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Slightly more than 2 percent of the lawyers at 23 of New York City’s largest firms identify themselves as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to a New York County Lawyers’ Association survey. The survey, the first of its kind, also found that the participating firms prohibit discrimination against employees because of their sexual orientation or identity. Those firms also uniformly reported extending family benefits coverage they provide to married couples to same-sex couples registered with the city as domestic partners. Reviewing the responses received to the 15-question survey, the bar group’s report concluded, “It is undeniable that New York’s top law firms have made great strides in ensuring that [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] attorneys are welcome, valued and treated equally.” The report noted that 23 of the largest firms reported having some lawyers who are members of a sexual minority. Overall, the firms reported that 2.3 percent of their lawyers so identified themselves. The report also found that six firms reported having no partners who are openly members of a sexual minority. County Lawyers President Norman L. Reimer said the firms’ efforts to recruit members of sexual minorities and their adoption of policies supportive of them are positive developments. The survey found an “astonishing amount of progress in the big firms in the last 10 or 15 years,” he said, and that “bodes well for tolerance and inclusiveness in society.” The committee surveyed the 25 largest firms in New York City identified by the New York Law Journal in 2002. One firm, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, did not participate. A second firm, Debevoise & Plimpton, did not report on the number of its lawyers identifying themselves as members of a sexual minority. The firm responded that it did not ask its attorneys “to self-identify,” but said that “more than 10 lawyers” have agreed to meet with applicants who ask to speak to a lawyer from the firm who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Of the 23 firms reporting on the number of their lawyers who identified themselves as members of sexual minorities, the largest percentage — 4.9 percent — was reported by Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. The firm reporting the largest percentage of partners was Sullivan & Cromwell, 6.7 percent. Similarly, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy reported having the highest percentage of associates at 4.6 percent. The six firms that reported having no partners who identified themselves as members of a sexual minority were Kaye Scholer; Shearman & Sterling; Davis Polk & Wardwell; Clifford Chance US; Stroock & Stroock & Lavan; and Sidley Austin Brown & Wood. Four of those firms, however, reported having more associates, who belong to a sexual minority than at least half of the participating firms. The four were Davis Polk, Clifford Chance, Stroock and Sidley Austin. STRONG RECRUITMENT EFFORTS The survey revealed that the big firms have made vigorous efforts to recruit members of sexual minorities as lawyers and to make them comfortable at their firms. All of the participating firms reported using lawyers who are openly members of sexual minorities in some aspect of the recruitment process. In addition, 10 firms reported having a peer group at which members of sexual minorities could discuss issues or plan social events. Every firm reported that members of sexual minorities have brought same-sex guests to social functions, with 10 firms reporting same-sex guests have “often” been invited. While all 24 firms ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the report concluded that many do so only implicitly. Most of the firms expressly ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but only Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft has a written policy barring discrimination on the basis of gender identity, according to the report. Many firms implicitly ban gender-identity discrimination either by referring to a provision of the city Human Rights Law that bars such discrimination or by subscribing to the Association of the Bar of the City of New York’s diversity principles, the report concluded. The committee, however, recommended that all firms explicitly ban both forms of discrimination. DIFFERENT TYPES OF SUPPORT The “vast majority” of firms in the survey have provided financial and other forms of support for organizations and causes that advance the rights of sexual minorities, the report noted. Five New York firms have worked on a pro bono basis to set important precedents protecting the rights of sexual minorities. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, White & Case and Debevoise all worked on a 2003 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court held state laws making sodomy a crime unconstitutional ( Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558). Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison handled Levin v. Yeshiva, 96 N.Y.2d 651(2201), in which the Court of Appeals affirmed the right of a lesbian couple to live in university housing that had been designated for married students. Similarly, Weil, Gotshal & Manges won a 1995 ruling from the Court of Appeals that upheld the rights of lesbians to adopt their partners’ children ( In re Jacob, 86 N.Y.2d 651).

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