Brian Esser spent eight years as an attorney at Baker & Hostetler LLP, focusing on complex and general civil litigation and corporate investigations. He handled civil RICO claims brought against insurance companies, tobacco manufacturers, foreign sovereigns and government contractors and coordinated discovery under the SIPA liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.
In January 2014, however, Brian decided to leave the world of big firm law behind him and open a solo practice. He started the Law Office of Brian Esser, his own practice dedicated to LGBT family law.
As the current president of the National LGBT Bar Foundation’s Board of Director’s, Brian relied on his experience at Lavender Law and with The LGBT Bar in making his professional transition.
Brian attended his first Lavender Law as a law student in 1997 and continued attending every year during law school. He returned as a recruiter, first with Arnold & Porter, and then with BakerHostetler. Brian used Lavender Law as a resource as he debated leaving big law and opening his own practice. He reached out to a number of contacts he met at conferences over the years who had the type of practice he was interested in starting.
“Without exception, they all agreed to talk with me and gave me immensely valuable advice that has helped make my practice more successful,” Brian said. “Those connections easily put me a year or more ahead of where I would have been.”
Brian says, “starting my own practice was one of the scariest things I have ever done.” Despite his trepidation, he has been successful, finding it to be “a richly rewarding experience to help people build their families and solidify their family relationships.
In addition to relying on his professional connections, Brian also became involved with the LGBT Family Law Institute (FLI). FLI is a joint venture of The LGBT Bar and the National Center for Lesbian Rights and allows experienced LGBT family law practitioners to share collective wisdom and to discuss cutting-edge legal strategies for representing members of the LGBT community. Brian benefited from FLI’s “support and community,” attending the group’s annual meeting at Lavender Law and also considering regional meetings across the country.
With his practice just over a year old, Brian is becoming more comfortable in his new role. The transition from a firm with limitless resources to a solo practice is not easy, but Brian appreciates his new benefits. He appreciates that when hired, clients are hiring him and not just a law firm. This has enabled him to “really form relationships with clients and…be part of the fabric of the LGBT community.” Brian regularly speaks at the community center in Manhattan and even staffs their monthly legal clinic.
As he begins his term as board president for The LGBT Bar Foundation, Brian is taking what he has learned from starting a solo practice and applying it not just to The Bar, but to the future of the community.
Referencing the marriage cases the Supreme Court will hear in June, Brian notes that “the LGBT movement is poised to accomplish a major goal.” Our focus now must turn to “what our community and out community’s organizations will look like in July.”
There are still areas of the law that demand attention, no matter the Supreme Court’s ruling. Most importantly, though, Brian identifies The Bar’s most important role as “bringing lawyers together to share best practices and taking what they’ve learned back to their communities and their clients to help do the day-to-day work of spreading lived equality.” Just as he was able to find the connections that helped him establish his own practice through Lavender Law, he believes that The Bar can serve this purpose for lawyers across the country.
In order to do so and to cement The Bar’s role within the profession, Brian knows that the organization has more work ahead. His goals for his time as president are to “expand our membership, deepen our partnerships with state and local LGBT bar associations, and ask our supporters to continue, and even increase, their financial contributions so we can keep doing this valuable work.”
Given his experience at Lavender Law and with The LGBT Bar, Brian seems poised to cement the organization as a leader through a changing environment for our community.