Pride Month is a time to celebrate and elevate LGBTQ+ voices—to quote a recent White House proclamation, “Pride is both a jubilant communal celebration of visibility and a personal celebration of self-worth and dignity.” But this month is more than just a celebration: It is also a time to reflect more seriously on challenges the LGBTQ+ community continues to face and to reaffirm solidarity in the fight for equality.
In the legal industry, the fact remains that LGBTQ+ law students and attorneys still face workplace biases and fears about coming out at work. And while the 2020 Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Survey Report shows a steady upward trend, the data still shows that only 3.1% of all attorneys identified as LGBTQ+. That's why it's important to share and applaud the efforts that law firms are making to support LGBTQ+ attorneys.
To celebrate Pride Month, we spoke with attorneys from some of Vault’s Best Law Firms for LGBTQ+ Individuals about their firms’ efforts to support LGBTQ+ attorneys and their advice for evaluating a firm’s commitment to diversity. Watch the videos below to hear more!
Associate M’Alyssa Mecenas points out that, when evaluating firms, statistics alone all start to look the same. She recommends seeking out a firm where you can find someone committed to you and your career development. She also suggests observing how a firm reacts to mentions of LGBTQ+ topics in conversation and asking how familiar non-LGBTQ+ attorneys are with the firm’s diversity initiatives.
Partner David McFarlane shares ten tips for assessing a firm’s commitment to diversity, which include asking questions about: how many diverse attorneys left the firm during the pandemic; how LGBTQ+ attorneys are included as part of a firm’s broader diversity commitment; whether the firm is Mansfield Certified; and whether staff members, not just attorneys, are included in diversity initiatives.
Associate Samuel Light, co-chair of Fried Frank's Pride Alliance, shares some of the ways the firm supports LGBTQ+ attorneys. For example, the firm offers a gender-neutral parental leave policy and generous transition policy, and it encourages the use of preferred pronouns in email signatures. Fried Frank also partners with TLDEF, the ACLU, and other organizations to offer pro bono services.
To assess whether a firm is a good fit, partner Abbey Hudson recommends talking to LGBTQ+ attorneys to get their take on how they are treated and interact with others at the firm. She also recommends that law students find connections through their school’s OutLaw organization who are willing to share honest insights. At Gibson Dunn, Ms. Hudson has found support in many ways, including through the LGBTQ+ Women’s Group.
According to partner Hillary Rightler, it is crucial to work somewhere you feel comfortable and can be yourself. When Ms. Rightler started her legal career, she faced challenges associated with outdated expectations for how women lawyers were expected to appear and act, so she initiated conversations with colleagues and firm management to ensure she was supported in being her authentic self.
Congratulations to these and all of our top-ranked firms for LGBTQ+ Diversity. To view the 2021 Best Law Firms for LGBTQ+ Individuals, click here.
Affinity groups are critical resources for networking, training, and—most importantly—creating community within law firms. For many lawyers, these groups can have a significant impact on their professional growth and personal satisfaction.
Women’s History Month is a time to reflect on and celebrate the achievements of women throughout American history, and it is also a time to consider where progress is yet to be made before women are on truly equal footing. When it comes to the legal profession, the historically male-dominated industry has made significant strides; for example, women have comprised the majority of new law students for the past several years.
Increasing racial and ethnic diversity has become a primary focus within the legal industry, and the conversation has been especially at the forefront in the wake of the social justice movement sparked by the death of George Floyd. While progress has been slow going overall—nearly 90 percent of law firm partners are white and just 2 percent of equity partners are Black, according to the 2020 Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Survey—many firms have prioritized their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
The journey to becoming an attorney is a windy road filled with late-night study sessions, high-pressure exams, and tough competition—all of which can contribute to mental health challenges. With an estimated 40% of law students experiencing depression by graduation, it is important to understand that you are not alone if you are suffering from depression.