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Gay Lawyers Struggle With "Invisible Bar"

WASHINGTON - A new research report from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, Inc. (MCCA) found that progress has been made since its 2003 report, Perspective from the Invisible Bar: Gay & Lesbian Attorneys in the Profession, but a great deal of work remains in large law firms in establishing a truly equitable environment for LGBT lawyers. An overview of the report findings were presented by MCCAÂ’s executive director, Veta T. Richardson, at a panel presentation at the National LGBT BarÂ’s Lavender Law Conference held last week in Miami.

This new report, titled The New Paradigm of LGBT Inclusion: A Recommended Resource for Law Firms, examines the impact of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression on attorneys in large firms. It continues the work that MCCA has performed on issues related to diversity and inclusion for LGBT attorneys over the years.

MCCA integrated the findings from quantitative survey data collected from LGBT attorneys who participated in its 2009 study Sustaining Pathways to Diversity: The Next Steps in Understanding and Increasing Diversity & Inclusion in Large Law Firms with qualitative information transcribed from a series of eight focus groups held with LGBT lawyers who volunteered to answer questions and share perspectives about their professional lives.

Overall, the research found that LGBT attorneys are committed to their law firms and profession. Some expressed concerns about their opportunities for advancement and work/life balance issues. So, for many LGBT attorneys, their professional concerns are no different from their non-LGBT peers. However, some do have concerns about their firmsÂ’ true commitment to diversity and inclusion and at times this impacts their ability to fully contribute at work. Also, when LGBT women and attorneys of color were asked whether they felt treated equally to their peers, they reported higher levels of disparity than their gay, white male counterparts.

“MCCA’s objective in examining these experiences was to craft advice and recommendations to assist law firms to foster more-inclusive and supportive environments for LGBT attorneys,” said Veta Richardson.

In addition, a special section of the report is dedicated to raising awareness about the challenges faced by transgender attorneys, which are quite separate and distinct from those faced by lesbian, gay and bisexual attorneys.

MCCAÂ’s Sustaining Pathways report contains a number of general recommendations for law firms seeking to create more diverse and inclusive workforces. In addition to those recommendations, The New Paradigm of LGBT Inclusion suggests additional approaches to address the inclusion of LGBT attorneys in the following areas:
Leadership,
Recruitment,
Retention, inclusion and the work environment,
Professional development and advancement, and
Work/life balance and compensation benefits.

The entire research report The New Paradigm of LGBT Inclusion: A Recommended Resource for Law Firms can be found on the MCCA website at http://bit.ly/cEfRmJ.

About MCCA
The Minority Corporate Counsel Association advocates for the expanded hiring, promotion, and retention of minority attorneys in corporate legal departments and the law firms that serve them. MCCA furthers its mission by publishing research on achieving diversity and best practices in the legal profession, honoring innovative diversity programs with its Employer of Choice and Thomas L. Sager awards, and assisting diverse law students through the Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program. MCCAÂ’s work has been recognized with awards from the National Minority Business Council, Inc., the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Gay and Lesbian Law Association, and the Association of Corporate Counsel.

Founded in 1997, MCCA is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and also has a Southeast regional office in Atlanta, Ga.

 



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