White & Case LLP

White & Case’s LGBT+ affinity group—Spectrum—has three affinity networks, one of which is available for all U.S.-based colleagues, both lawyers and business services staff. These groups provide ongoing peer support and regular networking opportunities, making the firm a more attractive prospect for potential LGBT+ recruits by demonstrating that diversity is valued, and facilitating professional networking opportunities with clients’ and other law firms’ LGBT+ networks.

White & Case has joined the community of organizations that support and adhere to the UN Standards of Conduct for Business Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, and Intersex People. The UN Standards contain five principles aimed at helping businesses improve LGBT+ equality and inclusion. White & Case is working closely with its Spectrum LGBT+ Networks to translate this support into actionable goals. For example, the firm rolled out a new gender pronoun signature template globally in 2021 to show those who wish to share their pronouns that doing so is supported by White & Case. This was accompanied by ongoing onboarding and global educational materials, such as videos and FAQs, to encourage all colleagues to increase their understanding of the use of pronouns.

White & Case is a long-term sponsor of the Lavender Law Conference & Career Fair, the largest LGBT+ legal conference in the country, as well as other LGBT+ initiatives, such as the Lambda Liberty Awards National Dinner. Its lawyers also staff the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York’s monthly legal clinic, which provides assistance for low­-income members of the LGBT+ community in need of brief legal advice on a range of topics. As part of the firm’s Global Citizenship initiative, its Pro Bono legal services are the centerpiece, with White & Case being one of the largest providers of pro bono legal services in the world. Many cases relate to LGBT+ issues, including immigration and asylum challenges for LGBT+ people. Whitman-Walker Health is a common pro bono partner for the firm, and we also sponsor and participate in the organization’s annual Walk to End HIV. Most recently in 2022, White & Case partnered with one of its key clients to refresh the IGLYO’s Inclusive Education Report across forty-five countries. IGLYO is a nonprofit organization that builds the skills and experience of LGBT+ youth to become leaders within the LGBT+ and human rights sectors. The firm’s LGBT+ lawyers continue to achieve peer and community recognition, such as the 2020 40 Under 40 Awards from the LGBT Bar, which recognized two firm LGBT+ lawyers as having distinguished themselves in their field and demonstrated a profound commitment to LGBT+ equality. Other awards have included 2020 Asian Law Alliance Diversity Award.

In addition, White & Case hosts annual Pride celebrations and events across multiple offices in the U.S. The firm organizes educational events to discuss diversity and inclusion issues specific to the LGBT+ community. In the most recent event, “An Audience with Olympic Champion Tom Daley,” the Olympic champion in diving discussed how he triumphed over negativity and bias throughout his career, covering a range of issues including homophobia and challenges with mental health.

White & Case also conducts personalized outreach to law school LGBT+ affinity groups, and previous panel and speaker sessions have included law school professors discussing Supreme Court cases and decisions around LGBT+ diversity issues.

Holland & Knight LLP

Holland & Knight proudly supports the LGBTQ community and has long welcomed and encouraged the celebration of Pride Month. Throughout Pride Month 2022, as in years past, the firm offered an array of information, resources, and additional ways to show support, including a feature on the front page of the firm’s website, as well as a social media graphic and special Pride Month email signatures for use by employees. Other Holland & Knight efforts and outreach included:

Social Media Pride Profiles: Holland & Knight’s social media channels provided “Pride Profiles” featuring members of the firm’s Pride Planning Committee, including Associates Amy O’Brien and Cameron Rivers. Partner Jessica MacAllister and Associates Brian Goodrich and Fernando Tevez also were highlighted. In addition to posting on LinkedIn, the firm shared the profiles on its Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram accounts. As Ms. MacAllister stated in her profile, Holland & Knight’s LGBTQ Affinity Group “has served as a safe space for me to share in our communities’ successes and disappointments” and “is a place where empathy meets action. I am proud to be a member of a group that works tirelessly towards equality and inclusion in both our workplace and in our communities.”

Going Beyond the Pride Flag: On June 22, the firm hosted a webinar for employees and clients titled “Beyond the Pride Flag: Breaking Barriers as an Openly Gay Executive,” featuring Habitat for Humanity Vice President for Individual Giving Jeremy Kraut-Ordover. Mr. Kraut-Ordover discussed the challenges he faced growing up, the importance of being an advocate, and how he ended up thriving in his role as a high-ranking executive of a Christian organization as an openly gay and Jewish man.

Charitable Fundraiser: Holland & Knight’s LGBTQ Affinity Group sponsored a Pride Month fundraiser, with donations shared between the Equality Florida Institute and Equality Texas Foundation. These organizations work to secure full equality for LGBTQ+ individuals in Florida and Texas—two strongholds of the firm. Donations, which topped more than $11,000, were accepted through the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation’s donation portal and payroll deduction.

Holland & Knight’s support of the LGBTQ community doesn’t end with Pride Month. Throughout the year, through its representation on the firm’s Diversity Council, the LGBTQ Affinity Group works to ensure that Holland & Knight remains a leader among law firms with regard to its LGBTQ-friendly policies and initiatives. Externally, members of the LGBTQ Affinity Group participate in various pro bono and community service efforts to improve the lives and rights of the LGBTQ community. These include furnishing essential services to LGBTQ youth, providing outreach and support to families impacted by HIV/AIDS, and participating in name and gender marker change clinics for transgender individuals.

By: Rick Paszkiet

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