By M. Dru Levasseur, Deputy Program Officer of the National LGBT Bar
On February 1st, I had the honor of keynoting the 19th Annual Minnesota Lavender Bar Conference. It’s always a pleasure to be in the room with members of one of our 38 state and local LGBT Bar Affiliates to hear about the exciting work that is happening on the ground, particularly in a state with such critical state and local LGBTQ+ leadership. Minneapolis caught the nation’s eye when it elected two powerful leaders to office who are openly transgender people of color – Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham. It was great to catch up with national advocacy organizations like Gender Justice and OutFront Minnesota, hear about supportive initiatives from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, and be in a room filled with passionate and motivated LGBTQ+ attorneys, judges, and law students who are working to make a difference.
As a representative of the National LGBT Bar Association and Foundation, the official LGBTQ+ arm of the American Bar Association, I was there to offer a national lens on the successes the LGBTQ+ community has had over the last decade, as well as the rollbacks we are currently facing. Attorneys play a powerful role in the LGBTQ+ movement, but there are some hard truths that we need to face regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession. I have witnessed in my career that it truly matters who is at the table and who is leading the work. We are consistently missing out on necessary talent because we are not being fully inclusive of women, people of color, people living with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people.
The latest data from the 2019 National Association for Law Placement (NALP) Report on Diversity shows that we are not addressing these gaps quickly enough. In the report, NALP’s Executive Director, Jim Leipold, states, “Having watched these numbers carefully for more than 15 years, I have become convinced that despite steady gains, great structural and cultural hurdles remain that prevent law firms from being able to measure more rapid progress in increasing diversity, particularly among the partnership ranks.”
Minnesota attendees viewed our new Lavender Law 365Ⓡ video in which Jim passionately discusses the need for LGBTQ+ inclusion in our profession.
While our 32nd Annual Lavender Law Conference and Career Fair is only six months away, we need to do the work every day of the year if we want to reach deeper and lasting institutional change. Visit our website or reach out to me directly to talk about how Lavender Law 365 can support your law firm, law school, or company.