With this year’s Pride events on pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Tom Ketteley, Karli Hiscock, Issa Hussain and Dan Stamford reflect on what Pride means to them
Tom Ketteley, solicitor and training principal, UK Visas & Immigration department, member of the Law Society’s LGBT+ Lawyers Division committee
I love Pride! I love Pride month and I look forward to marking the start of summer with a colourful, glittery bang.
When I moved to London for university and came out, it was the social side of Pride I really enjoyed. After I went and worked overseas in a country where homosexuality is illegal, I returned determined to ensure my voice was part of a call for greater equality - both at home and abroad.
When the Law Society’s LGBT+ Lawyers Division was established in 2016, I took the lead on organising our presence at Pride which saw us branch out from just marching in London and Cardiff and it is great to see how others have taken that even further.
2020 would have seen us march in Birmingham, London, UK Black Pride, Bristol, Newcastle, Trans Pride Brighton, Leeds, Cardiff and Manchester but due to Covid-19, our Pride plans have now gone digital.
I’ve always been 'out' while working in the law and can’t say being gay has ever held me back professionally – in fact, my experience has been the opposite. As an immigration lawyer, it helped me break down barriers with my LGBT+ clients and, in my current role, it enables me to be a better leader through bringing my whole self to work.
When judging at the 5th LSE-Featherstone Sexual Orientation and Gender Identify moot earlier this year, I was reminded while chatting to law students at the networking drinks that the profession doesn’t seem so welcoming from the outside. Students were worried about whether they should even mention their involvement in LGBT+ societies at university and some were fully expecting to go back into the closet when they entered the workplace.
I am a firm believer that the profession is stronger when we champion and celebrate diversity. We do our clients a disservice if we don’t attract the best talent from the widest pool or nurture the talent we have.
I am proud to march in Pride with fellow lawyers to challenge assumptions about what a lawyer looks like and I hope my presence at Pride sends a message to those entering the profession that they will be welcomed.
While we are marching virtually this year, it would be great to see new faces next summer marching in prides under our banner of #LegalPride2020 and #Equalunderthelaw. All are welcome and glitter is optional!
Karli Hiscock, partner, Bates Wells
I remember the first time I marched in Pride with the Law Society and a colleague asked 'Why are you marching'? My simple answer was 'Why wouldn’t I?'
I have attended Pride celebrations for over 15 years. I think Pride is a celebration of acceptance and a crucial reminder of how lessons must be learned from the past and discrimination must always be confronted.
I’m very mindful of the origins of Pride and its roots in the Stonewall Riots, the marches are an opportunity to show strength in a united group and to protest the struggles experienced by so many. The act of marching together and the interaction with the crowd is truly emotive and I feel privileged to be invited to participate.
No one should need to justify who they are and whom they love; we should stand together as humans looking out for each other. A collective voice is a strong one and no one should ever feel alone, we need to listen to our LGBT+ colleagues, friends and family and truly hear what they say.
For me, Pride is also a reminder that being an ally isn’t a one march, one day, one celebration, it’s every single day and I will never be complacent about the need to stand together and take action in the face of discrimination.
Issa Hussain, solicitor, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
We cannot fully appreciate good fortune and success without encountering struggles and setbacks.
For me, those struggles started early as a student at a comprehensive school in Nottingham where I aspired to become a lawyer. Despite my academic strengths, I was made to feel that becoming a lawyer was a long-shot for an inner city kid who did not yet fully appreciate that life was multifaceted and complicated.
Due to my race, class and sexuality, I didn’t fit the stereotype of a lawyer but determined as ever, I got a place at a London Russell Group university and was on my way to becoming a solicitor.
However, I did sadly become aware of the uniform make-up of the workforce at some firms and considered whether this was the reason behind why it took me years to secure training.
There is a multitude of strengths in a diverse workforce and the mindsets of different people, shaped by their individual experiences can offer creative new solutions to legal problems.
My path to becoming a lawyer was difficult but some tenacity and a willingness to be open has prepared me for my current role at the Government Legal Department, where I am able to give my whole self to the job, filter-free, regardless of my race, sexuality and background.
And, for me, this is why it is important that lawyers march at Pride each year - I am incredibly proud of who I am and how hard I have worked to make it into the legal profession.
Dan Stamford, trainee solicitor, Shoosmiths
I know the legal profession has a reputation for being stuffy so I find it encouraging that law firms and the legal sector generally are making strides on promoting diversity. Clients are increasingly diverse so there is an expectation that their legal representatives will equally be inclusive and embrace diversity.
At Shoosmiths, we have our own internal group, the PROUD network, for both LGBT+ individuals and allies to promote wellbeing and a sense of community. The Law Society LGBT+ Lawyers Division was also created a few years ago which was a gamechanger.
Nurturing an open and inclusive environment within the legal sector gives the LGBT+ community the confidence to be more open and bring our whole selves to work.
It is reassuring to hear from LGBT+ colleagues who are open about their personal lives in their firms and have not experienced any negativity. As a junior solicitor, it is encouraging to know you can be your authentic self without any moderating. I haven’t always felt like that was the case but having the PROUD network at work is really important to feel more welcomed in the profession.
Whilst there is still more that can be done, I am optimistic that by developing an open and inclusive environment for LGBT+ lawyers, the legal sector’s stuffy reputation will be replaced with one which champions and promotes diversity.
Whilst I would have loved to march with colleagues in Pride this year, I can feel proud to be a bi man working in the legal sector.
Read more about the Law Society’s online #LegalPride2020 programme here