Human Rights Campaign

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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Who is the Judy Garland of Biglaw?

What makes someone a gay icon? I’m tempted to fall back on Justice Potter Stewart’s famous quotation: “I know it when I see it.”

But such instinctive judgments still rest upon criteria. Regarding gay icons, Wikipedia advises: “Qualities of a gay icon often include glamour, flamboyance, strength through adversity, and androgyny in presentation. Such icons can be of any sexual orientation or gender; if LGBT, they can be out or not. Although most gay icons have given their support to LGBT social movements, some have expressed opposition, advocating against a perceived homosexual agenda.'”

So you don’t have to be gay or pro-gay-rights to be a gay icon — which brings me to a partner I hereby dub the Judy Garland of Biglaw. She has a most interesting skeleton in her closet, which might explain her staunch opposition to gay marriage….

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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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* In a move to “end the vacancy crisis,” one week after being reelected, and one day after the Senate returned to session, Barack Obama nominated seven people for open seats on federal district courts, including two S.D.N.Y. slots. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Dewey know how much the Los Angeles Dodgers will have to pay the now defunct firm for its work on the team’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case? About $13M — the equivalent of their pitcher’s salary, or 62% of their first baseman’s pay. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Which Biglaw firms in the Am Law 200 are the most LGBT friendly? Overall, of the 145 firms that participated in the Human Rights Campaign’s survey, 71 received perfect scores. Absolutely fabulous! [Am Law Daily]

* The American Bar Association’s Task Force on the Future of Legal Education wants to know what should be done about law schools. This is a time to keep it simple, stupid: change EVERYTHING! [National Law Journal]

* The New York Court of Appeals invoked the Major Disaster Rule for the first time ever, allowing out-of-state attorneys to perform pro bono services for Hurricane Sandy victims. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* William Adams, the Texas family court judge who got caught beating his daughter, returned to the bench yesterday after a year-long suspension. At least he won’t get physical abuse cases, anymore. [Fox News]

* John Coffey, Senior Status Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, RIP. [Journal Sentinel]

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)]