In this article, our Consultant Barrister, Callum Hurley, discusses what it’s like to work in the world of law as an LGBT+ lawyer. He delves into the need for greater representation at the Bar and his suggestions for how this can be accomplished. Read on to learn more.
What does it mean to you to be a LGBT+ lawyer?
Unlike many in this profession, I didn’t grow up wanting to be a lawyer. One reason for that was because I was never confident. I was constantly wondering what people thought about me. Being a gay man didn’t help that and experiencing homophobia from strangers served to exacerbate it. It follows that my biggest worry about entering the legal profession was probably what people would think about me and, specifically, whether they would take me seriously…
Fortunately, it’s true what they say about age… the older you become, the less you care about what people think about you! As a 25-year-old LGBT+ Barrister, who recently got engaged, I am extremely proud of where I am in life. For me, being an LGBT+ Lawyer means using my authenticity to contribute to a workplace culture where I feel included and respected by my colleagues. I think it’s a long journey for most people to feel comfortable in their own ability. I’m happy to be in a place now where I feel comfortable in myself in addition to being settled and supported both in Chambers and in Court.
Do you see yourself represented at the Bar?
I think I’m fortunate in that I began my legal career in more modern times when the same challenges to gay and lesbian lawyers in the 80’s and 90’s aren’t tolerated now, in my experience. I do think there’s a lack of visible LGBT+ role models in the legal profession. This is perhaps indicative of a continued culture of focusing on professionalism rather than personalism in your work life. I may be touching on an issue that extends beyond LGBT+ representation at the Bar with that. That said, I’m fortunate to be a Tenant in a Chambers that has a visible LGBT+ role model; our Door Tenant, Elizabeth Issacs KC who has a particular interest in LGBT+ and Modern Families parenting issues.
What can be done to increase representation?
I think there needs to be wider acceptance, understanding and knowledge about the trans and non-binary community. I can compare a similar journey for that starting now to that of lesbian and gay rights in the 80’s and 90’s. I think there’s still a long way to go. A positive example is that in the last couple of years it has become commonplace to add your preferred pronouns to the footer of any emails/letters you send. Small changes like that are to be promoted.
In terms of being an LGBT+ ally more generally, I think we need to call out unacceptable behaviours in the workplace. I recall being in a conference room during my pupillage when a party’s family member made a joke to another barrister. This joke involved calling him a term, which is commonly used as a derogatory term for a gay man. As soon as she realised that we weren’t laughing, she said “it was only a joke, ‘I’m not like that…”. Neither of us said anything. In hindsight, I wish I’d had the confidence to at least explain why that wasn’t appropriate. It is all too often and too easy to pretend you didn’t hear something or brush it off. We need to be more robust in challenging unacceptable behaviours. I’m guilty of that too – often putting it down to being focused on the case issues – I think there needs to be a collective effort across the Bar to improve that.
What does Unit do to focus on inclusion?
Unit Chambers has a comprehensive Equal Opportunities and Diversity Policy which is available to all members of Chambers and reviewed on a regular basis, the next review being in September 2023. We have a dedicated Equality and Diversity Officer (Lyana Chan (Consultant Barrister)) who is responsible for the policy’s implementation.
In addition, Unit Chambers has an Equal Opportunities and Diversity Written Plan for 2022-2023 which actively records and monitors our progress in carrying out our goals to improve equality and diversity each year.
I was extremely delighted this year to be asked by our CEO, Lisa Edmunds, to join the Pupillage Committee. This gave me the privilege of interviewing many talented aspiring barristers from various backgrounds. It was really interesting to get involved first-hand with contributing to Chambers’ approach to equality and diversity inclusion through our pupil-intake selection process.
We also have yearly practice review meetings and fortnightly Tune-Ins with the whole Team to ensure any issues have an opportunity to be raised and addressed.
If you’d like to know more about Unit Chambers or are interested in joining our family, click here.