Friday, 30 September 2011

Being a 'Gay' Lawyer

Many thanks to Kevin Poulter who alerted me to this podcast on Alex Aldridge's blog.  It features Bar Professional Training Course graduate Adam Fellows, who was called to the bar in July, debating LGBT networks and other issues affecting gay lawyers with Kevin Poulter, one of the founders of the Gay Employment Lawyers Network. Alex Aldridge poses questions in between pouring the wine.

It's fascinating discussion, revealing for those who don't already know the existence of LGBT lawyer groups and how they operate, but more importantly it offers a really honest insight into the realities of being an LGBT lawyer.  I was really struck by the comments from (I think) Adam Fellows who notes the importance of the potential to meet clients/instruct barristers as part of an LGBT social event when one accounts for time.  A social event per se is less attractive.  I find this aspect of lawyering rather depressing but it's entirely unsurprising to see it creep into these LGBT networks.

It also serves to 'professionalise' sexuality - to create a new idea of the 'gay lawyer' (I wonder how those who identify as 'bisexual' or 'open minded' or indeed 'queer' fit into these networks) who profits from these networks but I wonder how much diversity is squeezed out in this space.  I am assuming that discussing a civil partnership is a nice conversation, but is someone able to describe an orgy at the local sauna? Of course not you might say, but I am conscious of the number of city-based lawyers who - I am told - regularly consume illegal chemical substances and this is socially acceptable.  So, this does speak to the 'norms' of gay lawyering.

I'm also curious about the gender angle - and the extent to which the experiences of lesbian lawyers match those of their gay male counterparts.  I rarely here lesbian lawyers in these discussions.

Towards the end, the discussants suggest that sexuality is just a label and doesn't really matter but then also comment that a judge would be less likely to come out because any unpopular judgment would be editorialised by the Daily Mail (and presumably other media publications) as 'the gay judge'.  This would seem to suggest that labels really do matter, and underlies the importance of being open about ones sexuality.  The failure to connect these two points by the speakers is rather interesting.

The lawyers in this podcast are based in London and I wonder if LGBT lawyers in say the north east of England would say similar things.  I'd love to hear from others in comments about their own experiences  - either as LGBT lawyers, trainees or students who have been on placements/mini pupillages.

Listen to the podcast in full here.

(Pictures from top to bottom: Alex Aldridge, Kevin Poulter, Adam Fellows)

CORRECTION:  Kevin tells me it was him who commented on client aspect of networking rather than Adam.  Sorry guys!

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Elly said...

Great post. Not heard the podcast yet but I will give it a listen.

I know some women lawyers who have had problems, especially are not married.

Elly said...

Especially *those who* are not married, I mean. Which suggests to me that sexuality and lack of obvious heterosexuality plays a part in their problems at work.

Chris Ashford said...

Thanks Elly - great points raised.

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