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Most BigLaw Firms Score High for LGBTQ Inclusion -- but Not All

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on December 14, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation's largest gay civil rights organizations, has released its 2017 Corporate Equality Index, ranking major employers on their policies regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer employee rights. Hundreds of companies participated, including 156 major law firms, and this year saw the highest ever amount of businesses earning a perfect score.

The law was the best of the best when it came to industry-wide performance, with the highest number of top scores. Almost every firm scored an 85 out of 100 or above -- except for a few firms who ranked low. Really low. What's up with that?

Scoring Corporate Inclusiveness

The HRC Corporate Equality Index rates companies on their commitment to creating an inclusive workplace and fighting discrimination against LGBTQ employees. For a 100 percent score, or a full 100 points, a company must:

  • Have sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination protections explicitly included in all of its operations, both within the U.S. and global operations.
  • Require U.S. contractors to abide by companies' existing inclusive non-discrimination policy.
  • Implement internal requirements prohibiting U.S. company/ law firm philanthropic giving to nonreligious organizations that have a written policy of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Other requirements include parity in benefits for same-sex spouses and partners, transgender-inclusive benefits, corporate LGBT competency programs, and more.

The Bottom of the List

There were 112 law firms that earned a full 100 points, far outpacing the next highest performing industry, banking and finance, which had just 69 perfect scores. Almost 72 percent of ranked firms scored 100. All but seven had a score of 85 or above.

So, who were the outliers?

Morris, Manning & Martin, Kenyon & Kenyon, and LeClairRyan all came in with an 80 -- not a terrible score, but relatively low compared to their cohort. Morris, Manning & Martin was dinged for its lack of transgender-inclusive health care and firm-wide organizational competency programs, according to HRC's scores. Kenyon & Kenyon too lacked trans-inclusive health care and had no non-discrimination standards for contractors and vendors, while LeClairRyan had approved healthcare, but no qualifying vendor non-discrimination standards or firm-wide competency programs.

Jackson Walker followed up with just a 70, lacking protections against gender identity discrimination and trans-inclusive healthcare.

Holland & Hart and Loeb & Loeb were the third and second lowest ranked firms, respectively, with a score of 55 and 50. Holland had half scores on many criteria and was found by HRC to lack inclusive healthcare and company-wide LGBTQ competency programs. Loeb got no points for vendor non-discrimination standards, inclusive healthcare, competency programs, or positive engagement with the external LGBTQ community.

Last on the list was Howard & Howard Attorneys, out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. This firm, one of the few non-Am Law 200 firms to participate, scored only 20 points. Howard & Howard got partial credit for its non-discrimination policies, spousal benefits, and willingness to have firm-wide diversity groups, but otherwise lacking HRC-scored policies.

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