In my experience as an attorney and LGBTQ+ advocate, I have seen firsthand that the external perception of a law firm can sometimes differ from what is felt internally by its employees. Prior to the start of any consulting work with a law firm client, I recommend offering a survey to as many attorneys and business professionals as possible to solicit feedback on their level of comfort and familiarity with LGBTQ+ issues, as well as their level of resistance or discomfort. Anonymous survey results provide an excellent starting point for a deeper-dive into LGBTQ+ inclusion work and help determine what approach will be most effective when it comes to discussions about LGBTQ+ inclusion and belonging. Such survey results have frequently been eye-opening to leadership and have provided a much-needed reality check on how much work we still have to do.
In the past few years, survey results in general have trended toward a majority of law firm employees requesting more education on issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Nearly 20% of respondents in one survey claimed to be minimally conversant in the differences between these concepts. Conversely, less than 5% of respondents self-described themselves as extremely conversant. We are seeing legal professionals report higher levels of comfort discussing these topics, i.e. one survey found more than 50% of respondents to be comfortable discussing pronouns. As I have come to learn in this line of work, you must be open to educating yourself everyday, not only when your firm or company offers the professional development opportunity. To truly expand your organizational horizons you must commit to creating an inclusive workplace, break out of your comfort zones, and make space for those who have been traditionally left out of the conversation.