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Foley and Lardner Dinged in LGBT Ranking Because of Work for Clients Opposing Gay Marriage

Posted Dec 9, 2011 10:20 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Foley & Lardner received a perfect score of 100 last year in a “Corporate Equality Index” rewarding policies benefiting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.

This year, though, the firm was one of only six firms to get a relatively low score of 60, the Am Law Daily reports. The reason: Foley represents clients opposing gay marriage.

The Human Rights Campaign rated 139 law firms this year. Fifty-five got perfect scores, and 44 scored 90 points, according to the group’s report (PDF). A separate summary (PDF) lists the law firms that received perfect scores.

The ratings are based on equal employment opportunity, employment benefits, commitment to diversity, public support for LGBT equality, and “responsible citizenship.” Foley got a 25 point deduction because of the “responsible citizenship” factor.

The Human Rights Campaign warned Foley of the impending rating in a letter (PDF) released in November. “After a thoughtful conversation,” the letter says, “we made the difficult decision to deduct points from Foley & Lardner’s score because of the firm’s leadership and advocacy on behalf of a client working exclusively to oppose marriage equality.”

The letter criticizes the firm for its recent representation of the National Organization for Marriage, noting that partner Cleta Mitchell serves as the group’s registered lobbyist. Serving as a lobbyist, the letter says, “goes well beyond any professional or ethical obligations of legal representation. Moreover, the firm has established a clear pattern of knowingly taking on anti-LGBT organizations as clients, even after we and others in the community expressed concerns.”

A Foley spokesperson emailed a statement to the Am Law Daily citing “an ethical and professional obligation to advocate zealously the legal positions of our clients.”

“As a firm, we do not foreclose representation of clients who seek to advocate a controversial or unpopular viewpoint, even if that viewpoint deviates from or conflicts with the firm's institutional or internal position,” the statement said. “Contrary to the stance taken by the HRC, the notion that a client's views and interests may be attributed to its law firm is antithetical to the fundamental precepts of the American system of justice and is a notion that we soundly reject."

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