The legal profession has come a long way in recent years, with many – but not all – lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people no longer having to fear that their chance of partnership will be jeopardised if lunchtime conversations turn to discussions about weekend activities.
Yet while the profession will gladly pat itself on the back for finally recognising and welcoming the Ls, Gs, Bs and Ts who have always been in their midst, there is still a tendency to pigeonhole those LGBT colleagues. But as one gay member of the profession says: “I know gay people who are trainspotters and who mend motorbikes. Not all gay people are baking up quiches and redecorating their lounges.”
Which is why the study detailed in our lead story is so important. Okay, so the profession has gradually come to realise that LGBT people exist, but beyond that what do we really know about how being gay affects a lawyer’s potential for career advancement? And is there really any evidence that a gay lawyer would rather not work in a ‘macho’ corporate environment, or is that idea just a byproduct of the quiche-baking, style-obsessed stereotype?
While the results of the survey will be revealing on a literal level, with no other study of the legal profession ever looking into LGBT issues on anything like this kind of scale, they should also inform thinking on every aspect of law firm diversity. Because just as it’s ludicrous to think of gay colleagues in a special ‘gay’ way, it doesn’t make sense to think the experiences of any minority group will be the same within that group. And if we’ve got the evidence that the ‘LGBT group’ reacts differently to different professional environments, then surely it will inform thinking in relation to other marginalised sections of the profession.
But while the study should be illuminating for all that, the Law Society, Stonewall and InterLaw may be perpetrating just what they’re looking to eradicate, with the study focusing on LGBs and missing off the Ts.
Maybe there aren’t too many transgenders working in the legal profession, as the Law Society has argued in this case; but by excluding them from a survey that’s about tackling the issues their ‘group’ is faced with, perhaps we’ll never know.