One of the world’s largest financial services companies has told law firms it uses to bring their policies on gay and lesbian staff up to standard.

JP Morgan has invited 15 external law firms to attend a meeting with Stonewall next month to learn about best practice towards homosexual and bisexual staff.

The company’s assistant general counsel and managing director Tim 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.”

JP Morgan are to ask law firms to show they have policies in place to protect gay, lesbian and bisexual staff.

The company was in the top 20 firms in the Stonewall Equality Index, which rates the top empolyers for LGB people in the UK.

“It is great to see that an organisation like JP Morgan are using their considerable financial clout to push forward equality for gay people,” a Stonewall spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk

“Contracting with organisations that are gay friendly is a very progressive step forward. It is also best practice. We strongly encourage that and we welcome JP Morgan showing leadership in this area.”

Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme now has over 200 major organisations involved in sharing good practice.

Employers work with Stonewall, and each other, to promote lesbian, gay and bisexual equality in the workplace.

In a letter to the external firms, among them some of the largest law firms in the City of London, JP Morgan’s Tim Hailes noted that the legal community is, “perceived by some to lag behind other industries.

“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.”

Last year the Law Society report revealed that the “macho” culture of law firms is hindering gay and lesbian lawyers from coming out at work, fearing it will affect their career progression.

The society’s first report on the career experiences of gay and lesbian solicitors discovered “undertones of homophobia” in legal practices with employees feeling restricted by perceptions and expectations of discrimination.

The report described “constant trips to Spearmint Rhino (a lap dancing club chain), rugby matches and drinking sessions as holding undertones of homophobia.”