A&O: LGBT groups face Middle East dilemma

A&O: LGBT groups face Middle East dilemmaThe chair of Allen & Overy‘s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) group has spoken out about the challenges the firm faces in jurisdictions where homosexuality is illegal.

A&O’s LGBT group, A&Out, has members in the UK, as well as in Belgium, France, Russia, the United States and in Japan but there is no official representation in its Saudi Arabia or United Arab Emirates offices. In both these jurisdictions homosexuality is illegal.

The chair of A&Out, Ashley Young, who is based in Japan, told The Lawyer: “It’s a challenging aspect. We make it clear that people can contact the A&Out committee if they need to. The question is how we extend the network into all the [geographical] areas we operate in a culturally sensitive way, where rules and regulations are different.”

The international dimension was the crux of the latest meeting of LGBT law firm network Interlaw, which was hosted by A&O.

A&Out, which was founded last year, has a four-pronged strategy which includes providing support to its members, business development, an intended community aspect oriented towards ProBono work and socialising.

This month’s Interlaw event was followed by an A&Out party – the group’s largest-ever. The networking event for A&O staff, clients and Interlaw members had 250 guests in attendance.

The network chose the 28 May to get together as it was the 40th birthday of Australian pop star Kylie Minogue. “She’s very popular across the LGBT networks,” said Young. The singer was celebrated by a pianist playing some of her hits.

The oversubscribed event was dominated by gay men, but making sure that there is more representation of lesbian women in the network is another significant hurdle Young argued: “It may be that there are fewer lesbian women than gay men in law firms but I don’t think so. It’s about engagement.”