More than 100 senior executives and legal leaders gathered at global law firm Ropes & Gray’s New York office on May 2 as part of the 2018 Out Leadership U.S. Senior Leader Summit. The event, titled “What’s Next for Advocates of LGBT+ Equality,” was part of a three-day, multi-session summit sponsored by Ropes & Gray.
Partnering with Out Leadership, a strategic advisory firm that connects leaders across the world’s most influential industries to drive LGBT+ equality forward, Ropes & Gray hosted a panel focused on upcoming legislative and policy challenges faced by the LGBT+ community, and the role of businesses in advocating on behalf of LGBT+ equality.
Ropes & Gray chair Brad Malt delivered opening remarks to a standing-room only event hosted in the firm’s New York office on May 2.
Ropes & Gray chair Brad Malt welcomed the standing-room only crowd by saying, “We’re proud to be the sponsor of this year’s Summit—and to stand alongside so many of you whose efforts have helped to accelerate LGBT equality. We’ve seen the impact we can have when we work together and take action on equality issues.”
In recent years, businesses have increasingly been called upon to take action around issues of LGBT+ equality. Participants and panelists discussed how companies can work together and coordinate efforts to respond to these requests and engage effectively around LGBT+ equality issues. In conjunction with the event, Out Leadership launched its new Corporate Engagement Guidelines for LGBT+ Equality.
Ropes & Gray partner Eva Ciko Carman, who is a managing partner of the firm’s New York office, delivered closing remarks at the Out Leadership Summit.
Eva Ciko Carman, a partner in Ropes & Gray’s litigation & enforcement practice who serves as a managing partner of the firm’s New York office, closed the session by reminding the audience, “We’ve seen great progress in the fight for LGBT+ equality, but we also know there will inevitably be a pendulum of progress and setbacks. So we need to remain laser focused on moving the dial steadily forward… together.”
Earlier in the week, Ropes & Gray litigation & enforcement partner Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, who leads the firm’s appellate & Supreme Court practice, spoke at a session hosted by Barclays that focused on how C-Suite leaders can develop the next generation of LGBT+ leaders. “Those of us in leadership positions,” he said, “take seriously our duties as mentors and stewards. We know that handing down a stronger firm to the next generation means investing in that generation—and diversifying who we are and what we can offer. It is vital that people feel comfortable bringing their full selves and talents to work. Only then can they thrive professionally and contribute meaningfully to the success of their organizations.”
Ropes & Gray partner Peter Erichsen, who spoke at the final session of the Summit, reiterated the firm’s commitment to inclusion. “We work hard to foster an environment where every individual feels valued for who they are and what they bring to the table—and where everyone feels they have an equal opportunity to flourish professionally. I can tell you that in my almost 40 years at Ropes & Gray, at no time did I have to lie about who I was or hear a comment that made me ashamed or afraid.” Mr. Erichsen is head of Ropes & Gray’s corporate department, co-head of its colleges & universities practice, and the firm’s hiring partner.
Ropes & Gray first partnered with Out Leadership in 2014, when it signed on as a founding sponsor of Out in Law, the first LGBT+ senior leadership initiative for the legal profession.
Ropes & Gray is consistently recognized as one of the nation’s leading law firms for diversity. In the 2018 Vault Guide, the firm was named the top firm for both overall diversity and diversity with respect to LGBT individuals, marking the second year in a row the firm has been ranked number one in both categories, and the ninth consecutive year the firm has ranked among the top five U.S. law firms for overall diversity.
The firm has a longstanding commitment to ensuring that its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lawyers feel welcome in the workplace. Since 2009, Ropes & Gray has earned the top rating of 100 percent in the Corporate Equality Index, an annual survey administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The firm also has an active diversity committee, which addresses policy issues, and an LGBTQ Forum that provides ongoing support to LGBTQ lawyers and helps identify and coordinate firm-sponsored LGBTQ pro bono matters.
Ropes & Gray’s pro bono work includes fighting for the rights of gay asylum seekers; helping secure health care and other rights for gay and transgender people; and forming effective pro bono partnerships with organizations such as Lambda Legal, GLAD and the Human Rights Campaign. In 2015, Mr. Hallward-Driemeier, along with Mary Bonauto of GLAD, successfully argued the pivotal marriage equality case, Obergefell v. Hodges, before the Supreme Court.
At the Out Leadership Summit, Mr. Malt reflected on the meaning of Obergefell v. Hodges. “That Supreme Court decision,” he said, “marked a turning point in America's history as a nation founded on principles of liberty and equality. For all of us at the firm, it was a profound reminder of what we can accomplish when we work together to advance equality for all our people."
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