Clifford Chance set to launch gay network

Clifford Chanceset to launch gay network” />Clifford Chance is setting up a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) network just months after settling a sexual orientation discrimination claim from former competition partner Michael Bryceland.

Gay rights advocacy group Stonewall called the firm’s LGBT policy into question and requested a meeting with the magic circle firm after it emerged that it had been the subject of a claim (The Lawyer, 3 September).

Stonewall spokesman Jonathan Finney described the move as a “positive step”. He said: “Our view is that establishing a lesbian and gay network group, which many organisations have done in various sectors, gives these staff a visible element within the workforce. Employers can then engage directly with the needs of staff.”

Clifford Chance tax partner Stephen Shea, who has been active in setting up the LGBT group, said the firm established the network to further foster diversity, but also to respond to client demand. As reported by The Lawyer (21 May), JPMorgan now asks prospective panel firms for diversity statistics and companies such as Transport for London are following suit.

JPMorgan associate general counsel Tim Hailes praised Clifford Chance for setting up the LGBT network, adding: “We have a strong preference to partner with suppliers, including external counsel, who share our values.”

Four sub-groups have been set up within the network to focus on the development of external client relationships and pro bono relationships, as well as on firmwide policy issues and the concerns of individual staff members.

Shea, who said that during his 25 years at Clifford Chance diversity has always been an integral part of the firm’s ethos, said: “It’s recognised that if you’re an LGBT person and you’re not able to be free and open about it, you have to think about it every minute of every day. That’s a waste of time and it obstructs people’s potential.”

Sexual orientation discrimination has become an issue at other law firms. Sullivan & Cromwell settled a high-profile claim with a former associate just two weeks ago.

To hear more on this, listen to the December edition of The Lawyer Podcast. Click hereto listen.

To find out more about Clifford Chance’s LGBT network, read Stephen Shea’s article in the Diversity Special report.