Diversity & Inclusion
At LYLG, we are committed to supporting and promoting diversity, equality and inclusion as well as raising awareness of issues and initiatives. So to mark LGBT+ History Month this February, our Diversity & Inclusion Representative, Elizabeth Russell spoke to LGBT+ Lawyers Division Committee member, Scott Halliday, to discuss the importance of the event, ongoing challenges faced by LGBT+ members and what firms and individuals can do to help progress diversity and equality. Here’s what Scott had to say…
Scott is an Associate Solicitor at Irwin Mitchell specialising in Family law. He was awarded “Young Solicitor of the Year” at the national Family Law Awards in 2020 and named as a “Rising Star” in the 2021 Legal 500, receiving recognition for his niche expertise in LGBT family law issues. Scott has written extensively in legal journals and the national press on LGBT+ family law issues and human rights law and is a Committee member of The Law Society’s LGBT+ Lawyers Division.
Scott, it’s great to virtually meet you! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your journey into law?
Of course, I am an Associate Family Law Solicitor at Irwin Mitchell LLP, based in London and Leeds. I have worked at IM for nearly 6 years now. I initially grew up in the North East, but moved to York and studied my LLB at the University of York. I graduated with First Class Honours in Law. In addition to my LLB, I spent a few months studying International Politics and Philosophy at Seoul National University Summer Institute. That was in 2012. I remained in York and obtained an LLM in International Human Rights Law before moving to Leeds to undertake the LPC. During that time I lectured ad hoc as well as working for an LGBT focused immigration boutique NGO. Since then I have worked at IM and focused solely on Family Law for 5 years now.
You’re a committee member of The Law Society’s LGBT+ Lawyers Division which is great! What are the committee’s aims? How did you get involved?
I am thrilled and honoured to be a committee member of The Law Society’s LGBT+ Lawyers Division. I was appointed to the committee in early 2019 after an application process. The committee aims to share knowledge and support LGBT lawyers and wider diversity issues in the profession. The committee holds events, liaises with external bodies and tries to ensure LGBT+ issues and perspectives are forwarded and not ignored. The committee is filled with superb talent, it is such a privilege, they are all so talented and committed, please look online on LinkedIn and our website, we are so keen to have new members and people to engage with our efforts. Post Covid lockdown, I am sure there will be many events and would encourage everyone to attend, LGBT+ lawyers, students and allies alike.
And we hear you also founded Leeds LGBT. Tell us about that…
I founded Leeds LGBT several years ago because I was living predominantly in Leeds at that point, mindful that Leeds is in my mind a diverse and exciting legal centre and it needed a space for LGBT+ professionals. There were other groups, but nothing seemed consistent in the diary, despite efforts by many, so I wanted to add to the space. I worked closely with colleagues at IM, especially Roopen Kalirai and Candice Bull, both solicitors at the firm, to make this happen. The group has gone quiet due to Covid, it needs resurrecting as it has been a tricky time to do much given Covid, but it is a group for LGBT+ professionals, not just lawyers, to explore ideas, mix and develop contacts. Our last event had around 50 attendees.
February is LGBT+ History Month – for those that don’t already know, what’s it about?
LGBT+ History Month for me is about celebration and importantly reflection. It is a period to celebrate progress made and for people to mix and connect, which is invaluable. But, for me, more so, it is about reflection and education, the LGBT+ community is richly diverse, often historically underrepresented, it is about visible representation and reflection on the past.
In your view, how do you think the legal profession has changed and what ongoing challenges do you perceive are faced by LGBT+ members?
The profession is, for me, in a period of flux, there is better representation, but there are areas to be improved. The big issue I personally see now is support and solidarity with Trans and non-binary people in the profession and more widely in society. These people need our support and the profession must reach out and provide an inclusive space for a variety of talent to exist. Allies are more important than ever, Trans and non-binary issues and rights are human rights, realistically many demonising and naïve views held today by some need to be robustly and categorically rebuked. That is the biggest issue for me, clear damaging discrimination and a lack of opportunity.
What actions can firms take to promote an inclusive and diverse environment?
Great question, I will say this, recruit, promote and retain the best talent, reach out, provide safe inclusive spaces and outwardly support the community. People want to work now more than ever for firms and chambers that will publicly state their views.
What advice would you give to someone who feels they cannot be themselves at work?
It depends where you are at with your career and you experiences to date as well as where you want to be in the future in your career. It is a tricky question, my advice would be… (much easier to say than do I might add) be a great lawyer, fight for your clients, develop your skills, be the best lawyer you can be. If you find work limiting and a space where you cannot do that, you must look to where that is available, get to that space/place quickly. Also, never forget if/when you do get the chance to be yourself, be open minded, liberal and supportive of others who may for different reasons have a similar sense.
As an individual, what can I do to progress diversity and equality? I’ve heard the term “allyship” a lot. What does it mean and how can people support LGBT+ individuals more?
There is a lot I could say, but being an ally is to be actively engaged in the issues and to be open minded and supportive of the LGBT+ community, even if you yourself do not define in such a way. Be supportive of firm/chamber initiatives, attend events, share ideas and be there, don’t not get involved because issues are not impacting you personally, be the best version of yourself and embrace diversity and inclusion issues.
How can I become a member of The Law Society’s LGBT+ Lawyers Division and what upcoming events do you have planned?
We want people to engage with us, we are all so keen on that, follow our LinkedIn page, look at our website, reach out to members and get involved. Post Covid there are sure to be several events. We are also undertaking a survey of members (which closes on 28 February) so complete the survey so we can use the data to plan and move things forward. We also have a great sub-team who deal with podcasts and interactive media, share those podcasts and of course listen to them. The Committee are there to support and generate better diversity and conversations, so get involved, share your ideas. We are welcoming and keen to hear from you!