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Working in Big Law: Gay & Lesbian Perspectives

On October 25th, the McGill Business Law Association (MBLA) hosted its first affinity series event by welcoming a panel of gay and lesbian lawyers from some of Canada’s largest law firms: Élisabeth Brousseau (McCarthy Tétrault, Montréal), Brandon Kerstens (Osler, Toronto), Michael Lubetsky (Davies, Toronto), and Marianne Smith (Blakes, Toronto) as the moderator. The discussion was followed by a cocktail, offered by the generous sponsorship of Blakes Toronto, which allowed students to network and learn more about the practices of these outstanding lawyers.

The discussion focused on these lawyers’ experience as “out” professionals in their respective law firms’ environments. Each shared their own work coming-out story with us; while some panelists came out early in the recruitment process as they had LGBTQ-related initiatives on their resume, others waited to work at the firm before coming out. The general consensus among these practitioners was that it didn’t matter in the end, and that candidates should present themselves as they are most comfortable with. In this day and age where law firms look proactively for diversity initiatives, belonging to a minority sexual orientation group may actually benefit a candidature during the recruitment process.

The panelists also spoke about their firms’ commitment to foster an inclusive and diverse work environment; most Big Law firms are proud to be part of the Pride Network. Commitment to diversity is real as there are actual business reasons for investing in that. Large institutionalized clients, such as banks, are requesting these initiatives from their partners.

One area of contention related to lawyer-client relationships. Our panelists admitted that the question of whether they feel comfortable of being out with their clients is a difficult one to answer and that it depends of the context, and the client.

Finally, panelists advised future candidates to be proud of who they are, to work hard, and most importantly, to be themselves. Everything will be fine then!

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