GLBT Lawyers Continue March Toward Equality

PIRC Director Andrew Chapin in NALP Bulletin, December 01, 2009

The numbers of GLBT lawyers reported in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers increased again this year in nearly every category — partners, associates, and overall numbers — despite the nationwide layoffs and economic downturn. These increases along with the increase in the percentage of total number of GLBT lawyers (now 1.82%) are all very good news for everyone. Why? These numbers confirm that employers are doing the right things to be successfully supportive and inclusive so that greater numbers of GLBT lawyers feel sufficiently comfortable to “be out”in their place of employment. (For more about the statistics, see NALP Director of Research Judith Collins’ analysis in this issue.)

The sole demographic category reporting a slight decrease in total numbers was that of GLBT summer associates—the GLBT category that may be most often overlooked by employers when reporting to NALP. That slight decrease in total numbers is somewhat expected given that summer associate programs were dramatically reduced in size this year. There still is good news even here because the percentage of openly GLBT summer associates increased over last year (from 1.85% last year to 2.21%). Even in the down market, more summer associates want to be counted as openly GLBT.

All of these numbers have been slowly increasing each year since NALP began publication of this data in 1996. Employers have developed sensitive, easily administered methods of collecting the data that was once thought off limits. Sample methods are found on NALPs website at: http://nalp.org/collecting_demographics.

GLBT progress toward visibility and equality extends beyond demographics and NALP. After decades of advocacy, federal hate crime law was recently expanded to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. This legislation was signed into law by President Obama on October 28, 2009. President Obama has also taken the necessary steps to lift the 22-year-old U.S. travel and immigration ban on those living with HIV/AIDS (which should be lifted by January 2010). And while speaking at the Human Rights Campaign annual dinner in DC in October, President Obama asserted his intentions to enhance employment nondiscrimination law to include sexual orientation, to repeal both “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

NALP’s GLBT Section is a large, vibrant, active group—our members work in every kind of legal employer and law school. We are eager to assist on issues of inclusion, equality, and diversity. Last December, we sent all NALP member employers a letter, co-signed by a dozen law associations and groups, encouraging GLBT data collection and reporting in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers. This year, more employers did report these demographics (perhaps our letter had something to do with the improvement), so another letter is being proposed. The goal? Equal opportunity for everyone.

Does your employer report openly GLBT statistics? If not, we want to help.

Andrew Chapin is the Fordham Law School Director of Public Interest Scholars & Counseling. This article was submitted on behalf of the NALP GLBT Section.

Reprinted from NALP Bulletin, December 2009. © 2009 National Association for Law Placement, Inc.®