To provide the best possible service to our clients, Kirkland strives to hire, train and retain the most talented attorneys. Part of this commitment includes fostering an environment in which all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) attorneys have the greatest opportunities to thrive.
In 2007, Kirkland formed a LGBT Subcommittee of the Firmwide Diversity Committee specifically to address the needs and concerns of LGBT attorneys and staff. Corporate partner Tana Ryan and intellectual property partner Edward Sadtler are the chairs of the LGBT Subcommittee.
Kirkland has received many accolades for its diversity efforts.
In 2015, for the eighth year in a row, Kirkland received a score of 100 percent on the HRC Corporate Equality Index (CEI) survey, earning recognition as one of the "Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality."
In 2014, The American Lawyer named Kirkland to the A-List, a ranking of the country's 20 elite law firms via a measure of their success in four core areas: financial performance, pro bono, diversity, and associate satisfaction.
In 2015, for the sixth year in a row, Equality Illinois recognized Kirkland as one of the top Illinois law firms for LGBT equality.
In 2009, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for LGBT Americans, honored Kirkland with its first-ever "Award for Workplace Equality Innovation" for the Firm's ALLSA initiative.
Kirkland's LGBT affinity group meets regularly, at the local and Firmwide levels, for social events, workshops, panels and other events aimed at the interests of LGBT attorneys. LGBT attorneys gather each year for a Firmwide dinner, affinity group workshop and client networking event in connection with the National LGBT Bar Association's Lavender Law Conference & Career Fair. The LGBT Subcommittee of the Firmwide Diversity Committee meets regularly to develop and assess policies and initiatives to meet the needs of the Firm's LGBT attorneys.
Demonstrating Kirkland's leadership in the LGBT legal community, the National LGBT Bar Association has named eight Firm attorneys to its Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 list since 2010, including litigation partner David Flugman in 2015. Numerous Kirkland attorneys also sit on boards and other leadership councils of leading LGBT advocacy groups, including Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
As part of Kirkland's award-winning ALLSA initiative, Firm attorney liaisons work with more than a dozen LGBT student groups at law schools around the country. The ALLSA initiative has a dedicated budget and offers support for each group ranging from networking events to more substantive study skills, resume review, interview training, moot court and career development programs.
Kirkland sponsors law student teams from University of California, Berkeley School of Law, UCLA School of Law, University of Chicago Law School, Columbia Law School, New York University School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, The George Washington University Law School, Harvard Law School and the University of Southern California Gould School of Law to participate in the annual moot court competition sponsored by The Williams Institute, the only such competition focused exclusively on sexual orientation and gender identity law. Through this program, the Firm provides students mentorship by inviting them to Kirkland's offices for a moot with attorneys at the Firm in advance of the tournament. Kirkland also provides students a stipend for travel to and from the tournament in Los Angeles.
Support for LGBT-Related Organizations
The Firm supports organizations concerned with workplace equality and the rights of LGBT persons, including:
- AIDS Legal Council of Chicago
- American Civil Liberties Union — LGBT and AIDS Project
- Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom
- Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
- Equal Justice Works
- Equality Illinois
- Immigration Equality
- Lambda Legal
- National Center for Lesbian Rights
- National LGBT Bar Association (Lavender Law)
- New York City Bar Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights
- New York Civil Liberties Union
- Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund
- Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
- The Williams Institute
Comprehensive medical, dental, vision, and other benefits for domestic partners and their children.
Medical plans that encompass procedures specific to transgender employees, meeting standards issued by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).
Representative Pro Bono Matters
In honoring Kirkland as a Pro Bono Firm of 2013, Law360 highlighted the Firm's LGBT-related pro bono work as being "on the forefront of the ongoing fight for recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights."
Kirkland achieved two important victories for marriage equality in 2014. In an Illinois case, same-sex couples wished to marry under the marriage-equality law Gov. Pat Quinn signed in November 2013, but procedural rules delayed such marriages until June 2014. Kirkland and Lambda Legal filed suit on behalf of a class of couples who wished to marry and a temporary restraining order (TRO) on behalf of a subclass of couples facing terminal illness. The district court granted the TRO, permitting the subclass to marry immediately, followed by summary judgment for the broader class on February 21, permitting all same-sex couples to marry immediately. In an Indiana case, Kirkland and Lambda Legal represented same-sex couples who argued that the state’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. A district court granted summary judgment, and on September 4, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision. Couples began marrying in October after the Supreme Court denied Indiana’s petition for writ of certiorari.
Kirkland, in partnership with the ACLU LGBT Project and the ACLU of Michigan, represents five same-sex couples in a federal lawsuit to strike down a Michigan state law that bans many public entities from providing health care insurance to the domestic partners of their employees. In June 2013, the district court granted the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction barring the state of Michigan from enforcing the law, finding that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on their claim under the Equal Protection Clause.
Kirkland and the National Center on Lesbian Rights recently won a victory on behalf of Garden State Equality when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld New Jersey’s recently enacted ban on state-licensed therapists engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with minors under 18, ruling that the law was constitutional as it neither infringed therapists’ free speech rights nor burdened their freedom of religion.
Kirkland represented prominent demographic scholar Gary Gates of The Williams Institute in preparing two amicus briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. The briefs were filed in support of plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act in the Perry and Windsor cases.
Kirkland received a Safe Haven Award from Immigration Equality for its Firmwide LGBT Asylum Project in 2014, 2012 and 2010. Kirkland has served Immigration Equality’s asylum clients for nearly a decade.
The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) presented Kirkland with its 2012 Advocacy Award for the Firm's pro bono work on TLDEF's Name Change Project, which ensures that transgender individuals can successfully navigate the legal process involved in changing their names in order to move forward with their lives.