Q&A with Dean Clifford-Jones, founder of Pride in Law, a National Director and President (Qld) of the LGBTIQ+ Law Association.

The need to address inclusion of the rainbow community within the legal profession is just one of the motivating factors behind the inaugural Pride in Law Award.

This award, which nominations opened for on 26 August, recognises those in the legal profession who continue to demonstrate commitment to addressing inclusion for the LGBTIQ+ community while working to advocate for change.

Proctor gets to the heart of this award with Dean Clifford-Jones, founder of Pride in Law and one of the award’s judging panel members. _______________________________________________________________________

Q: Before we discuss the award, can you explain the Pride in Law organisation, and the work it undertakes in Queensland’s legal sector?

Pride in Law was formed in July 2017, after years of discussions with my colleagues in the legal profession. After returning to Brisbane from regional Queensland, I connected with several colleagues that were not open about their sexuality in the workplace. While I appreciate and recognise the importance of privacy, a few of my colleagues were not “out” in their law firms because of fear of being pigeonholed as a “gay lawyer”. It might sound bizarre in 2020, however in 2016, there was concern about a double-glazed glass ceiling mentality. Despite the advancements in the field of gender-diversity, many in the LGBTIQ+ community feared their promotional prospects were limited if they were open about their sexuality.. Even today, nearly half (46 per cent) of LGBTIQ+ professionals are still not ‘out’ at work, according to 2019/20 research from Intertech Australia.

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Over the past few years, as an LGBTIQ+ Law Association, Pride in Law has undertaken significant work engaging with the legal profession. This transpired through multiple avenues, including through our sponsors, strong social media engagement, and networking events. In Queensland, prior to COVID-19, Pride in Law held monthly socials and quarterly larger educational events. These networking opportunities provided the LGBTIQ+ communities to connect with their peers and allies. Further, these events allowed both big and small law firms to get involved, show their support and be a part of the conversation on LGBTIQ+ inclusion.

A key event each year would be Pride in Law’s annual address at the Banco Court of Queensland. Over the past few years we’ve been fortunate to hear from former District Court Judge Milton Griffin QC, former High Court Judge Michael Kirby AC CMG, and more recently from Supreme Court Justice Anthe Philippides.

But its also been the smaller events that have seen a large impact, for example our workshops of LGBTIQ+ discrimination in the workplace, a comedy debate asking the question, ‘Where are all the women at?’, LGBTIQ+ Domestic and Family Violence events, and our annual panel discussions of transgender inclusion in the legal profession. All of these larger networking and educational events have seen Queensland taking a lead role in moving the dial towards LGBTIQ+ acceptance in the legal profession.

Q: Why did Pride in Law choose to acknowledge the importance of LGBTIQ+ inclusivity in legal workplaces via an award, why not other initiatives?

Our LGBTIQ+ Law Association has three key objectives. By way of summary these pillars are:

  1. Visible Legal Education – to organise scholarly forums to engage lawyers and their allies in current LGBTIQ+ legal debates through visible events.
  2. Professional Networking – coordinating lawyer-to-lawyer networking meetings.
  3. Advocacy in the Law – to collaborate with a wide range of legal professionals across multiple disciplines to confront pressing issues involving the LGBTIQ+ communities and their allies.

The Pride in Law Award ticks all those boxes. First, the marketing campaign, supported by the Queensland Law Society, is creating visibility for LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the workplace. Second, the award creates an opportunity for internal discussions. These discussions will not only create great networking opportunities for our LGBTIQ+ communities and their allies, but also generate life-long connections between the individuals and/ or the individuals and their organisations. Further, the networking not only occurs during the nomination stage, but also between the judging panel. This award is supported by a fantastic panel of judges from across the legal profession. Finally, the award ticks the box of advocacy in the law because in our view, the Pride in Law Award pays tribute to the many great advocates in Queensland and encourages the future leaders to get involved.    

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Q: What are the barriers LGBTIQ+ currently face in the legal profession?

In my view, we are quite fortunate in Queensland to have a progressive and inclusive legal profession. However, there is room for improvement, particularly around tackling mental health concerns.

LGBTIQ+ people are twice as likely to be diagnosed and treated for mental health. Further according to 2020 research from the National LGBTI Health Alliance, people in the rainbow community are five times more likely to attempt suicide in their lifetime. These statistics are amplified when considering our transgender friends who are eleven times more likely to take their own life. This data correlates with survey results from 18,000 people across 14 countries in the Kantar Inclusion Index released on 17 September 2019. The index found more than half of LGBTIQ+ people suffer from “consistent high stress, anxiety and mental health problems” at work. 

When we rely on these statistics and put them against the fact that 60 per cent of lawyers had experienced depression in the survey of wellness by Mertias Australia and New Zealand, we can appreciate more assistance is needed in the legal profession.

The reality is that while we have achieved marriage equality in Australia, not all rights are equal. Our transgender and gender-diverse friends must still undergo several surgeries for legal documents to match their actual identity. Further, LGBTIQ+ communities can still be discriminated against on faith grounds when applying for certain jobs in Queensland. These discriminatory elements could be amplified if the federal government’s Religious Discrimination Bill is passed in the Australian Parliament, however the discussion of this Bill should be another interview down the track. What I would say now would be to read Pride in Law’s submissions to the federal Attorney-General and above all, educate yourself on these important issues facing all Australians.

