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In December, when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Lawrence v. Texas, the biggest gay rights case in years, two pro bono appellate partners from Jenner & Block stood alongside Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund’s legal director, Ruth Harlow, on the plaintiffs’ team. That’s not an unusual pairing. Chicago-based Jenner and Lambda, a gay rights advocacy group, have teamed up many times, including for a recent win forcing Illinois to recognize the New York-based Lambda as a charitable organization. Harlow got Jenner’s advice on filing the cert petition in the Texas case. And, by June, Jenner attorneys led by Paul Smith and William Hohengarten in Washington, D.C., were working as cocounsel. “In such an important case, we wanted to go with a firm that we have a high degree of comfort with,” Harlow says. That’s because Jenner is equally comfortable with its own gay and lesbian attorneys. The firm even devotes an issue of its diversity newsletter, “Equal Time,” to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The latest LGBT issue highlights work like the Texas case and profiles 15 openly gay attorneys at Jenner. Two thousand copies were distributed inside Jenner and to press contacts, current and potential clients, and law students. In a socially conservative profession where established attorneys and law students alike still agonize over whether to come out in job interviews and where the gay rights legal niche is seen most often at small firms, Jenner is one large firm that is embracing its lesbian and gay attorneys — and finding that very good for business. It’s not unprecedented — data collected by the National Association of Legal Placement shows that large firms in big cities do tend to be more ready to accept gay and lesbian attorneys — but NALP president Mayhugh “Skip” Horne, the group’s first openly gay president, says Jenner is still “certainly more the exception than the rule.” “Equal Time” owes its existence to Gail Morse, a Chicago tax attorney and member of the Jenner diversity committee. She says that when she joined Jenner from McDermott, Will & Emery in 1997, “I was out, but there’s a difference between being out and being publicly out. I wasn’t waving-the-flag out [until] I got involved in the diversity committee.” Morse urged the committee to reach beyond traditional diversity groups to lesbian and gay attorneys through a firmwide newsletter. The result was a quarterly publication with issues also on gender, race and general diversity topics. Besides promoting Jenner’s LGBT activities internally, “Equal Time” is also a powerful marketing tool. Lawrence Passo of Chicago’s fourth-largest bank, Harris Trust and Savings Bank, a Jenner client that has begun marketing to gay customers, hands out Jenner’s newsletter when the subject of lawyers comes up. Although neither Lambda nor NALP had heard of similar newsletters, other large urban law firms are picking up on the marketability of their LGBT attorneys and policies. It’s not a surprising shift, considering that many major corporations now have diversity policies covering sexual orientation, and benefit plans that extend to domestic partners. Those companies are starting to demand the same of their outside counsel. Requests for proposals often seek general diversity information — and somtimes specifically on firms’ sexual orientation policies and demographics. Washington, D.C.’s Arnold & Porter goes a step beyond responding to individual requests. James Sandman, the firm’s managing partner, points to the firm’s Web site, which touts Arnold & Porter’s Ally for Justice award from GAYLAW, a local advocacy group. Sandman says diversity data, from firm demographics to general policy statements, is invaluable in picking up clients like General Electric Company, Philip Morris Companies Inc. and Fannie Mae, which have expanded internal diversity initiatives to include their outside counsel. Tampa, Fla.’s Holland & Knight isn’t overly demure, either. Through a 20-member gay, lesbian and bisexual working group, the firm strives “to market our sexual orientation to make us unique,” says group member Paul Pompeo, a tax partner in the Chicago office. Miami partner Gregory Baldwin, also in the group, knows of one major Miami client that signed on specifically because of the firm’s LGBT policies, and estimates that diversity policies have won Holland & Knight hundreds of clients in recent years. Baldwin explains, “If you are a diverse firm, [clients] know that you’re pulling from a large pool of talent. It’s not so much social causes or political correctness.” Jenner’s stance isn’t new, but it has evolved with the times. Former Jenner associate Patricia Logue left the firm in 1990 to become a public interest lawyer. She is now the managing attorney in Lambda’s Chicago office. She recalls that Jenner was openly supportive of its gay and lesbian attorneys in the 1980s, but its “affirmative support rather than live-and-let-live” has increased in the past decade. Not that Jenner has moved too aggressively. The lawyers profiled in “Equal Time” choose whether to be included, and the firm tries not to pressure them. When Gail Morse is handing out copies of “Equal Time” at recruiting fairs, she encourages students to be out in interviews. But, she admits, “it’s very easy for me to say that sitting here at Jenner.”

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