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Opening the closet door to shape the future

They met at a Pride in Law monthly members meeting in 2018 and since then, Michael Bidwell and Dean Clifford-Jones have worked tirelessly, leaving their rainbow mark and creating a safe space for the LGBTIQ+ members of the Qld legal profession.

After two very different ‘coming out’ experiences within the legal profession, Michael and Dean are firmly united as friends, colleagues, and industry game-changers. They share two simple aspirations for the legal profession – inclusion and acceptance.

Beginning his legal career as a judge’s associate in 2009, Dean still remembers openly discussing his same-sex relationship with his superiors and never feeling uncomfortable or judged. Unfortunately, his experience is not one that others have shared. 

As a budding young vacation clerk Michael recalls casually mentioning his same-sex relationship to a senior partner at his firm at the time, only to be told “You know your sexuality is only going to hold you back in your career?”

Director and President (Qld) of Pride in Law, Dean says he formed the association in July 2017, to create a much needed safe space for members of the legal profession who identified with the LGBTIQ+ community. Pride in Law is Australia’s first and only LGBTIQ+ Law association, supporting members throughout their personal and professional legal journey.

“If people want to tell their work colleagues that they’re going out to dinner on the weekend with their partner – who happens to be of the same sex – then they should feel confident to do so,” he says.

Statistics show that 49% of LGBTIQ+ millennials within the legal profession aren’t ‘out’, because they are too scared to reveal their true selves in the fear they will carry a stigma that could negatively impact their legal career.

Director and Vice President (Qld) of Pride in Law, Michael says it’s not uncommon for some young lawyers to ‘come out’ about their sexuality in university, but ‘go back in’ when they enter the legal profession only to come out again when they’re at a more senior level.

“We constantly see this innate fear – particularly in junior members of the profession – to be themselves at work and that needs to change; and that change needs to be driven by the leadership at the top,” he says.

Last week, QLS announced the launch of the ‘Future Leaders Committee’ (FLC) a new initiative, set to empower the next generation of the legal profession.

On September 14 nominations open for the FLC election for QLS members who are either 35 years of age or younger or have 0-5 post admission experience (PAE)

FLC not only raises the voice of the emerging generations of the legal profession, it provides an appropriate platform to advocate change, with the full support of the existing QLS Council.

Michael is strongly encouraging members of the rainbow community to be brave and nominate for the election and get involved with FLC.

“This committee is so important for our community because we’re finally getting our foot in the door at that junior level.

“FLC is the ideal platform to inspire others to be brave, be themselves and be the change they want to see.

“We have achieved diversity… but we’re yet to see full inclusion and acceptance and this is our chance to make that happen.”

Help shape the future of the legal profession. Find out more at: www.qls.com.au/FLCelection

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