Thomas Moran, Future Trainee Solicitor at Clifford Chance
So, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Hello, I’m Tom. I studied Management and IT at Lancaster University. Whilst I was there, I did an industrial placement and I found that those placements weren’t that inclusive to LGBTQ+ people or those who had a disability. So, from that, I developed a passion for Law and equality. So, when I applied for Target Job’s, LGBTQ+ Undergraduate of the Year award, which was sponsored by Clifford Chance. This was kind of my first experience of law and also, how inclusive it can be. I was lucky enough to win LGBTQ+ Undergraduate of the Year, which then led to going to Hong Kong and seeing their inclusion and initiatives over there and in the UK. I then started my training contract and since then I’ve been doing my GDL in Manchester.
Oh wow, LGBTQ+ Undergraduate of the year, that’s such a great achievement! What was your experience in Hong Kong like?
I was in Hong Kong for a week, which was an amazing experience. Whilst I was there, I attended the Arcus Pride art event, which collaborates with local LGBTQ+ artists and brings them into the firm to exhibit their work and talk about inclusion and the issues they may be facing in their particular geographical area. The award also led to Spark, which is a first-year legal insight scheme. Prior to this, because I had completed a non-law degree, when I applied for this award with Clifford Chance and was successful, it was a steep legal learning curve.
What I’ve been doing more recently are interviews like these, podcasts, and lots of things around the topic of inclusion, which has been really exciting. I’ve been able to speak at a lot of legal diversity events, such as ‘access to law’ which was focused around LGBTQ+ and disability.
So Tom, In your personal experience, what is it like being ‘out’ in a legal profession?
I found that being ‘out’ in Law is more accepted than being out in non-law spaces, which did surprise me. I had this idea that law was very traditional and that it wasn’t very tolerant of ‘different’, but it seems to have been the opposite for me, especially because I entered this profession through an LGBTQ+ award, and the positives of coming in through the award are that I haven’t really had the choice but to be out. So yeah, It’s been quite interesting because the award has taken away that pressure to come out because I’ve almost been voluntarily forced out from the award.
I believe I found it more challenging coming out as autistic than I have coming out as a gay male, which I find quite interesting. I just think there is more understanding about what it is to be gay than there is about what it means to be autistic. I don’t believe it’s true for every element on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, but you know, for being a gay man, I kind of feel like it’s more understood.
Whilst I was out because of the award in the UK and I felt very comfortable with that and being out in the legal space in the UK. I guess I was more nervous whilst doing the international trip to Hong Kong, about being out there, because I wasn’t really sure of the culture and how understanding people in Hong Kong would be to LGBTQ+ issues. But no, it was really good! As when I was in the office, all of the walls of the office were covered in LGBTQ+ stickers and there was artwork that was very queer-friendly. It was really nice. So, I guess, whilst I was nervous, I almost instantly felt at ease.
It sounds like you’ve had such a great experience so early in your career. However, apart from feeling nervous about being LGBTQ+ in Hong Kong, are there any other points where you felt afraid? or advised not to disclose your sexuality on your application form?
I was never advised against it. I’ve always been of a strong belief that I would disclose my LGBTQ+ and my autistic identity, because if I didn’t get a job because of that then it wouldn’t have been an organisation that I would have wanted to have worked in. Whilst that may sound like a privileged statement to make, I feel like it’s one way of protecting yourself in a way. Maybe it has hindered me, but if it has, I don’t feel like I really missed out because I wouldn’t have wanted to work for an organisation like that anyway.
Coming back to what you were saying earlier about the whole idea of intersectionality. Do you think that law firms do enough to support, say that you have autism and because you’re LGBTQ+?
I feel like it’s the same for any organisation. Their infinity network or their employee resource group. I think you can see that some organisations have a more established BME network, whereas other firms will have a more established LGBTQ+ network, but other areas may lack. So, yeah, I think it’s moving in the right direction. However, I think when groups become more established, there will be more opportunities and more of an ability for firms to create more intersectional roles within them.
Do you have any worries about your future professional career in regards to your sexuality?
I don’t think I do about my LGBTQ+ identity, but potentially about being autistic. However, I think there is enough discussion around it to be included. I don’t think it would be that much of a hindrance. I think Neurodiversity has a long way to go. However, I don’t think I will face any discrimination being a gay lawyer. There are plenty of role models I’ve been lucky enough to identify with and connect with.
I think what is so good about the bigger law firms, such as Clifford Chance, is that they are very good at promoting and visibly showing LGBTQ+ role models. I feel like I would be more apprehensive about going to a smaller firm, not because they wouldn’t be the same, just because they maybe don’t publicise it in the same way. So, it is harder to know from an outsider’s perspective, whether the rhetoric of inclusion will match the internal reality.
Have you ever experienced any difficulties in your professional life so far because of your sexuality? And if so, how did you overcome them?
I did, and it was really shocking to me. It wasn’t something I was expecting after going to university and having done industrial placements, where it was always inclusive. However, I did a summer internship with an organisation that was in the law field - I will not mention any names. Whilst there, around the lunch table I found some people making derogatory statements. I was told that “being LGBTQ+ was a disorder” and asked “Don’t you think there are more gay people now because it’s trendy?”. Yeah, I just got a lot of statements that followed in a similar fashion to that. Knowing that you’re the only LGBTQ+ in that particular organisation that was ‘out’ wasn’t a very nice experience. Given that it was a summer internship, I was lucky that it was only temporary. I did mention it to HR, and it wasn’t really handled in the correct way. In the end, I got my training contract and left. So, I guess I didn’t really handle it in the best way, but it didn’t make me want to stay there, let’s put it that way.
Do you think the legal profession is doing enough to ensure support for the diversity and inclusion of LGBTQ+ employees? If not, what more could be done?
Similarly, to what we spoke about previously, about doing more in terms of intersectional crossovers within infinity groups. Overall, I feel like we’re all moving towards the same goal, which is really good, and it comes with a lot of Law firms that are putting LGBTQ+ inclusion at the forefront, I think that’s having a real knock-on effect for chambers and smaller law firms. So yeah, I think we are moving forward, but I think we could do more in terms of intersectional representation.
Finally, we’re compiling the three key pieces of advice that LGBTQ+ professionals like yourself would give to the aspiring LGBTQ+ plus lawyers, what are yours?
1. Well, Firstly, come to Queer Lawyers of Tomorrow. It’s really about finding mentors, whether that’s through Grow, or it’s through pages like yours, or even just messaging someone of LinkedInn.
I believe people feel like when they reach out people won’t be receptive or maybe feel like, because they are a student, a partner will think they are not worth a reply back. But I don’t think that’s the case. I think, if you find someone that you feel you can relate to, and you want to find out more about their field, then reach out. I’m sure that 90% of the time that they will get back to you. I think that’s really important to build a community.
2. Look to find really diversity specific career events, because those may be more relevant to you, and you’ll find out more information that you’ll want to find out, which you may not get from a general careers event.
3. Similarly to mentorship, I would say that networking is really important.