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CDLS Administrator

In a spotlight on our LGBTQ+ Subcommittee, its work and the volunteers who support it, Emma Sweeney, a Solicitor in the Children Law department at Harding Evans, explains why she chose to join our group, what she hopes to achieve and shares her personal experiences of being LGBTQ+ in the legal sector in Wales.

I am delighted to be part of the LGBTQ+ Subcommittee and feel that something like this has been needed for a very long time. The legal profession has made huge strides over the years and many law firms now have LGBTQ+ inclusive policies and procedures in place, however, visibility matters, and it is important to have LGBTQ+ role models and allies to empower others to feel that they can be their authentic selves in the workplace. I certainly would have welcomed such a network at the outset of my career!

What I would like to get out of the LGBTQ+ Subcommittee

I hope to connect with other LGBTQ+ legal professionals and allies to build a supportive network and make lifelong friends. I am also keen to support the LGBTQ+ Law Clinic to provide legal advice and assistance to members of the LGBTQ+ community in a safe space.

Ideas for promoting the Reaching for the Rainbow initiative

  • Regular social events to be held at LGBTQ+ owned or friendly venues where possible to support the community
  • Training events/courses to raise awareness of legal issues specific to the LGBTQ+ community, e.g. same-sex/transgender parental rights, the law around Gender Recognition Certificates and how to support the LGBTQ+ Law Clinic
  • Support for any LGBTQ+ members facing discrimination/bullying in the workplace and a safe space for them to share concerns.
  • Signposting for Firms to training/courses to ensure that they are able to support LGBTQ+ staff
  • Reach out to smaller firms to raise awareness of the ‘Reaching for the Rainbow’ initiative
  • Networking events with the England and Wales Law Society LGBTQ+ members to encourage wider networking opportunities and share ideas

My personal experiences of being LGBTQ+ at work

Venturing into my first role as a paralegal fresh out of Uni in 2009, I recall being asked whether I had a boyfriend by a more senior member of staff. I remember fumbling over my words wondering how to answer this seemingly simple question. I was keen to make a good impression and to ‘fit in’ and so, instead of saying “no, actually I have a girlfriend,” I simply said “yes.” I immediately felt frustrated with myself for denying my sexuality and went on to tell my colleague my girlfriend’s name to put the record straight. From that moment on, I vowed to myself that I would always be my authentic self in the workplace, which hasn’t always been without its challenges.

I didn’t know of any other lesbian lawyers and the few gay lawyers I knew of were firmly in the closet. I felt it was still very much a ‘taboo’. Over time, I have come to realise that visibility is key as, if you don’t meet other people like you, you can feel very isolated and as though you don’t belong. The importance of positive out and proud role models can’t be overstated. Fortunately, times are changing, the legal profession is evolving and I now feel confident to fully embrace who I am and to be seen as a positive role model for other LGBTQ+ community members.

Initiatives I’ve taken part in with the LGBTQ+ community in work or through volunteering

I am proud to be a Solicitor within the Children Law department at Harding Evans, which has sponsored both Pride Cymru and Pride in the Port this year. Harding Evans is committed to supporting the LGBTQ+ community meaningfully throughout the year, not just for Pride month. I have also recently become a part of ‘Legally Lesbians’, which aims to promote lesbian visibility within the legal industry and to provide social networking opportunities.

For more information on the work of our LGBTQ+ Subcommittee, please contact the group Chair, Marc Jones, via