It’s common knowledge that the legal field is not diverse, the stereotype of the white, rich, male lawyer is still painfully accurate, especially in the highest positions of the legal field (partners, judges etc.) While it is improving, this lack of diversity creates a legal field that is inaccessible to many. It is expensive to become a lawyer and the culture of ‘who you know’ prevents many people from wider backgrounds from entering the legal field to begin with. This lack of diversity gives the impression that joining the legal industry is only for a certain ‘type’ of person, it stops people from even trying.
For LGBT+ aspiring lawyers it is even harder to see yourself in the legal field, many lawyers are not openly gay and it’s not like you can tell just by looking! When you don’t have any visible role models, it’s hard to picture yourself in the job. It’s difficult to know if you could make it in that field or if you could be openly yourself in that role.
Over the last few years, however, there has been a growth of ‘legal influencers’, people who share their journeys through university and into qualification and practice. From small Instagram accounts with under 500 followers to big YouTubers with thousands of subscribers, legal influencers are pulling back the curtain on the process of becoming a lawyer and creating a welcoming online space with hundreds of potential role models for people to look up to.
One of the most notable legal influencers is Eve Cornwell, who has been sharing her journey throughout university and qualification since her first university YouTube video in 2017 and who came out on YouTube in February 2021. Personally, I have been a longtime fan of Eve Cornwell and when she came out it helped me see the legal industry as somewhere where I could fit. Legal influencers such as Eve Cornwell are becoming role models and promoting a new version of the legal industry, one that is diverse, accessible and welcoming.
Some of these role models are even taking steps to create opportunities for others, such as Justin Farrance who founded Grow Mentoring in 2020. GROW is a charity that aims to pair aspiring lawyers from diverse backgrounds with mentors to help remove barriers to the legal profession. So far GROW has paired over 2500 students with mentors, with some of these mentees going on to become trainee solicitors at some of the biggest law firms in the country. Farrance has discussed his experiences of accessing the legal industry whilst ‘out’ and shared experiences of being told to hide his sexuality in order to succeed and the need to create a program to help people through the process of becoming a lawyer. Nowadays, many firms also have programs to encourage diverse hiring and support networks. It is encouraging to see a growth of representation and opportunities for queer people in the legal field, however, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to make the legal industry more overtly welcoming.
Written by Emily Wanstall