LGBT Law Students: Are Law Firms going to be as accepting as University?
At my very liberal university, being LGBT has never been an issue. Nor has it been in the law faculty, where many students have progressive views and a passion for human rights. Moreover, there is a Queer Society at my university, and I know that other unis such as Sydney University and Melbourne University even have a Queer Officer as part of their law students’ societies. However, I did worry about how being LGBT would translate in the legal profession, which is often known as a conservative profession that has historically favoured straight, white males.
Though I’m still a student, I set out to find the answer to my question, through attending networking nights organised through the LGBT Lawyers Network in my state. Through this network I met a partner of a large law firm who is also gay. He became a mentor of mine, and this connection has been incredibly beneficial in terms of general career advice as well as advice on being LGBT and a lawyer. His firm, Norton Rose Fulbright, has just recently launched its own internal LGBT network for employees in Australia, Other big firms have an LGBT network, such as Allens Linklaters and Herbert Smith Freehills, and if not, there’s usually at least some kind of diversity network in place. It’s comforting to know that if you were to clerk or work at one of these firms and are LGBT that you would be accepted, and you wouldn’t be alone.
Regardless of where you may end up working, having a connection with an LGBT lawyer as a student has some great benefits. For example, my mentor has given me the advice of including that I am a member of a Queer Society on my CV, as this acts as a point of interest for job/clerkship interviews and demonstrates the diversity I could add to the workplace. Furthermore, if a firm is unimpressed with this, then that shows the type of firm they are, and I may not want to work there after all!
GayLawNet, an interesting and colourful website I found, lists the names and practices of some LGBT or LGBT friendly lawyers in each state of Australia. Though this website seems to be aimed at individuals who are seeking legal advice, it may also be a useful tool for contacting an LGBT lawyer who could give you some insight into their experiences.
I would also encourage LGBT law students to get involved in their state’s LGBT lawyer network if one exists. In Victoria, it is LIVout, and in NSW, there is a Young Lawyers Human Rights Committee, which has a Queer Working Group.
Though in terms of LGBT inclusion, law firms are ‘one of the law bastions to break down’ as Pride in Diversity director Dawn Hough puts it, the profession seems to be slowly becoming more inclusive, however it does help to get involved and know the lawyers at the forefront of this movement.
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