DIVERSITY + INCLUSION
An interview with OUTLaw Student Committee Co-Chairs Bailey Lane + Harrison Moloney
7th April 2021
Left: Bailey (he/him) is a 2nd year Law and Business student in UCC and the current Co- Chair and co- founder of the OUTLaw Network Student Committee. Bailey is also the Auditor of the UCC Law Society for the 2021/22 academic year and is enthusiastic and committed to making the legal profession more LGBTQ+ friendly and inclusive at a student level and with the aim to bring a real and valuable change to both attitudes and policy.
Right: Harrison is a Law and Society student in DCU and the current Co-Chair and co-founder of the OUTLaw Network Student Committee. He has been heavily involved in the DCU FLAC Society and Volunteer Working Group at university and is passionate about improving access to third-level education. Harrison is committed to increasing the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community in the Irish legal sector through collaborative work and engagement with the entire legal sector.
- So can you start by giving us a brief overview of what theOUTLawNetwork is?
The OUTLaw Network is an organisation that aims to promote and drive the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people across the Irish legal community. The main objectives of OUTLaw include sharing network best practices, insights and initiatives specific to the sector and enabling LGBTQ+ colleagues to build their professional networks. Outlaw also provides career and leadership development opportunities and aims to harness the impact and influence of our collective institutions to better Ireland’s LGBTQ+ communities where we live and work. It is composed of a main committee from a variety of legal backgrounds which work with the legal firms and institutions and then a student committee which aims to continue this work at a student level.
- How would you describe the role of the StudentCommittee?
While senior representation is crucial, the Student Committee encourages students and junior colleagues across third-level institutions, PPC and Kings Inn to work with OUTLaw and share their unique perspectives. The role of the Student Committee is to provide knowledge through various social and educational events and to create a safe and supportive space for students to build their professional networks and share insights and initiatives specific to student education. The committee also aims to assist with and promote research and change of policy in education and LGBTQ+ teaching in Ireland. The Student Committee is also responsible for liaising with other LGBTQ+ networks and working with other third-party organisations to promote and support the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland.
- Do you think there are any steps the legal profession could take to be more inclusive?
A great question and the real core of the work OUTLaw are doing at the moment. While the legal profession has progressed in a big way over the last few years there are still many areas that need work. To name a few, many firms, organisations and practices require policy changes and a real and tangible commitment to increasing visibility of inclusivity of the LGBTQ+ in the legal sphere.
There needs to be greater support for and cooperation with those grassroots organisations such as OUTLaw in order to help firms and organisations improve visibility and reform their policy, for example in terms of recruitment applications or other documents the profession need to recognise and respect each individual’s different pronouns and the diverse society we live in at the moment. Cooperation is needed across the industry as a whole. We have seen recent success from the Law Society who invited solicitor firms, in-house and public sector legal teams to sign the Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Charter whereby those groups publicly commit to taking the necessary steps to promote diversity and inclusion in their workplace and in the solicitor profession. This is a really welcome development, but we would love to see more training to support this Charter, an example being the issue of unconscious bias and what steps can be taken in the recruitment process to guard against it.
It is important to ensure that this work and cooperation continues across the whole industry from the bar, solicitor practices, student bodies and educational institutions such as King’s Inn, Blackhall and the various Chartered Accounting Organisations. There also needs to be a lot of work done in the legal profession in terms of improving the rights and inclusivity of those within the transgender community in particular.
- Why do you think it’s important to promote the voices of the LGBTQ+ legal community?
While there have been significant gains in LGBTQ+ representation, many people, especially students, are still concerned that being “out” in the workplace could negatively impact their career progression and work relations. At OUTLaw, we aim to highlight the support we have received from industry leaders and institutions in respect of LGBTQ+ inclusivity, which is not only great for identifying members, but also for everyone working in law. By extending OUTLaw’s reach to students, we hope to amplify the voice of our community to improve visibility and remove any barriers preventing people from receiving the representation they deserve.
“It is important to stop a “one-size-fits-all” approach from being adopted when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation. The best way we can avoid this from happening is by actively collaborating with other communities and organisations to promote and support the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland. We must keep the conversation alive in order to improve accessibility across the legal sector.”
- How do you think allies can support inclusivity in Law?
Allies play a vital role in improving inclusivity in the legal profession for the LGBTQ+ community in terms of offering support and calling for change. It won’t always be appropriate or possible to call out homophobic or transphobic behaviour or language, particularly in the workplace, but if they can, our allies should do so. You won’t change everyone’s mind, but you never know who or how your words might impact.
As an ally, the best thing you can do is support those in the LGBTQ+ community and help make everyone feel welcome, respected and equal. We try to encourage people to educate themselves on the issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community by attending educational talks or events, researching issues and generally being open to learning. One very simple step is to follow one or all of Gay Community News, BeLonGTo or TENI (or other LGBTQ+ interest accounts) on social media.
Put simply, if you respect everyone, regardless of their gender or orientation, you can be a true ally.
- Do you have any advice for current students or legal professionals who might want to get involved with your network?
Our advice to students or those wishing to get involved is to follow us on our social media and sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date with any upcoming events we have and to try to come along to as many events as you can! This will help you get more of an understanding of the work we do here at OUTLaw. We would also encourage people to reach out to us if you have any proposals for events or initiatives that you would like to see from us. We greatly value our members’ input and would love to further collaborate with our network. Finally, if you would like to get involved in the student committeecommittee, we advertise new positions before January of the New Year so do keep an eye out on social media for when these positions are advertised.
- TheOUTLaw Network is clearly a space to watch, do you have any exciting opportunities planned for the future?
We are always looking towards the future! Our next project is a host of educational and social Pride-themed events focused on celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. One long-term goal is to improve our outreach across all educational institutions so keep an eye out for any opportunities to share your unique student experience. The best way to do this is by following our social accounts and signing up for the OUTLaw Network newsletter!
Featured photo is interviewees’ own.