As I mentioned previously, many of the biases against hiring LGBTQ associates in Big Law have fallen by the wayside in recent years. And thanks to recent rulings from the Supreme Court, marriage equality is not only a given right, but now employment discrimination based on one’s LGBTQ identity is also illegal.
Even before that, however, many Big Law partners were comfortable hiring LGBTQ attorneys — something that also makes good business sense.
Law firms have been embracing the LGBTQ community for the better part of the last two decades. Many Big Law firms have been throwing their own Pride parties every year and generously hosting other networking events for their LGBTQ attorneys to cultivate business. Clients are demanding diversity from law firms as a condition of retaining their business, and that has only strengthened the desire of many firms to recruit LGBTQ attorneys.
As I mentioned previously, LGBTQ associates should be doing the same things as their heterosexual counterparts to achieve a position in a Big Law firm: go to the best law school, do well compared to your peers, etc. However, there are specific networking options available to LGBTQ law students that offer an advantage in earning that Big Law position.
The LGBTQ community does like to take care of itself, perhaps stemming from the sentiment that we are here to protect each other. To that end, I highly recommend mastering the art of informational interviewing or reaching out to attorneys to have one-on-one conversations about their practices and their paths to success.
Many people think of networking as mutually beneficial for both parties. While that’s sometimes the case, especially when speaking to a recruiter, it generally results in your asking another person for a favor. This is fine, as that’s mostly the point; but you have to make sure to always be courteous (like meeting them at their convenience), do your research, be prepared to ask thoughtful questions, take notes, and always say thank you. Often, you’re taking away from their precious billable time, so be very mindful of that.
In that same vein, LGBTQ law students and associates should seek out LGBTQ allies, such as recruiters early in their career. In fact, there are many LGBTQ recruiters, like me, that pride themselves on acting as a career counselor to attorneys. I often find myself talking to LGBTQ students very early on in their law school careers — sometimes even before they choose which school to attend. Indeed, recruiters love doling out this type of advice and building a trusted relationship with potential candidates.
That relationship is always beneficial to both parties because the student will receive valuable unbiased information on their career from market experts. For recruiters, we’ll be adding them to our network — which is a win for them once they’re experienced attorneys and opportunities arise.
Finally, associates should do their best to attend as many networking receptions they can, whether at law firms or with other organizations where there will be LGBTQ attorneys in attendance. Many LGBTQ non-profit organizations have galas sponsored by law firms, and while the ticket prices might be high, they’re usually looking for volunteers to help run the event, and the cocktail hour proves to be well worth it in terms of networking. For example, The National LGBT Bar Association hosts its Lavender Law conference every year (and is being held virtually this week), which includes the nation’s most diverse career fair. The primary aim of that career fair is to recruit law students to check out all the Big Law firms that have a presence at the event.
At the end of the day, the goal of networking is not to ask for a job per se, but it’s to make sure your resumé is given the proper review it deserves. LGBTQ associates and law students need to start getting comfortable asking people they know whether those people are willing to put in a word with recruiting at a firm.
They might help get you that initial meeting, but the rest of it is on you — as it should be.