Archive for September 1st, 2006

An Interesting debate? No.. not particularly.
The Lawyer reports: 29 August “Gay and lesbian solicitors feel that they are unable to come out to colleagues and want more support from the profession, a new study by the Law Society has shown.The society spoke to a small sample of 15 gay men and 10 lesbian solicitors working in private practice and in-house, to identify key issues affecting homosexual lawyers.”

The issue is this – from The Lawyer…

“Interviewees said that City firms tended to be more “macho” than firms outside London, and that client outings to places like Spearmint Rhino held “undertones of homophobia”.

I could not give a toss what people get up to in their private lives. Being a Benthamite Marxist, I take the view that it is a matter of personal choice and a person’s sexuality has absolutely nothing to do with their ability to do the job. I have had more marriages than is good for me – prompting one lover to call me ‘The Lord of the Aisles’, and remark at a dinner, that I had ‘Madvow’ disease. Mind you, I have never worked for anyone, bar a short stint in the heart of Africa, when I was young, so I have never had to worry about my sexuality or the impact which my sexuality may have on a job application.

Intrigued by this story, I started to do some net research to see what the chatterers were saying. My first port of call was The Lawyer – a magazine fixated by who is doing business with whom, who is, allegedly, shafting who, who is moving from A to B etc etc – but which does not actually seem to have any analytical law in it. ( A bit like my blawg, come to think of it). It was not a particularly illuminating article.

Did The Law Society really manage to come up with this on a statistical population of only 25 lawyers? – who, RollonFriday suggest, after talking to the Law Society, did not actually come from City firms. Not impressive.

These 25 lawyers (who it is now established did not work for City firms – probably!) felt… and I quote from the Lawyer “that client outings to places like Spearmint Rhino held “undertones of homophobia”. I cannot, for the life of me, see how a group of pissed up lawyers, taking a group of equally pissed up clients to Spearmint Rhino, can be homophobic. One assumes, of course, that they would have to be inebriated to actually feel comfortable going into such a place. I would imagine the last thing the lawyers and clients were thinking about was homosexuality – in any form – at the time of their visit to Spearmint Rhino. I do not, however, in pure logic, see how this conduct hints at undertones of homophobia. I am not homophobic or homosexual – so maybe I don’t understand.

I then popped off to see how a serious newspaper dealt with the subject. I visited The Financial Times – but as I am not a paying subscriber and have no wish to be, I cannot read their view on this matter – because payment is required to view the full article.

So… I had to go and read what the Guardian said. The Guardian told me.. “(The Law Society’s) 80-page study concluded that firms should set up appropriate monitoring systems to collect data on the sexual orientation and experiences of solicitors.” The mind boggles.

God help us... yet another meaningless study and law firms being put to needless expense. So, finally, I decided to conduct my own survey. On the premise that The Law Society could produce an 80 page report by interviewing 25 gay and lesbian lawyers, I felt it entirely reasonable to limit my survey to five lawyers – but not produce a report of any size. I spoke to a partner in a leading City firm. He is a friend and he is gay. He yawned and said “Charon..we are too busy to care what sexuality our people have. That is, of course, a personal view, and may not be presented as the view of the firm in any correspondence official or otherwise.” He then laughed and said that lap dancing clubs didn’t really do it for him… but there again, because he was not exhausted by late night revelry of this type, he could be at his desk a good two hours ahead of revelling fellow partners – and get the ‘billables’ in.

I then spoke to a rugby playing, lap dancing club visiting, friend of mine at the Bar. He doubted whether anyone would actually care, but did take the view that there may have been a gay in Chambers some time ago. He wasn’t being lofty. The word ‘may’ was used to assert that no-one knew or cared whether he was or was not gay. I spoke to a partner in a small provincial practice. He said “We don’t get many gays up here. This is Yorkshire – but if a solicitor did feel the need to explain to the partners that he or she was gay, it would not matter, or be of any consequence, provided he/she kept their CPD points up to date”

Well there you are… no homophobia whatsover to be found in the legal professionas far as my detailed research reveals. I hope this will re-assure young people, who are gay, that a life in law still awaits them – and that they should not be put off by the Law Society’s latest meandering, and poorly conducted, research paper. 25 people in a survey? I ask you!

I leave you with the words of Law Society President, Fiona Bowden – as reported in The Guardian

“These findings highlight the concerns of gay and lesbian solicitors and should alert firms of the need to review their policies to tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation and ensure a climate of acceptance and inclusiveness.”

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I haven’t got the legs for it…

I haven’t got the legs for it.. but I doubt whether I would wander through the Inns of Court in a male ‘Cityskirt’. Apparently, our american cousins across the water are embracing this new businesswear – I quote from the Cityskirt website: “CitySkirt sells skirts for men. It’s a different way of thinking about what a man wears and how he looks. It’s about style and comfort. It’s about the freedom that a skirt provides to the wearer. Sophisticated or relaxed, casual or formal: It’s CitySkirt.”

I am a Scot who has chosen to live in London for thirty years – without the need to trouble the Concierge at The Caledonian Club in Halkin Street. I was forced to wear a kilt at Prep School and, later, at Glenalmond, a detention centre set in the rolling Perthshire countryside, to which I was consigned for an offence I did not commit by parents who worked in the Far East. Kilts may well have been very useful garments for Highlanders to wear while fighting the English (or each other) – but as a garment of style, modern day practicality – No, sorry… not for me. I went to a wedding some years ago. I wore morning dress and a very tall top hat. It was, as it happens, one of my own weddings. Several other Scots were dressed in kilts with black jackets and bow ties, with knives in their socks. Bow ties with a kilt? They did not look comfortable… they looked like extras from Brigadoon. As far as I am concerned… Tamfoolery. And before any reader who may be a Scot and who may take exception… I am quite happy to raise a toast to the ‘King across the water’.. or failing that, embrace a Republic of Scotland. I am no fan of the concept of monarchy and while I admire the present Queen, I take the view that when she passes to the great Palace in the Sky – we should pension the descendants of Hanover off and leave them to enjoy reasonably normal lives.

I won’t be buying a Cityskirt. I wonder what the Bar Council would make of it if senior male members of the Bar bowled up at The Royal Courts of Justice dressed in a Cityskirt. Would this be a disciplinary matter ? What about their human rights? Would we have a judge saying “I cannot hear you, Mr Charon?” The thought did cross my mind as I wrote this nonsense, that it would be ironic if a male judge of The High Court did refuse to hear a male barrister dressed in a Cityskirt, given that he would be wearing a form of long dress and a curious piece of horse hair on his head at the time. Anyway… there we are. It is the weekend – and it is time for me to meet a long lost friend, ‘Senor Rioja.’ I will be writing more sensibly – shortly. Perhaps I may even shoehorn a bit of law in for analysis and dissection. A disquisition ? … or maybe a peroration? Who knows how the mood will take me later. Have a good weekend

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