JPMorgan tells law firms to shape up on gay issues

JPMorgan is summoning its key relationship partners from its panel law firms to a meeting with a view to bring their policies on lesbian and gay employees into line with the bank’s own policy.

The investment bank is targeting its top 15 external firms by spend and is inviting them to a meeting in April with gay rights organisation Stonewall.
The bank’s move underlines the seriousness with which institutional clients now regard diversity in City law firms. Last year The Lawyer revealed that Barclays general counsel Mark Harding was demanding statistics on gender and ethnic make-up for its seven main UK law firms (13 February 2006).

JPMorgan’s inclusiveness campaign around lesbian and gay workers has been spearheaded by assistant general counsel and managing director Tim Hailes and is being supported by global co-general counsel Diane Genova.

Hailes told The Lawyer: “The firms’ commitment to this agenda will be a relevant factor [in the bank choosing them]. It isn’t the deciding factor, but it will be taken into account as part of our assessment, and not doing it won’t be viewed positively. We want to see change.”

The bank will require evidence that firms have put systems in place to support lesbian and gay employees, but stops short of requiring them to monitor sexual orientation. Currently only a handful of firms, including Pinsent Masons and Simmons & Simmons, undertake monitoring.

In his letter to the firms, Hailes says: “In the past year JPMorgan has intensified its efforts to ensure that gay and lesbian employees are treated equitably and that the company creates an environment where employees can reach their fullest potential without regard to sexual orientation. We have learned valuable lessons that we wish to share with the principal law firms that we instruct.

“The legal community is perceived by some to lag behind other industries in addressing this important issue despite the goodwill that exists across City law firms. We believe that the seminar will provide an opportunity to discuss the issues and help to equip you with the tools to address it proactively and in line with your firm’s unique culture.”

Linklaters partner Simon Firth commented: “JPMorgan has always been very progressive on lesbian and gay issues, and that’s commendable – it’s something we buy into in any case.”