Before choosing to practice law, Stephen Lessard dedicated 20 years of his life to serving our country as a Surface Warfare Officer for the U.S. Navy. While obtaining his B.A. in Political Science at Texas A&M University, Lessard was a member of the Corp of Cadets, a prestigious student military organization that fosters leadership skills to prepare members for officer positions in the United States Armed Forces. While in the Navy, Lessard obtained his masters degree at The University of Virginia, and briefly worked for UVA as an assistant professor teaching Naval Science courses and counseling first year students.
HE CHOSE LOVE
The infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy had an adverse impact on how Lessard chose to conduct himself as a gay man in the workplace. For most of his military career Lessard lived two lives — personal and professional — and “was willing to make that sacrifice” to continue to serve his country. When he was exposed to civilian life at the University of Virginia, he met his now husband and that is when he chose to “live [his] life authentically”. He states, “I didn’t want to subject my husband to being secretive or dishonest with people, so that is why I chose to come out publicly” to his peers. Lessard decided to retire and pursue his interest in the law, so he attended evening classes at the Georgetown University Law School, and obtained his law degree in 2007.
With his work experience in the military along with his newfound skills as an attorney, Lessard entered tax exempt practice at Orrick, Herrington, & Sutcliffe, LLP. After spending 13 years with Orrick, Lessard realized he wanted to focus more on pro bono work, and jumped at the opportunity to become a Managing Pro Bono Attorney at Latham & Watkins. Lessard primarily works as an advisor to Latham lawyers to build their pro bono tax exempt practice. Since being out and working as an attorney, Lessard says he feels “liberated” and believes his work has vastly improved now that he no longer has to be concerned with being “discovered in a lie”. Lessard affirms that “if you let people be their authentic self, you’re allowing them to be a happy and complete person, and their work will reflect that positivity.”
<strong>Outside of work, Lessard dedicates his time to serving the LGBTQ+ community and veterans. He particularly looks for opportunities that bring those passions together. He believes that one of the biggest issues facing the LGBTQ+ community is the lack of acceptance of transgender people and the discrimination they face. That is why he tries to support transgender veterans through pro bono work; for example, he recently worked with trans veterans to have their discharge papers correctly label their gender marker. In 2019, Lessard was named the first openly gay President of the New York County Lawyers Association. The National LGBTQ+ Bar thanks Stephen Lessard for his years of service, and congratulates him on his Presidency!</strong>