Corporate Equality Index

It really does get better — and better, and better — for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

This past June, the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), resulting in more-equal treatment of gay and lesbian couples for purposes of federal benefits. Around the country, 15 states and the District of Columbia now issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which bans workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, is closer than ever to passage, having already made it through the Senate by a comfortable margin (64-32, reflecting bipartisan support).

Meanwhile, in the private sector, employers are becoming more and more welcoming of LGBT individuals. That’s the top-line finding of the Human Rights Campaign’s latest Corporate Equality Index — in which law firms are particularly well-represented….

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Tico Almeida

[E]ven the most disgusting criminals should have access to counsel when they violate the law, and Exxon’s shareholders will now pay big bucks for Seyfarth’s lawyers, who are probably some of the most expensive corporate defense lawyers in the country. But I don’t think there’s any need for Seyfarth to run up their billable hours since Freedom to Work would like to settle the case today.

Tico Almeida, founder and president of Freedom to Work, commenting on Seyfarth Shaw’s decision to defend a case alleging anti-gay bias at Exxon Mobil — one of the few Fortune 500 companies that lacks a written nondiscrimination policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

(Will Seyfarth come to regret this case? Let’s discuss….)

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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?

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Billable-hour requirements are generally like the price of gas: they just keep going up. A law professor might compare it to a one-way ratchet. As law firms try to increase their profitability — by doing more work with less manpower, thanks to recessionary layoffs that haven’t been completely reversed — they ask more and more of their lawyers. Right?

Well, not necessarily. One Biglaw firm recently lowered its hours requirement — and instituted some other perks worth noting.

Might other firms follow suit? Perhaps yours?

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The Human Rights Campaign has released its annual Corporate Equality Index, which assesses corporate America’s progress towards equal treatment of the LGBT community.

It’s a pretty great day to be gay and searching for career advice. Gawker has a list up right now on the top ten gay colleges, and the Human Rights Campaign is trying to help you figure out where to work when you’re done with law school.

This year, 97 Biglaw firms (out of 130 who responded to the survey) received a perfect score from the HRC. That’s up from last year and makes the legal field the best industry when it comes to LGBT issues. Banking was next and retail finished third.

Check here to see if your firm made the list.

Granted, you’d expect law firms — what with their expert understanding of “laws,” and such — to be leaders when it comes to gay and lesbian equality. But the legal field was able to achieve this distinction notwithstanding a somewhat controversial rating philosophy that may have prevented other firms from achieving perfect scores…

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Human Rights Campaign HRC gay rights Above the Law blog.jpgLet’s give credit where credit is due. The Human Rights Campaign has released its annual Best Places to Work list. It shows that law firms are great when it comes to creating a non-discriminatory environment for gays and lesbians. The ABA Journal reports:

In 2006, the first year law firms were included in the Human Rights Campaign survey, 12 got a perfect rating of 100 percent [on the Corporate Equality Index]. This year an unprecedented 88 law firms got perfect ratings, “eclipsing every other industry represented on the index,” according to a press release. The group evaluated 127 law firms in all; 124 of them were among the nation’s largest 200 law firms.

Our industry deserves a large pat on the back. In a time of massive layoffs, it is great that law firms are still committed to equality when it comes to sexual orientation.

Check out the list of firms that are good for gays here (PDF).

Top Law Firms for Equality – 2010 [Human Rights Campaign]
Law Firms Outshine Other Companies in Ranking by Gay Rights Group [ABA Journal]

Earlier: Which Law Firms Are Down With the Gays?

Human Rights Campaign HRC gay rights Above the Law blog.jpgThe Human Rights Campaign has some answers. HRC, which is the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, recently released its annual list of Best Places to Work. And law firms were prominently represented:

[T]he Human Rights Campaign Foundation released a report showing that numerous large U.S. law firms are providing important benefits and protections for their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) attorneys and staff. In this year’s report, which is part of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s broader Corporate Equality Index, 30 law firms earned the top rating of 100 percent. 80 law firms earned scores of 80 percent or above.

You can see the list of top firms by clicking here (PDF; scroll down to page 48). Alas, no 100 percent rating for Sullivan & Cromwell, of Charney v. S&C fame — despite their generous gifts of Kiehl’s products at LGBT job fairs.

But our friends at Nixon Peabody earned a perfect score. Will they commission a theme song to celebrate? Like “Everyone Loves Gay People at Nixon Peabody”?

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this post, we linked to (and reprinted info from) this page on the HRC website. But an HRC rep has informed us that the page hasn’t been updated from last year, and still reflects scores from the 2007 report.

HRC Corporate Equality Index — 2008 [Human Rights Campaign (PDF)]