What we want to achieve
According to research carried out by Stonewall, an LGBT equality Charity in the UK, more than a third of LGBT staff have hidden or disguised that they are LGBT at work in the last year because they were afraid of discrimination.
A survey conducted in August 2015 by YouGov, a UK research company, found that 49% of 18-24 year olds consider themselves as something other than 100% heterosexual. I think we can assume that young people in Ireland are no different.
These are the people who are studying in our educational institutions, will be sitting entry exams to our professional bodies and will be looking for work at the Bar, in our organisations or possibly back in our educational institutions. To ensure that the legal world is as diverse as the clients we serve we need to ensure that everyone feels welcome at every stage of their career. Welcome in our educational institutions, welcome at our professional institutions and welcome in our places of work.
And that is one of the things OUTLaw wants to achieve. A network may be symbolic but symbolism is important. OUTLaw’s existence is telling someone researching a career in law that this is a place for them. It’s telling a lawyer in Poland that Ireland is a place for them. And it’s telling our clients that we as lawyers are here to work with them, whoever they may be.
But the mere existence of OUTLaw isn’t enough. People aren’t stupid, and lawyers in particular are not stupid! They’re going to look behind OUTLaw to see how many people at the top of the legal profession are out. And, right now, unfortunately they’re not going to find people in numbers which in any way reflect the percentage of people they know who don’t consider themselves 100% heterosexual. But OUTLaw aims to change that. And here’s how:
By gathering people together at events such as this we are starting conversations. Conversations between colleagues about how to react when someone they work with comes out, conversations between LGBT+ people about how to put themselves forward for that next big project and conversations between policy makers, both at an organisational and a nationwide level about how to ensure that the structures and supports are there so that any LGBT+ person who has the ability to get to the top of the legal profession can do so.
But OUTLaw is not just another networking group. As evidenced by the buzz in the room this evening we know you have no problem talking to eachother! Networking opportunities will inevitably be a by-product of everything we do but it’s not our main goal.
OUTLaw aims to:
- Share best practice so everyone can benefit from the new move towards diversity and inclusion, not just those in Dublin or in big firms
- A tool kit for smaller practices looking to put LGBT+ friendly policies in place
- A checklist for anyone who wants to make sure their current policies are inclusive
- Support to Ireland’s LGBT+ community and the numerous organisations that work in this community
But don’t worry, we will of course be holding events so that you can all meet eachother again and get a free glass of wine! Our next event will be a panel discussion where we can share the learnings we have gained from the various initiatives in our organisations. It will be open to everyone on our mailing list and we look forward to hearing the perspectives from people in all parts of the legal world.
So, when you’re asked what this OUTLaw thing is all about you can let them know that the purpose of OUTLaw is to tell people who are LGBT+ (both from Ireland and abroad) that they are be welcome in law, tell them they can have a successful career in law, so that in years to come nobody will have to tell us these things we’ll just know them by virtue of the LGBT+ Role Models who will be at the top of all sectors of the legal world.
I will now hand you over to Mr Justice Frank Clarke who will introduce our speaker for this evening.
The event was attended most notably by the Chief Justice, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, Ms Justice Marie Baker, the President of the Law Society of Ireland, Mr Patrick Dorgan, Ken Murphy, Director General of the Law Society and Micheál P O’Higgins SC, President of the Bar Council. Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly also gave a short address.
You can learn more about OUTLaw Network, its objectives and those behind it here.