Arcus is our LGBT+ and inclusive network, and the name comes from the Latin word for rainbow. It’s a global network and we have Arcus groups in around 15 offices around the world. This presents some challenges in certain jurisdictions where homosexuality isn’t as accepted, but it’s great knowing that being a part of Arcus means being a part of something that’s bigger than just the UK.
I work in graduate recruitment and I’m one of the co-chairs of Arcus in the UK; the other co-chair is a senior associate who works in our Litigation practice. This partnership works really well as together we’re able to represent both the professional services staff and all of our fee earners within the UK.
Arcus is about being as inclusive as possible. Across the year, we host a number of different events, including a range of lunch-and-learn sessions covering different issues or topics affecting the LGBT+ community. Recently we had a representative from a transgender-awareness group visit to offer expertise and insight to our members. We also offer a number of social events, including welcome drinks every six months for our new trainees and lateral hires.
We think it’s very important to collaborate with other LGBT+ networks, particularly those of our clients. For us, it’s not just about providing a forum for members to learn all about LGBT+ culture, it’s to encourage networking and for our members to meet people from other LGBT+ groups.
Arcus and allies
People don’t necessarily have to be LGBT+ in order to attend our events. In fact, having allies is a great way for those who do define as LGBT+ to know that support is available.
I think there’s sometimes a lot of confusion around certain LGBT+ terminology too, including what’s right and what’s wrong to say, and when. So we know that our role as an LGBT+ network is also to act as a useful educational resource for the wider community at Clifford Chance.
For these reasons, we have a strong Arcus Allies network, comprising people who don’t necessarily define as LGBT+ but want to increase their knowledge on LGBT+ matters and increase their support for their LGBT+ colleagues. The allies network also provides a forum for those who might not be comfortable being out at work, or are unsure about their sexuality. This way, they can still benefit without necessarily needing to disclose their sexuality.
Intersectionality: cross-collaboration with other networks
We have a strong BME network and a separate women’s network at Clifford Chance, and we’re always keen to collaborate with these networks internally. A great example of this is an event called ‘Carnival Comes to Clifford Chance’, which is hosted jointly by the LGBT+ and BME networks. It falls at a similar time to Notting Hill Carnival—London’s annual celebration of African-Caribbean heritage, and one of the largest street parties in the world.
Like Notting Hill, the Clifford Chance Carnival is all about embracing diversity and culture, and elements such as dance and costume tend to touch on aspects of LGBT+ culture too. The Carnival is filled with colours, dance and food. It also has an educational element; this year, we invited an external speaker to give a talk on intersectional identity.
Some of the food on offer at the Clifford Chance Carnival
Intersectional identity is when you cross over into various identity groups: you might be BME, for instance, as well as LGBT+ and female. All of those different identities merge together, and it’s important to identify what that means for that individual.
The Carnival provides a really good learning opportunity when it comes to intersectionality; for example, I can never understand what it’s like, as a white gay male, to be a person of colour, nor will I ever experience some of the problems that some LGBT+ women go through. It’s important to provide a forum for people to learn and understand, broadening their knowledge and insight. It’s just one reason why it’s so important to collaborate.
Inclusivity at the recruitment stage
From my own position in graduate recruitment, we’re able to invite a lot of our future trainees and training-contract offer-holders to these events, so they can begin to understand a bit more about the cultures of the networks we have at the firm.
One student in particular who attended the Carnival—a person of colour—emailed me after the event to say that it was after attending the carnival that they realised 100% that Clifford Chance was the firm for them. It’s at moments like that when you realise the strength of these events, not just for our current members of staff, but also for our prospective ones.
Law as a sector still has quite a bit of work to do in terms of increasing diversity—it has a long-standing reputation as a white, middle class, male-dominated profession. When you’re from a minority group it’s important to see this challenged, and I wholeheartedly believe that Clifford Chance is leading in this area. A female partner, who is also a champion ally of Arcus, opened the Carnival event. It was incredibly important for LGBT+ attendees to hear from a visible ally in a senior position, just as it was important for women to see a strong female leader.
The Clifford Chance ACCEPT conference 2018
This year we’re proud and excited to launch ACCEPT; a day and evening event for LGBT+ students interested in a career with Clifford Chance. Scheduled for November 22, the event will include workshops, panel events, networking opportunities and the chance for attendees to hear from guest speakers who will discuss pertinent topics to LGBT+ culture and the law. Attendees will also hear more about how we’re sponsoring the Target Jobs LGBT+ Undergraduate of the Year Award 2019 and how they can enter to win a vacation scheme with us in Summer 2019, plus a trip to our Hong Kong office to enjoy our annual LGBT+ Art Show.
ACCEPT is in some ways similar to a traditional Clifford Chance open day, but it has a specific LGBT+ focus. As well as speaking to members of the graduate-recruitment team, students will hear from senior LGBT+ members of the firm. For example, the senior associate and the co-chair of Arcus will be speaking about his involvement in the pro-bono case for gender-neutral passports.
The day will also include panel discussions on topical themes such as mental health in the LGBT+ community and how you can best care for yourself in the context of your career. We think that it’s important to address these issue. There will also be a general panel event on what it’s like to be LGBT+ in the City; something which a lot of people may not have experienced before. We’ll be collaborating with myGwork—an LGBT+ careers platform—and National Student Pride, of which we are the gold sponsors.
The event will give students the chance to see what we, at Clifford Chance, are doing for LGBT+ people; our ultimate aim is to be the LGBT+ employer of choice in the legal sector.
In full swing: the Clifford Chance Carnival
A more diverse workforce
More and more so, clients are demanding that the law firms with which they work are diverse. From a business perspective, therefore, diversity is important. The quality of our work can only ever be enhanced by celebrating difference, be it the variety of ideas, perspectives, or backgrounds. Clients want to see our teams reflect the diversity seen in society.
But obviously—and most importantly—there’s nothing better than working in a diverse, inclusive environment, in which you aren’t just seeing people who look and talk the same way, or share the same experiences. It adds a huge value and richness to working life.
When I joined Clifford Chance, I never imagined that I would be co-chair of its LGBT+ network, but at this firm, the opportunities do present themselves. You see the networks and you see that they’re working, and you want to be a part of them. As a gay male, I would not want to work somewhere where I didn’t think that all of this was genuine. It’s more than just a tick-box exercise; it’s what’s genuinely valued here.
The ACCEPT conference will be held on November 22. Applications are now open and will close on November 11. To find out more, visit the Clifford Chance website.