Q: Why is the Pride in Law Award so significant, and what do you think it means for the LGBTQI+ community in the legal profession?

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I hope the significance of this award will be to uncover the many great allies the LGBTIQ+ communities have in the legal profession. Further, I believe this award will highlight some of the positive actions occurring in the Queensland legal community. Data from a 1,000-participant study in Australia, revealed more than 80 per cent of Australian LGBTIQ+ people said they feel worse now than when marriage equality was won in 2017. Further, the report suggests 73 per cent of Australians consider themselves “silent supporters” with only 2 per cent of allies or friends identifying themselves as activists.

We need more positivity and leadership in this space. We need advocates, both people who wish to identify as LGBTIQ+ and their allies, to stand together on gender equality issues, growing indigenous disadvantage and other intersectionality concerns. As a legal profession, we are stronger together; uniting with purpose and respect.

I note a study in 2019 by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reported 97 per cent of employees saying their company had at least one diversity and inclusion policy, but only 11 per cent of women and 14 per cent of ethnically diverse backgrounds felt they had benefited. In July 2019, the Diversity Council of Australia noted 75 per cent of diversity and inclusion change management is never, rarely or only sometimes implemented effectively. This all goes to the heart of the saying, “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” This award is about recognising that change and paying tribute to those individuals that have implemented policies that have transformed the Queensland legal profession.

Q: Who is eligible to nominate and be nominated for the award?

This award is open to all members of the Queensland Law Society and/or members of Pride in Law and/or members of the Bar Association of Queensland. The nominee must:

  • be an individual (organisations can nominate an individual)
  • be a member of QLS (full or associate membership), and/or be a member of Pride in Law, and/or be a member of the Bar Association of Queensland, and/or be a current or former Judicial Officer
  • be Queensland-based.

You do not need to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/ trans, intersex, queer or questioning (LGBTIQ+) and/ or as a member of the rainbow community. Anyone in the Queensland legal profession is encouraged to be nominated, which includes our rainbow allies. Above all, the individual must have demonstrated a commitment to addressing LGBTIQ+ inclusion and advocated for change within workplaces, through academia, legal and/or social systems. All award criteria, eligibility requirements and selection processes are accessible online. 

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Q: Can you explain a bit about the judging process?

The inaugural Pride in Law Award judging process will begin after nominations close on Friday, 2 October 2020. The recipient of the award will be advised by early November 2020, while the wider community will be informed at Pride in Law’s annual address[LC1]  on Friday, 13 November 2020 (COVID-19 precautions permitting). If the 2020 annual address is not possible, arrangements will be made for the award recipient. 

Please note that only the award recipient will be announced. While we know there are many great advocates in the legal profession, it is our intention that only the award recipient will be announced.

The award has five pieces of selection criteria all weighted evenly. The selection criteria include: 

  1. Leadership (marked out of 10) – Nominee must demonstrate outstanding leadership addressing LGBTIQ+ inclusion in Queensland.
  • Creating Change (marked out of 10) – Nominee must demonstrate outstanding contribution in service delivery and/or innovation addressing LGBTIQ+ inclusion in Queensland.
  • Advocacy (marked out of 10) – Nominee must demonstrate how they have advocated on LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the legal and/or broader community in Queensland.
  • Inclusion (marked out of 10) – Nominee can articulate the intended impact of LGBTIQ+ inclusive work in the community.
  • Awareness (marked out of 10) – Nominee has demonstrated a long-term and proactive commitment to LGBTIQ+ initiatives.

The Pride in Law Executive Committee has chosen to be ineligible for any nomination. While members of Pride in Law are encouraged to be nominated, it was important to the Pride in Law Executive Committee that an individual be the recipient outside of the team. We believe visibility is key to greater diversity and inclusion. The Pride in Law Award should build on those objectives to showcase more of our legal profession.    

Q: What advice do you have for nominators and candidates preparing to lodge a nomination?

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Although most Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ+) Australians live healthy and happy lives, research has shown that a disproportionate number experience poorer health outcomes and have higher challenges to overcome than their peers. These health outcomes are directly related to experiences of stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse on the basis of being LGBTIQ+.

In the nomination, I hope the nominator looks at how they have challenged those statistics, shown leadership, advocated for change not only over the last three years, but over the last couple of decades. I’d encourage those to illustrate how they have shown pride. We can all appreciate that pride is not about who you are. It is about what you represent. Equality, respect and acceptance of others (including yourself). I hope the candidates represent all the colours in the rainbow community because every colour tells a story.  

All nominations for the Pride in Law Award can be lodged via the Queensland Law Society awards platform. Nominations close at 5pm on Friday, 2 October.

The winner of the Pride in Law Award will be announced at Pride in Law’s Annual Address on 13 November at Banco Court Queensland.

Queensland Law Society is proud to support the 2020 Pride in Law Award.


 [LC1]Will this be November also?

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