Nov 19, 2019

Written By Toby Horner

"Our ultimate aim is to be the employer of choice for LGBT+ students wanting to pursue a career in law"

Nov 19, 2019

Written By Toby Horner

For anyone who defines as LGBT+, entering a corporate workplace may seem daunting. Thanks to the internal efforts of a lot of top employers, it needn’t be. Toby Horner is co-chair of the Arcus LGBT+ network at Clifford Chance. Here, he talks through the importance of having such a network and provides details on the Clifford Chance ACCEPT conference for LGBT+ students interested in a career in Law.

Arcus is our LGBT+ and inclusive network—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, so 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. It’s fantastic that Arcus works so closely with the graduate recruitment team too, so graduate events are frequently supported by a range of Clifford Chance networkers who identify as LGBT+, and our future trainees are often invited to internal Arcus events. 

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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 there is support available from their colleagues.

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.

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; last year, we invited an external speaker to give a talk on intersectional identity, which 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.

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.

Having an impact on LGBT+ people around the world

At Clifford Chance we are proud of our strongly-held values as a firm and our commitment to UN Standards of Conduct for Business to promote equal rights and treatment of LGBT+ people. We also understand that if we hold these values, we must be prepared to champion them, campaign for them and defend them on behalf of LGBT+ people. As the global law firm of choice, we see our expertise on legal matters as a crucial tool in how we work in societies across the globe to reflect our values and make a real impact.

Arcus was the first network of its kind in the London legal world to encompass a range of pro-bono initiatives relating to the civil liberties of human rights of LGBT+ people. In London, Arcus brought judicial review proceedings challenging the government’s binary gender passport policy and seeking the provision of non-gender-specific passports. In Singapore, we have successfully persuaded a specially-constituted, 3-Judge High Court chaired by the Chief Justice of Singapore to allow a gay man to adopt his son, who was conceived through surrogacy in the US.

The Clifford Chance ACCEPT conference 2019

For the second year, we’re delighted to be hosting our ACCEPT conference; a day and evening event for LGBT+ students interested in a career with Clifford Chance. Scheduled for November 21, the event includes 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 2020 and how they can enter to win a vacation scheme with us in Summer 2020, plus a trip to one of our international offices. 

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. Last year, panel discussions touched on topics such as mental health in the LGBT+ community and how you can best care for yourself in the context of your career, and what it’s like to be LGBT+ in the City. We’ll be collaborating again with myGwork—an LGBT+ careers platform—and National Student Pride, of which we are the gold sponsors.

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.

To find out more, visit the Clifford Chance website.

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