The inaugural meeting of the InterLaw forum for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Networks has been hailed as a “resounding success.”
24 City law firms were represented at the meeting on Tuesday, which was hosted by Simmons Simmons. Members of some leading investment banks also attended.
InterLaw describes itself as “an inter-organisational forum that was established for LGBT networks in top London law firms to work together to enhance LGBT equality and diversity in the legal sector.”
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay equality organisation Stonewall, said:
“The launch of InterLaw is a hugely positive development for the legal industry.
“In a highly competitive labour market, talented lesbian and gay graduate recruits are presenting increasingly to businesses that will not only treat them fairly at point of recruitment but also transparently offer the chance to rise to the top of their chosen career.”
InterLaw hopes that LGBT networks in City firms will collaborate on panel discussions, plan recruitment events, interact with other inter-organisational forums, organise social events and commission research and benchmarking exercises.
Daniel Winterfeldt, InterLaw founder and Simmons Simmons corporate partner, also spoke at the event.
“‘Solitude vivifies; isolation kills’ wrote Joseph Roux, a French pastor in the 19th century,” he said.
“Let us hope that with InterLaw’s launch the LGBT community in the City legal sector can help to end isolation and continue the movement forward, along with organisations like Stonewall, to strengthen LGBT diversity and continue to cultivate an environment in City law firms that promotes the recruitment, retention and advancement of LGBT talent at all levels in law firms.”
In 2006 a Law Society report highlighting the homophobia faced by lesbians and gay men working in large City law firms caused controversy.
The report into the experiences of lesbian and gay lawyers in the workplace found that the dominant macho culture in many of the firms made it difficult for gay staff to come out.
Many of those interviewed for the report said they felt that regular drinking sessions, visits to lap-dancing clubs and rugby matches had “undertones of homophobia”.
The report also called on law firms to challenge the perception of discrimination against gay lawyers.