For LGBT History Month, Michael Briggs talks about his story, from his early career to now, as partner and the Chair of our PROUD Network.
I am PROUD to say that I work for Shoosmiths
I genuinely have the pleasure of coming to work in an inclusive and rewarding environment, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender or otherwise and in which we are all respectful and mindful of each other and our wellbeing.
This was clear to me even before I joined Shoosmiths back in 2013. Throughout the recruitment process I knew that I would be both welcomed and comfortable being who I truly was, and still am; a hard-working gay man wanting to work his way up the legal ladder to the dizzy heights of partnership / senior management level – but doing so as me and being able to do that with love and support outside of the law as well.
At the heart of Shoosmiths is our brand: People; Relationships; Results. This shone out to me back then and still does today, as do our values.
Whilst I appreciate times have moved on a fair bit since I started my training contract – way back in 2004! – I certainly did not have the confidence, or opportunity, to be an openly gay man within the firm that I trained with, and neither did I in the year before when I paralegalled for another.
Perhaps I was overly cautious, but I felt my sexuality could prevent me from qualifying as a lawyer and retaining a job to properly start my legal career. I didn’t have the supporting environment or people around me as I do now. I therefore wanted those working around me to see me for the good job that I did, not my sexual orientation.
After four years of being ‘out’ to friends and family throughout my university and law school years, I found myself going back into the closet for the full two years of my training contract.
Unfortunately, even in the early 2000s, at a time when employment protections were still developing for the LGBT+ community, I was faced with listening to or otherwise witnessing stereotypical comment or slur about the LGBT+ community, both in and out of the workplace.
People in and out of work were being discriminated or otherwise treated less favourably because of their sexual orientation – and simply because they could be as there were no real legal protections until late 2003. I am very thankful to say that times have certainly moved on for the better and in a relatively short space of time which is even more encouraging.
I would not want anyone to feel that they had to go back into the closet or that they cannot be their true selves at work. Certainly, no one should feel that they need to at Shoosmiths. The firm and its people are open and encouraging and allow everyone to be their true self without fear of any form of discrimination or reprisal.
We value difference
We value difference: difference of thought and perspective; difference in perception and approaches to challenges. This ensures that we have the best people who can be themselves, do their best work, and provide a unique service to our clients. Being from the LGBT+ community is no barrier to success at Shoosmiths; all staff have full support whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Having set up the firm’s PROUD Network three years ago, we provide a clear and recognised way for our people to get to know each other and feel part of a welcoming LGBT+ community. We also ensure that the Network is used as a tool to raise awareness and visibility of any LGBT+ issues that may exist both in and out of the workplace.
Our PROUD Network is open to our entire LGBT+ community, including those that self-identify as LGBT+ and specifically for those who are LGBT+ allies. We also work very closely with out other staff Networks (BALANCE, RESPECT and our Mental Health Champions) to ensure that all EDI matters are approached and dealt with in a consistent manner, appreciating the importance of intersectionality within. Together, we can all continue to educate others in the area of EDI and help us all understand how we can be better supporters and allies for the better protection of all.
Whilst I continue to lead our PROUD Network I will ensure that our entire LGBT+ community (including its allies) at Shoosmiths are fully supported in all of their endeavours. I am very lucky to have the full support of the firm here also, with clear lines of communication to our Chief Executive, Chairman, Partnership Council, the Executive and our Shadow Board.
I also believe in the importance of role models, and nowadays we are never short of them. Having witnessed many a celebrity or sportsman come out in recent years has been amazing to see, and given Tom Daly’s Alternative Christmas Message this year, I genuinely hope that other sports personalities will be inspired and have the courage to come out this year and in years to come. As Tom Daly correctly put it:
“Nearly seven per cent of people in the UK identify as gay or bisexual, and there are around 500 Premier League players. That means, statistically, there are enough players for three football teams running out onto that pitch every week, at least one gay man at every single club in the Premier League, living a lie.”
I had to live a lie whilst establishing my legal career, but nowadays you don’t need to. We live in a much safer and inclusive world, with better educated people – and most definitely at Shoosmiths.