LGBT Bar Board Member Jason Burch didn’t always plan on practicing law. “I was originally a professional baseball player,” he says. “When I got injured I started considering other things to do and chose policy and government. That sparked my interest in law, especially public law.”
In exploring new opportunities, Jason benefitted from the connections he made with attorneys and firms at the LGBT Bar’s Lavender Law® Conference, including Sidley Austin LLP where he began his legal career. After first practicing regulatory law at Sidley Austin LLP’s Chicago office, he later moved to their New York location. Earlier this summer, Jason began working in a new position as regulatory counsel at Uber, focusing on the northeast US. “I enjoyed working at Sidley Austin, but I wanted to go in-house and advise a business. Uber made sense; I’ve always loved cities and took an interest in how people move around a city,” says Jason. “It’s a great fit.”
Throughout his time as a law student, at Sidley Austin, and now at Uber, Jason has been an active member of the LGBT Bar Association. “The Bar gives me the opportunity to meet lots of different lawyers from lots of different walks of life,” he says. Jason believes this network allowed him to grow both as a lawyer and as an individual. “Not a lot of people identify as LGBT, so it’s fun to be a part of that group in a professional setting.”
What is most rewarding to Jason is learning about other people’s experiences. “It is helpful,” he says. “There is a lot to learn from other people: how people are different and want different things; perspectives and opportunities you may not get in day to day practice. I learn about how people come of age in their own identity and in their professional development.”
Jason joined the National LGBT Bar Association’s Board in March of 2017 after Past President Jeremy Protas approached him about the opportunity. “I’d been going to Lavender Law® since law school and found those experiences really enjoyable,” he reflects. “When asked to be a part of strategic thinking for the Association, I was excited to further engage with what I consider a useful organization.”
Jason says that the National LGBT Bar Association has been particularly useful in helping him expand his understanding of what it means to practice law. “Any lawyer benefits from knowing other lawyers,” he says. “Our profession is one in which communication and different perspectives are the highest value we can give to our clients.” By joining organizations like the LGBT Bar that value networking and educational opportunities, legal professionals and law students can get a “leg up” in the legal field and among their peers.
To Jason, professional growth goes hand in hand with personal connections. He enjoys not only learning from other members of the LGBT Bar, but also mentoring new lawyers as they take their first steps in their budding careers. Events like the Lavender Law® Conference and Career Fair have been particularly valuable as an opportunity to move between learning from his peers and becoming a resource to others. “Every time I go to an event I meet someone who gives me some advice or insight I continue to draw on. As I continue to practice law, more and more younger legal professionals show up at events and come to me with their own questions. It’s nice to provide them insight from my own experience.”
Today, Jason finds that much of his advice ties back to his appreciation for diversity in strategic thinking, especially in the context of LGBT legal justice. “The LGBT Bar Association’s Board has been thinking about what we should really be about. We have new and different fights and legal battles,” he says. He encourages lawyers to be confident in their opinions and the value of their own ideas. “No matter what you think the legal strategy should be, it should be part of the conversation.”
The LGBT Bar is proud to have Jason Burch on our Board and as a member of our organization, and we are excited to see him continue to act as a role model for other LGBT legal professionals.