A CHANGE IN TRAJECTORY
While initially pursuing a Ph.D in moral development, Rafael Langer-Osuna came to realize, “I was having more fun arguing which theorist was right than I was about doing the research.” They decided that in order to follow their passions and fulfill their desire to make a real impact on the world, they would become a lawyer. Having obtained their B.A. in Human Nature with a minor in Mandarin at Carnegie Mellon University and earned a masters degree in Cultural Moral Development from the University of California Berkeley, Langer-Osuna attended Duke Law and earned their J.D., while simultaneously acquiring another M.A. in East Asian Studies.
After graduating law school in 2009, Langer-Osuna joined Squire Patton Boggs LLP, where they became a partner. They focus on two areas of litigation: international law and internet disputes. Langer-Osuna has worked on cases on behalf of foreign governments and believes that the ability for foreign governments to take legal action in the international legal system is vital in maintaining relationships with other sovereign states without creating unnecessary political conflicts. Moreover, they have expertise in internet disputes such as data breach, data privacy, hacking, online defamation, and copyright infringement.
Langer-Osuna is very passionate about volunteering and dedicates a considerable amount of their free time to pro bono work. They believe that volunteering their knowledge has a broad impact on the legal framework for individuals and doing their part to reform the legal system. They work extensively with the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF), a National LGBTQ+ Bar affiliate, as well as working on cases for transgender asylum seekers and conservancy organizations.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE ME
Having recently come out as nonbinary, Langer-Osuna wants to be an “exemplar in the legal community” for LGBTQ+ people. They hope that their story allows for the breakdown of the conservative social culture in the legal profession that inhibits queer people from achieving success. Langer-Osuna believes that the ability to connect with your peers outside of work is crucial to build connections, establish formal and informal relationships, and receive promotion opportunities. But as in many other professions, queer people are limited in their ability to form bonds due to the implicit biases of the cultural standards in the workplace. After coming out, they became a member of the National LGBTQ+ Bar, looking for support and access to a network of people that could relate to a part of their experiences as a nonbinary person in the legal profession. Langer-Osuna hopes that they can be a leading example not only for LGBTQ+ people to be comfortable in expressing their identities without fear of recourse, but also for the legal profession as whole, to see that inclusivity doesn’t hinder the profession but opens it to diverse people and thinking.
For nonbinary lawyers like Langer-Osuna, the legal profession’s oftentimes strict adherence to the gender binary can be extremely exclusionary. Langer-Osuna recalled a time when they were filling out an application on behalf of a client to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and on the application it asked if they identified themselves as male or female – without another option. Because they identify with neither, they had to reach out to the Circuit about their predicament. While the contact person was accommodating and generous, the response when asked why the question was necessary was that the Court used the question to know what honorary title to use. Langer-Osuna shared that they use the honorific “Mx.” and that, too, wasn’t an option. Thanks to their activism and willingness to be out, the clerks at the Fifth Circuit have expressed an intent to remove the question and to instead ask a more inclusive question to obtain this information. Langer-Osuna hopes that their openness and activism will normalize the practice of respecting pronouns, name changes, and other differences that some people were uninformed about. This anecdote shows that at the highest levels of the legal system there is a willingness to be more inclusive of all genders and that change is possible.
Rafael Langer-Osuna is a partner at Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP. Langer-Osuna maintains an active pro bono practice assisting the Transgender Law Center’s asylum efforts, working for environmental groups, winning cases for local charitable organizations, and helping to improve gender equity. In addition to serving as Co-Chair of BALIF’s Community Activism and Social Action Committee, Langer-Osuna also currently serves as a non-binary support group facilitator, director of the Western Cave Conservancy, and an advisory board member for the Squire Patton Boggs Foundation. The National LGBTQ+ Bar welcomes Rafael Langer-Osuna as a member!