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The Best Law Firms For LGBT Lawyers

As we near the end of 2012, we can definitely declare this year to be a momentous one for LGBT rights and equality. Two federal appeals courts struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (and the Supreme Court will soon consider whether to grant review in the DOMA litigation, which it almost certainly will). On Election Day, voters across the country came out in favor of marriage equality. The good people of Wisconsin elected Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate, making her our nation’s first openly gay senator.

Despite these advances, being an LGBT attorney presents unique challenges. When it comes to welcoming gay and lesbian lawyers, not all firms are created equal.

The good news, though, is that Biglaw made a big showing in the Human Rights Campaign’s latest Corporate Equality Index, which scores large U.S. employers in terms of how LGBT-friendly they are in their policies and practices. Which firms are letting their rainbow flags fly?

In the legal world, HRC focused its efforts on the Am Law 200, the nation’s 200 biggest law firms ranked by revenue. Here’s a report on how they fared, from Am Law Daily:

The Human Rights Campaign released its 2013 Corporate Equality Index Wednesday, rating 889 employers across roughly 40 industries on a scale of 0 to 100 based on a range of criteria that include whether they have equal employment opportunity policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity and provisions in their insurance coverage that apply to same-sex partners. The annual index also awards companies points for offering public support of LGBT organizations and equality laws.

In March, HRC contacted every Am Law 200 firm (based on The American Lawyer’s 2011 rankings) and invited them to participate in a web-based survey covering LGBT-relevant policies and practices. The resulting index rates 145 law firms — 141 of them Am Law 200 firms — with 71 firms receiving perfect scores. That’s up from the 55 firms that earned perfect scores last year and represents the largest number of perfect scores from any of the industries the group surveyed. Three firms received ratings of 95 this year, and another 38 firms received scores of 90. Last year, 44 firms clocked in with scores of 90.

As Staci declared in Morning Docket, that’s absolutely fabulous. Law firms increasingly appreciate the importance of LGBT equality, which is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do, as a business matter. (You can flip to the next page to see a listing of all the legal employers in the CEI and how they scored.)

HRC praised the nation’s major law firms not just for having LGBT-friendly employment policies and practices, but for participating in the broader struggle for equality:

Deena Fidas, the deputy director of HRC’s Workplace Project and an author of this year’s CEI, notes that a number of the nation’s largest companies and law firms publicly took political stands on behalf of same-sex marriage proponents over the past year. The 2013 CEI includes recognition of employers, among them several law firms, that publicly endorsed state-level legislation that either legalized same-sex marriage or opposed bans on same-sex marriage. HRC also recognized 11 Am Law firms for filing amicus briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit opposing an appeal of a lower court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

As you may recall from our prior coverage, the firm of Foley & Lardner got dinged back in 2010 for working against marriage equality. This year the firm staged a turnaround, as noted by Am Law:

Among the law firms earning HRC’s highest rating this year was Foley & Lardner, which saw the largest year-over-year increase among legal employers by improving on last year’s score of 60. As The Am Law Daily reported at the time, Foley drew HRC’s ire prior to the release of the 2012 CEI because of Washington, D.C.–based campaign finance partner Cleta Mitchell’s work on behalf of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a group that campaigns against gay marriage.

It appears that Foley no longer does work for NOM. As for Cleta Mitchell — whom I found “fierce and fabulous,” based on her recent appearance on an excellent New Yorker Festival panel — maybe she can go from gay marriage opponent to glittering gay icon.

In addition to Foley, which other firms fared well on the Corporate Equality Index? Turn to the next page to see the full list. Did your firm make the cut?

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