Summary: Northeastern University School of Law held the first annual Reach(OUT) conference for LGBTQ law students.
LGBTQ cases are being decided every day. While Lgbtq Americans are having their rights battled out in the legal system, less than three percent of the legal professionals representing their community are LGBTQ, according to the National Association for Law Placement. With so few LGBTQ persons in the legal industry, opportunities to network with those of their community are few.
Northeastern University School of Law intends to change this by allowing Lgbtq Law Students to gather and hear current LGBTQ lawyers discuss their experiences. The Daily Free Press, an independent student publication at Boston University, detailed the events of the first annual conference for LGBTQ law students at Northeastern.
The conference started with a panel titled “Being Your Authentic Self,” which encouraged the students to feel comfortable being open in the workplace and be prepared for some discomfort. The panelists explained to the law students that the assumptions people make about their sexuality or gender are what often leads to them giving up and leaving the industry. As policy attorney Heron Greenesmith explained, people can spend all day with you and still have the wrong assumptions about your sexual orientation.
Another hurdle LGBTQ attorneys often face is being put into a position where they are expected to speak for the entire community. The best way, according to the panelists, to deal with being put in this position is to say no.
After the first panel, there were two breakout sessions. One session was titled “How to Navigate Applying to and Working for Firms” and the other was titled “Gender Expression and Identity in the Workplace.”
Keynote speaker Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, who is openly gay, works as the executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. He explained that discrimination and poverty are closely tied to identity. These kinds of issues are faced by those of all minority groups. He said, “It’s not always easy. But I think it’s critical that we make deliberate and intentional efforts to advance an intersectional agenda that allows people from across communities and movements to feel included and protected.”
One way of tackling this is by speaking out against toxic work environments. Panelist and immigration lawyer Stefanie Fisher of Araujo & Fisher said, “You should not suffer in silence if your work environment is toxic to you. None of us can do our best when we cannot be ourselves.”
NUSL first-year student Sitraka St. Michael said of the conference to The Free Press, “It’s almost a recharging station that I needed and [I] wanted to hear from people who are on the other side of being through what I’m entering right now.”
Do you think that other law schools will introduce their own LGBTQ conferences? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
To learn more about LGBTQ issues, read these articles:
- Oregon Judge Grants Person First No Gender Status
- Justice Department Says Discrimination Laws Don’t Apply to Gays
- Supreme Court Divided Over Same-Sex Wedding Cake Case