There's still a noticeable pretence when it comes to inclusion in law. We can't stop striving for and affecting positive change just because the pride flags have been taken down.

Toby Ney

Toby Ney

I'm really lucky to be part of many inclusion networks that continue to push for progress and change throughout the year as part of their strategies. Hat tip to the fabulous Saleem Fazal and networks such as Freehold, a network for LGBT+ professionals in real estate and OpenWealth (a network for LGBT+ professionals in private wealth).

However, some comment that the legal profession still has the diversity of a cheese sandwich.

A lot of us seek and find solace in LGBT+ networks; both employee and professional or sector-focused networks. But sometimes there is a disconnect between the words of firms and senior individuals and their actions.

It is not enough to point to an LGBT+ employee and pat yourself on the back while publicly claiming your firm is diverse and inclusive. Real and sustainable support must be provided to employee networks if firms genuinely want to be inclusive and an ally.

Some firms have excellent LGBT+ networks and they really do stand out, while others are at the start of their journey and they need nurturing and encouragement to grow to be tools for positive change and development. Others still need work.

It's simple, the legal sector has made progress, but the culture at a lot of firms still needs to change. Listen where you can to your LGBT+ employees and stakeholders. There is help and guidance offered in abundance. That isn't to say the culture is bad per se and there is no one size fits all approach. But things change, develop and grow and so should culture. So should LGBT+ networks. The same as last year isn’t good enough.

LGBT+ networks need to be bold and hold firms to account. Real cultural change doesn't happen overnight, and while things are moving in the right direction in some instances, this is at a glacial pace.

The positive change we are seeing is in part thanks to the fantastic efforts of established networks, charities and allies. Praise must also be given to Daniel Winterfeldt MBE QC (Hon), who founded the InterLaw Diversity Forum and has really flown the flag for diversity within the legal profession.

There are a myriad of reasons why LGBT+ networks are so important. They can keep us connected and, in some respects, sane. The best ones provide a community (often) devoid of hierarchy, a safe space to challenge the norm and to collectively push for change.

I have met colleagues, friends, clients and role models through such networks. Seeds of change have been planted in the minds of those with the power to affect such at their respective firms because of the efforts of those behind LGBT+ networks.

My message to those who are able to make a difference: do. Be an ally. Join and support LGBT+ networks. Focus on the big picture and stop ticking the easy-to-tick boxes. Be bold. Be vocal and keep the flags up.


Toby Ney is an associate in the private wealth sector group at Taylor Wessing