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September 15, 2009 4:37 PM

Law Firms Get Top Marks for Gay Equality in the Workplace

Posted by Matt Straquadine

Law firms continue to lead the way in providing protections and benefits to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees, according to a survey by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the largest LGBT civil rights group in the country.

Of the 127 firms surveyed, 88 received perfect scores (124 of those surveyed were on this year's AmLaw 200 list).

Since 2006, when law firms began participating in the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index survey, the number of firms receiving perfect scores has steadily increased, from 12 firms in 2006, to 64 in 2008. This year there were more perfect scores among law firms than in any other industry.

“The legal industry recognizes that their business is built by attracting and retaining the best people,” says Samir Luther, an associate director at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation who helped conduct the survey. “Law firms have learned that diversity and equality in the office are essential to getting, and keeping, top talent.”

The survey ranks employers across 36 industries on a scale of 0 to 100 based on criteria including nondiscrimination policies, insurance coverage for same-sex partners, and active engagement with the LGBT community. Of the 590 employers surveyed this year, law firms had the second-highest industry average after the airlines, with an average score of 95. Airlines scored 96.

Anton Mack, managing director of diversity at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, called the CEI survey the most well-run diversity study his firm participates in.

“HRC tells firms what they’ll be graded on more than two years ahead of time,” Mack says. “You can’t plead ignorance, and the only reason to resist the changes they suggest is because of internal culture.”

Mack attributes the legal industry's high marks to the belief that clients prefer firms that encourage workplace equality and the natural competitiveness between law firms. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation would like to see even more of that competitiveness next year.

“This year we had 124 of the Am Law 200 firms participate in the survey, next year we’d like to see the other 76 involved,” Luther says.

You can see the full results of the survey here.

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1. HRC is known for giving high marks to everyone who pays them.

2. How do you get an A+? Even a 100% rating isn't A+. It's an A. A+ means you've gone above and beyond what's considered A work. Again, this is just HRC paying off in ratings for donations they receive.

3. HRC does NOT stand in for, or speak for the LGBT Community.

4. How many gay attorneys work at those firms? How many are partners? OH - THAT'S RIGHT - they won't produce numbers because that's somehow "private" data. So's race and gender, but no one shies away from producing THOSE statistics.

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