“Are LGBTQ+ Attorneys of Color Relevant to the Montgomery County Bar?” Written by Carolyn Demougeot in The Bar in Brief (BAMC) (Volume 69 – Issue 10)

Why should small, middle and large suburban law firms in Montgomery County be actively attempting to recruit diverse attorneys and staff members?  At present, 36 participants from 14 firms, here in Montgomery County, have been participating in a five-month program facilitated by Equity Through Action[1] in efforts to learn how to render their firms more diverse, equitable and inclusive.

Frankly, representation matters. To serve communities, you must not only be well-versed in your practice, but also, relatable and inviting. Truth be told, a large part of the demographic served by majority white male dominated law firms, are the underrepresented communities who have a history of facing abuse by medical and legal professionals. In order to build trust and stronger ties to the evolving realities of the world around us, we must begin to acknowledge that feminism, racial justice initiatives, the repeal of sexual identity stigmas and technology are facilitating the proliferation of new ideas and leading to a new wave of diverse well-informed professionals who can no longer be denied. We have to be willing to listen, learn, and sometimes be uncomfortable.

Let’s run some of the numbers:

According to Jurist, women have outnumbered men in law schools across the United States since 2016.

According to Enjuris, in 2019, 31% of law students identified as racial minorities.

The Guardian released an article in 2021 titled, “New record as estimated 18 million Americans identify as LGBTQ.”  The article stated that, “Polling determined the group leading the growth in LGBTQ identity are members of Generation Z, or those aged 18 to 23. About one in six, or 15.9%, identify as LGBTQ.”

In the words of Lil Wayne, “Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t lie.”

In order to best serve your community, your community needs to relate to you.  Given the trends, white, male, heterosexual dominated law firms are looking more and more dissimilar in the eyes of the community members they seek to serve.

Apart from seeking to better serve the community and their clients, these statistics indicate that law firms should be adamantly working to create a safe DEI environment within their firm walls for their own survival.  Law firms that are unwilling, or incapable, of adapting to the diversification of the American demographic will render themselves obsolete and undesirable in the eyes of the very attorneys they wish to attract.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary diversity is “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.”  More and more women, LGBTQ and students of color are exiting law school doors with juris doctorates in hand.

As legal professionals we know Equity to be “a body of legal doctrines and rules developed to enlarge, supplement, or override a narrow rigid system of law.” These new generation of law students, and next generations of lawyers, are, and will be, bucking the narrow rigid system that law firms have always felt so comfortable maneuvering in.

The applicable definition for inclusion is “the act or practice of including and accommodating people who have historically been excluded (as because of their race, gender, sexuality, or ability).”  Historically, law firms have managed to remain non-inclusive because the profession was successful at excluding those who did not resemble the oppressors who created the system.  That ship is (thankfully) sailing.  Law firms cannot seek both longevity and maintenance of the antiquated status quo.  The future is gender-equity, racial equity, sexual orientation fluidity and unapologetically so.

[1] Equity Through Action is an organization that works with corporations to examine their work through a race equity lens by providing training, coaching, and technical assistance. Their work enables organizations to create equitable practices, policies, and mind shifts. Their mission is to aid you in creating a safe, just, and inclusive anti-racist organization.

Carolyn M. Demougeot, Esquire Associate at Armstrong, Donohue Ceppos, Vaughan & Rhoades, Chtd.