That is the theme of Jeremy Protas’ time with the LGBT Bar and as an openly gay attorney. Jeremy is a partner at Marshall, Gerstein & Borun LLP, a boutique intellectual property firm in Chicago, and the newly elected president of the National LGBT Bar Association Board of Directors.
Jeremy’s education began in 2007 when he attended his first Lavender Law® Conference in Chicago. He became a member of the Bar after his experience at Lavender Law in which he met “so many talented and interesting people who became good friends.” Jeremy continued his involvement, attending every annual conference since 2007 and continuing to take advantage of its many networking opportunities.
Jeremy notes that “the people that I’ve met at the annual conference, at various Out & Proud corporate counsel events, and through my work on the Board of Directors, have become mentors, friends, and clients or referral sources.”
Lavender Law was evidence of the growing emphasis on diversity Jeremy had observed within the legal profession. When he first graduated from law school, he noticed that “there were openly gay attorneys in the field…but gay attorneys who were open about their sexual orientation were the exception, rather than commonplace.” Jeremy identified the cause as the lack of provisions protecting LGBT attorneys from harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Fortunately, ten years later, attitudes and policies are changing.
“Firms are proud to have openly gay and lesbian attorneys among their associates and partners, and explicitly provide for sexual orientation as a class for which they will not tolerate harassment or discrimination,” Jeremy says.
Jeremy’s education at Lavender Law continued at his second conference, where he attended a session on diversity in the legal profession. He connected the speakers’ discussion to his thoughts about the growing number of openly LGBT attorneys. As he “listened to speakers describe the efforts their various firms were making to cultivate and maintain a diverse group of lawyers, including LGBT lawyers, and the challenges that each firm was still facing,” he realized that his firm, and other similar firms, were at a disadvantage in finding talented LGBT attorneys.
As patent law usually requires a degree in engineering or physical science in addition to a law degree, there is a much smaller pool of candidates from which to choose. As Jeremy noted, “minorities that fit this description are the exception.”
Instead of accepting limitations, Jeremy decided to put his education to use to alleviate the problem. In 2009, Jeremy began the Jeremy D. Protas LGBT Patent Law Scholarship, designed to “highlight patent law as an option for people considering or enrolled in law school, and to let other LGBT people know that patent law is a career in which they can be successful as an openly gay person.”
Throughout his career, Jeremy’s education has spanned the issues of diversity within the profession, increasing LGBT representation among patent attorneys and making connections to further his career through The LGBT Bar.
Jeremy says that “being involved with the LGBT Bar has provided me with an opportunity to speak on the subject of diversity and equality in the legal profession to my colleagues, friends, family, and anyone else who will listen.” Jeremy’s continued attendance at Lavender Law enables him to learn about a number of issues impacting the LGBT community and allows him to educate others and contribute to the shift in public opinion.
“It’s no secret that raising awareness is one of the primary ways that the LGBT community advances toward equality, and it’s not an accident that attitudes have changed increasingly faster as issues around LGBT equality have been in the forefront of social debate and discussion,” Jeremy observes.
With the knowledge Jeremy has gained from his experience in the profession and involvement with The LGBT Bar, it’s clear that the organization has an effective leader who will take the organization to new heights in 2015.