Diversity in law firms? Still a rarity in the legal profession today. ALICE supports the so-called "LGBT" on their way up: "It's no longer about having "no problem" with LGBT+, but about proving that you are positively committed to diversity." (Hohenstatt)
Dr. Klaus-Stefan Hohenstatt is a partner in the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Hamburg and a specialist in employment law. He is the author of various textbooks on restructuring, teaches works constitution law and the law of corporate co-determination at Bucerius Law School and is the German representative on the Board of the European Employment Lawyers Association.
Dr. Hohenstatt presents "ALICE":
(the article was published by UniGlobale on 16.11.2016 and may be reprinted here with the kind permission of Mr. Hohenstatt):
"Tomorrow, on 19 November, the ALICE Juristensummit 2016 will take place in Cologne, a unique event in Germany on the topics of LGBTI, diversity, law and career. The law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is also taking part. Dr. Klaus-Stefan Hohenstatt, partner in the area of employment law, talks in an interview about the changes in his industry and why companies that value employee diversity - from origin to sexual orientation - are more successful in the long term.
UNIGLOBAL: Dr. Hohenstatt, let's start with a cliché: law firms are conservative and have nothing to do with diversity. Would you agree with this from your own experience or are the robes becoming "more colourful"?
Klaus-Stefan Hohenstatt: It's true that things are different in a law firm than in a theatre company or an advertising agency. But lawyers are generally freedom-loving and liberal people. In the meantime, at least in the case of the internationally active law firms, one can assume an LGBT-friendly and open-minded climate. The progress made cannot be overlooked!
Does it also play a role that clients increasingly ask for diversity programmes as a prerequisite for a mandate?
Some of our clients have very large and active LGBT+ networks, primarily banks and insurance companies, but increasingly also industrial companies. In Germany, it is not yet as common for service providers to have to account for their attitude to diversity as it is frequently the case in the UK and the USA. At Freshfields, however, we are already noticing that our great commitment to LGBT+ is viewed very positively by the majority of our clients.
What is the significance of instruments such as the "Stonewall Top 100" index, a ranking that assesses companies in terms of LGBT equality?
The index is very popular in the UK. A great idea! Nearly all companies want to be in the top 100 and are making every effort to meet the many criteria that Stonewall sets for this. This creates the right awareness. It's no longer a question of having "no problem" with LGBT+, but rather of proving that you are positively committed to diversity.
Why do law firms do well to be open and rely on a diverse workforce? Does this perhaps make them more economically successful?
Diversity and diversity are indeed in the self-interest of companies. Mixed teams in terms of gender distribution, origin, sexual orientation and disability create a more collegial atmosphere. Those who can be open with themselves are more efficient. For the rest: Good employees and managers are becoming increasingly scarce - why should successful companies seal themselves off from such a large and creative group as LGBT+?
You yourself are active in the LGBT network "Halo" at Freshfields. What role do such networks play? What do you do?
"Halo" means "halo" and refers to our company logo - the archangel Gabriel from the Freshfields family crest. "Halo" is the LGBT network at Freshfields with around 100 members. We meet regularly to plan joint activities, support the company in its diversity ventures, assist recruitment for Freshfields - and simply as a social platform where we feel comfortable. In addition, we have an even larger network of supporters - Friends of LGBT+ - whom we at Freshfields call "Halo Champions". These are over 130 lawyers and business services worldwide who support us in our activities and ensure that openness and diversity is lived by the entire firm.
Is the issue of diversity only an issue in large law firms (with a US background)? What is the situation like in small and medium-sized law firms?
A proper diversity program requires a certain size. Of course, diversity is also lived in small firms - but the systematic promotion of this topic is currently taking place almost exclusively in international and larger firms, which also benefit from being influenced by the US and UK, where LGBT+ networks have long been a matter of course.
Have you yourself ever - both as a law student and today as a partner - had experiences with discrimination?
In my own environment I have had almost exclusively very positive experiences. There has never been discrimination in the sense of deliberate discrimination. The more open and self-confident you live, the easier it is for your environment to deal with it positively.
What would be a tip from you to a young gay law graduate who is about to start his first job: OUT - yes or no? If yes: How and when would be best?
I would be as relaxed as possible. There's no reason to talk about it when you're hired or on your first day, unless it's a coincidence that it's necessary. But my advice would be to look for a good opportunity early on to touch on the subject and give the immediate environment a little insight into your own private life. Just mention what you experienced with your partner on the weekend or that you live together. Then things will be clear - and that will serve everyone.
Do you sometimes wish that you would no longer have to worry about such things and that you would not have to do an interview about them? Because what does sexual orientation have to do with the ability to be a good lawyer?
I couldn't agree more!"
Thank you very much, Dr. Hohenstatt.
In the USA, it has long been recognized how important networking among LGBTI lawyers is for professional success and the enforcement of LGBTI rights: in August, the Lavender Law Conference & Career Fair took place in the USA - the largest event for LGBTI lawyers, with over 400 visitors and 167 law firms and other legal organizations. This is where people learn from each other, exchange ideas and "genetically network".
Since 2015, such a platform has also been available in Germany: With 10 companies and 50 visitors, ALICE 2015 started off as a small career fair. Now the concept has been intensively worked on to make the event more attractive and interactive. The programme: Under the motto "Finding Unicorns - Connecting LGBTI Lawyers", the ALICE Juristensummit 2016 offers a varied programme and even more space for networking, further education, political discussions and joint activities.
ALICE - Finding Unicorns.
Thank you very much.