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Law Firms Urge Gay Attys to Come Out

Posted Jun 7, 2007 1:41 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Not so long ago, it would have been a big problem for an attorney in many law firms to show up at a firm event with a same-sex life partner. But the pendulum is now swinging in the other direction. Rather than casting a cold eye on attorneys involved in non-traditional relationships, law firm leaders are now urging gay and lesbian lawyers to go public with their sexual orientation, because this is a client relations plus.

That's what happened, for instance, when Coco Soodek became a partner in the Chicago office of Bryan Cave, reports Bloomberg. Invited to a celebratory dinner for new partners in St. Louis, where the firm is located, she was encouraged to bring her same-sex companion and then seated at dinner, as a couple, next to the wife of the firm's chairman. Then came the invitation for the partners' spouses to stand up.

"If I had one toe left in the closet, they made me take it out," says Soodek. "There was no going back."

Such experiences apparently are becoming much more common nationwide, as the number of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered lawyers increases exponentially, Bloomberg reports. It went up by more than 50 percent between 2002 and 2006, according to the National Association for Law Placement, from 1,100 to over 1,700. This change is being driven, at least in part, by clients, according to Jeff Morof, managing partner of Bryan Cave's Chicago office. More than a dozen have asked the firm for a commitment to diversity, he says.

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