As a firm, Burges Salmon prides itself on its inclusive culture. Our internal LGBT+ network, BProud, was one of the first diversity and inclusion groups to be set up within the business and works hard to represent the firm’s LGBT+ people and allies. In this article, we look back at some of BProud’s recent projects by way of example of the activities law firms could consider to support their LGBT+ staff and promote the cause of LGBT+ inclusivity more generally.
As the firm’s LGBT+ internal network, BProud seeks to create a community within Burges Salmon for members to express themselves and their sexuality and gender. It is open to all of the firm’s people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and acts as both a safe space for LGBT+ people and a learning environment for allies. The network has members of all levels of seniority throughout the firm. Crucially, it strives to engage both with our legal teams and our business services professionals (e.g. the IT team, Operations team and Client Support team) so that everyone’s voice is heard.
The group has an active WhatsApp chat, where members can catch-up, socialise and share interesting news stories from the LGBT+ community. We hold regular socials to bring our members together, which has been more important than ever amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. For Halloween, for example, we held a stay-at-home Rocky Horror film screening and sing-along, whilst in the summer we threw our own virtual awards ceremony to celebrate the achievements of the people who have worked hard to promote LGBT+ diversity and inclusion at the firm.
BProud also works closely with the firm’s other diversity and inclusion networks, BBalanced (gender equality), BCultured (racial inclusion) and BEnabled (our disability forum). In the coming months, the groups will be launching a joint book club called BInklusive, where members can come together to discuss books, podcasts and television series on a range of diversity and inclusion topics (starting with Russel T Davies’ ‘It’s a Sin’).
Raising awareness of LGBT+ issues within the firm
Every year, BProud runs a range of events designed to increase awareness of LGBT+ issues within the firm. In September 2020 we hosted a firm-wide ‘lunch and learn’ session on the topic of intersectionality, and in February 2021 we produced a virtual walking tour of historic LGBT+ locations in Bristol, London and Edinburgh – where the firm has offices – to celebrate LGBT+ History Month. The firm also has a diversity and inclusion landing page on its intranet, which serves as a space to share resources (such as articles, recorded presentations, and TV, book and podcast recommendations) on a wide range of diversity and inclusion topics. The page also offers information on the firm’s various inclusion groups and how staff can join them. BProud keeps track of important dates in the LGBT+ calendar (for example, International Transgender Day of Visibility on 31 March and International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on 17 May), and runs events and campaigns to celebrate these important occasions. The group also regularly produces articles on LGBT+ issues for Burges Salmon’s various internal communications channels.
Engaging with LGBT+ charities and other organisations
BProud acts as a point of contact for Burges Salmon to engage with a wide range of LGBT+ charities and other organisations. The firm is a proud supporter of local HIV and AIDS charity Brigstowe, which ran a very successful awareness-raising session for the firm in December 2020 in honour of World AIDS Day. BProud has also engaged with organisations such as Freedom Youth, which provides invaluable social support services to LGBT+ young people aged 13-25 within the locality of our Bristol office. In addition, we are Diversity Champion members of Stonewall and each year we participate in the Stonewall UK Workplace Equality Index which helps us to benchmark our firm’s performance on LGBT+ equality and inclusion. We were also very proud to host the inaugural Stonewall South West Regional Awards in our Bristol office in February 2020. Burges Salmon also engages extensively with Pride celebrations each summer, running a series of internal Pride Week events and sponsoring the Bristol Pride celebrations. BProud members had great fun compiling and submitting a video entry to Bristol Pride’s 2020 virtual parade, and we look forward to marching at the in-person parade once again as soon as COVID-19 restrictions allow.
Promoting knowledge sharing
Members of BProud often attend external webinars on LGBT+ topics (e.g. webinars hosted by the InterLaw Diversity Forum, or by Freehold, an LGBT+ network for professionals working in the real estate sector). Our members take notes on these presentations and share them with the group afterwards, so that as many people as possible can benefit from the lessons learned. BProud also reaches out regularly to other successful LGBT+ people-led networks both within our clients’ businesses and organisations or the sectors in which the firm operates to share best practice and to discuss how we can learn from each other’s experience and activities to expand our own diversity and inclusion work.
Engaging with the firm’s leadership and management
Visible support from senior leadership is an important element of a law firm’s ability to demonstrate its engagement with LGBT+ issues. Burges Salmon’s management team enthusiastically support BProud’s activities. Managing Partner Roger Bull and Senior Partner Chris Seaton regularly attend our events and help to promote our initiatives throughout the firm.
Considering supply chains
BProud is currently working to establish links with LGBT+ people and people-led networks in the firm’s supply chain (catering, facilities, etc.) to promote collaboration and broader inclusivity. We have conducted a review of the firm’s Supplier Engagement Charter, to ensure that it specifically caters for the protection and inclusion of LGBT+ supplier staff as well as wider diversity and inclusion.
Examining policies and procedures
BProud periodically reviews Burges Salmon’s people policies and procedures (e.g. recruitment processes) to ensure that they are LGBT+ inclusive. For example, the firm has recently rolled out gender-neutral drafting as its standard approach in all correspondence, and is in the process of updating its various precedents and document templates with gender-neutral language. Burges Salmon also has an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy, which is available to all of the firm’s people on its intranet.
Whatever initiatives or activities a law firm undertakes to support its LGBT+ staff, ultimately the most important thing is for the business to engage with its people as fully as possible. By doing this, the firm can gain a deeper appreciation of what will allow its people to feel free and comfortable to be fully themselves at work. Supporting staff so that they feel listened to and included in this manner is a crucial means of driving forward positive change.