I came out to a bunch of friends and people in my support network first, before telling my parents and brother. I am really close to my parents and brother, and I was worried about how they would respond, especially if it went badly. I purposely told my parents the day before I left for a two-week trip to Los Angeles in case things went sideways. They didn’t threaten to disown me, but they did have a hard time with it. They were disappointed. They cried. They argued with me - for years they thought it was “a phase.” They were fine for a while (we had a peaceful relationship), and then I had the gall to get a serious girlfriend (now my wife), and they freaked out all over again. (I guess it became real to them then.)
Coming out is an iterative process. It’s not something you do once and it’s done. For my parents, it was really a 5-10–year process of acceptance. At first, they didn’t want me to tell my grandparents or any of their friends, and now, 20 year later, my mom regularly donates money to pro-LGBTQ causes and emails me articles about LGBTQ issues, and both of my parents have a very close relationship with my wife. I feel very lucky and grateful that things are really good now with my family. But, every time I talk to a new client or candidate, it is still a debate about whether to come out to them and when. Every time I casually mention my wife to new client or candidate, in the context of sharing what I did over the weekend, for example, I have gotten a positive or neutral response, but it’s still one of those things I think about, even though every time I do it, it gets easier.
I will also say that during a portion of my legal career, I was out in my personal life and in the closet professionally, primarily because one of the partners at my firm was virulently homophobic. When I left that position, I vowed that I would never be in the closet at work again. Knowing that Bob Major helped start MLA and that MLA is an inclusive environment helped me to decide to come to here, and I’m glad I did.
When did you become interested in the law?
I’m an advocate at heart, and I went to law school because I wanted to be a civil rights attorney. Then, I learned the vast majority of them worked in N.Y. or D.C., and I didn’t want to live in either of those expensive cities given that I had significant student loans. So I decided to switch course and became a divorce attorney.
What inspired you to begin a career in legal recruiting?
I was a divorce attorney for 4.5 years, and I became burnt out from that experience. I thought that legal recruiting would allow me to do the things I liked about being a divorce attorney—holding someone’s hand through a complex process, advocating for them, coming up with creative solutions—while also doing something that would positively impact a person’s life, versus something that would negatively impact their life, like helping them get a divorce.
Who has had the biggest impact/influence on your career?
My wife, dog, niece and soon-to-be arriving nephew are why I get up in the morning, but I would say that Darren Hardy, the motivational speaker, has been a huge influence on how I think about my career. I read everything he publishes.
What advice do you have for your candidates when interviewing to determine if an organization is open-minded and welcoming?
First, start with the Internet. Do your due diligence. In addition to consulting the firm’s website and determining whether it purports to be supportive of LGBTQ attorneys, you can also consult the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, determine whether or not the firm has participated in amicus brief related to LGBTQ issues, find out whether they attend Lavender Law each year and determine whether they have an LGBTQ ERG. These are all things that you can do to decide if the firm is LGBTQ-friendly. Also, there’s no substitute for speaking to out LGBTQ attorneys about their experiences at the firm, whether that’s during the formal interview process or informally over a cup of coffee. Lastly, if you a comfortable doing so during the interview process, ask them about their policies and practices. How straight colleagues respond to questions about LGBTQ issues is very telling.
How do you navigate the topic of sexual orientation in the workplace?
I do it the way my “straight” colleagues would. I talk about my wife, what we did on the weekend, how we are going to celebrate her birthday and where we are going to spend our vacation. I am at the point in my life where I have fully accepted myself, and I don’t feel the need to have a separate conversation. And, I frankly feel that if it makes someone uncomfortable, it’s their problem, not mine. The same is true for candidates and clients. We are lucky as recruiters, in that we can pick and choose who are clients and candidates are. Despite the fact that it does give me some anxiety, each and every time I come out to a client or candidate, I also believe that I have very worthwhile advice and services to provide, and if they choose not to work with me, that’s their loss.