In the South, we speak slowly and always say please and thank you. Our cities are filled with folks who claim that they “have never met a stranger” – a point of pride adhering to the South’s standards of hospitality. Stemming from our strong sense of hospitality comes topics that are too taboo to discuss in the presence of polite company – or anywhere really. One of those topics is sexuality and, even more so, non-heterosexuality. The aversion to speaking about sexuality, and one’s own identity, has also steeped like sweet-tea into the southern legal community. That needs to change.
Like the LGBT Bar, LGBT bar affiliates are important to the attorneys, law students, law schools, the bench, and the communities with which they interact. My state, South Carolina, does not have an affiliate organization to the LGBT Bar, but like so many other southern states, in many ways South Carolina needs a LGBT Bar affiliate more than those states that have been consistently progressive on LGBT issues. Why you ask? Here are a few reasons:
- LGBT prospective clients can look to a local LGBT Bar organization in order to find an attorney close by who will be sympathetic to his or her situation. For example, if I wanted to buy a house with my same-sex partner, and hired a closing attorney for the transfer, the attorney may not think to ask (or may not ask due to the above mentioned “polite topics of conversation”) about the extent of our relationship and the legal consequences that are attached.
- Being a gay law student is a tough venture in the South. Not only are the pressures and demands of law school extremely stressful, but the added stress of finding a community that is under-represented in law schools adds to the pressure. Having an LGBT bar organization that can help mentor and welcome students into the legal profession is immensely important.
- We often hear that networking is the most important thing to being successful in the legal community, and for young lawyers (at least this young lawyer), that seems to be true. Having a safe place to break into the legal professional network can truly be a recipe for success for future LGBT attorneys and judges.
As members of the LGBT Bar, we should do all that we can to help start new affiliate bar associations in Southern states. Not only do law students, attorneys, and communities need you, so do I.
Nick Shalosky is a member of the South Carolina bar and graduated from the Charleston School of Law in May of 2013. In 2008 Nick was elected to public office, making him the first openly-gay elected official in South Carolina history. He was elected to the Charleston County Constituent School Board District 20. He later served as the board’s chairperson. Before coming to the Charleston School of Law, Nick attended the College of Charleston where he was a Political Science major. Nick enjoys politics, blogging, and spending time with his partner, Naylor, and their dog, cat, and chickens.
- 4 Mar, 2014
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