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Shearman & Sterling's Open Closet

Vivia Chen

November 18, 2010

 

Apparently, some Shearman & Sterling lawyers are now rubbing shoulders with Tim Gunn, Perez Hilton, Ke$ha, Kim Kardashian, and Cindy McCain.

Well, sort of. About a dozen Shearman lawyers recently participated in a video for the It Gets Better Campaign. (The campaign was started by activist pundit Dan Savage to address the recent rash of gay suicides around the country.) Now available on YouTube and the It Gets Better Web site, the Shearman video is part of a library of video testimonials by celebrities in support of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered youth. 

Shearman's participation, as first reported by The National Law Journal, "was spearheaded by Sterling Pride [the firm's gay affinity group] cochairman and associate Alexandro Padrés, who struggled as child growing up in Mexico City because of his sexuality." In the five-minute video, about ten Shearman lawyers (both partners and associates) and staff members share very personal stories of their early struggles with their sexual identity, and how they eventually found acceptance and support.

Lawyers don't usually bare their youthful wounds to their colleagues--much less to total strangers. "It wasn't easy, and it created some uneasiness," says Padrés. "But it's worth it to reach out to people.  . . . I wish I had that message of hope when I was growing up."

Their stories are quite affecting. Still, what makes a bunch of big firm lawyers--gay or straight--think that LGBT youths would listen to them? I mean, wouldn't people like the Olsen twins or Snooki be more effective in delivering the message?

Not at all, says Shearman partner Beau Buffier: "There are a lot celebrities [in the videos], but we felt what was missing were people in the professions. You don't have to be a big Hollywood celebrity to tell kids that it gets better. You can be a regular lawyer and give them that message too." He adds that lawyers can serve as effective role models.

Both Padrés and Buffier say that they felt isolated growing up gay (Buffier, who grew up in Australia, calls his hometown "a very macho community"), and know people close to them who committed suicide in their youth.

As for the risk to their careers by revealing their personal stories, Buffier says he's gotten nothing but positive feedback: "A number of my partners said that the video was moving--that was amazing. And one of my clients who saw it thought it was a great thing. There was no negative feedback."

Are there other "It Gets Better" law firm videos out there? Do you think lawyers are risking their careers by appearing in them?

 

 Related post: Abuse and Success.


Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.

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Fantastic video. Good for Shearman. I have to say, though: are there no out lesbian lawyers who could have participated in the video??

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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