Mohsin Zaidi, Barrister at the Kings Bench Walk College Hill
Tell us about yourself and what you do?
I am a criminal barrister at 6KBW College Hill, specialising in white collar crime and public inquiries. I am also a writer, having recently published ‘A Dutiful Boy’ with Penguin Random House. It is a memoir about growing up gay and Muslim in a religious, working class household before going to Oxford University and coming to terms with the various clashes of identity.
In your experience, what it’s like being ‘out’ in the legal profession?
There is no single, uniform experience of being out in the legal profession. My own experience has been positive. I have always sought to be myself and bring each part of me to everything I do. Our background can be a source of great strength. For example, the very first client I defended was in a domestic violence case involving a gay couple. I recognised that my client was uncomfortable disclosing details of his relationship. I found a way of subtly making it clear that I was gay and immediately saw a change in his manner. He was at ease talking about sensitive and intimate subjects which were pertinent to the case against him.
Were you ever advised not to disclose your sexuality or gender identity on an application form? Or were you ever afraid to?
If someone suggested I’d be better off not disclosing my sexuality, I would not proceed with the application. I don’t want to work in a place with that sort of culture.
Were you ever anxious to come out in the workplace? Do you ever feel anxious about coming out to new people in the workplace?
Earlier in my career, I was anxious about coming out but now I treat it the way I think it should be treated, as just another part of who I am.
Have you experienced any difficulties in your career because of your sexuality or gender identity? How did you overcome them?
Generally speaking and in my own experience, the legal profession is an accepting place when it comes to sexuality.
Do you think the legal profession is doing enough to ensure support for the diversity & inclusion of LGBTQ+ employees? If not, what more could be done?
I think mentoring is an important thing for organisations to facilitate for young queer people. When you first start working, it is normal to feel some apprehension about being yourself. With the assistance of a mentor, who has experience of the organisation and can provide a real-life example of being out at work, I would hope that new joiners feel reassured.
What are 3 pieces of advice you’d give to aspiring LGBTQ+ legal professionals?
a) Your professional life should not intimidate you into hiding your personal one. It is, however, important that you integrate the two in your own time and only to the extent you feel comfortable doing so.
b) We spend much of our waking lives at work and things won’t always go to plan. It’s important to find a support network you can lean on when things get tough.
c) Find an area of law you enjoy, regardless of whether it is lucrative. Long term, you will be wealthier for it.