MoFo is proud of our LGBTQ+ lawyers and the contributions that they make to the firm and our communities every month of the year, but Pride Month is an especially exciting time for the firm as we come together to celebrate LGBTQ+ history, culture, and politics. During this month-long Q&A series, we'll hear from a number of MoFo lawyers about what Pride Month means to them.
San Francisco partner Michael Steel is recognized as one of California's top environmental lawyers. His practice focuses on regulatory compliance issues, crisis management, dispute resolution, and litigation spanning a wide range of environmental disciplines. He recently spoke to us about his experience as a diverse lawyer and what Pride Month means to him.
If you could have dinner with any pioneer of LGBTQ+ rights, who would it be and why?
I would love to have dinner with Oscar Wilde, because he was brilliant and successful, despite being put on trial for his sexual orientation and being ultimately destroyed by 19th century attitudes towards homosexuality. Even in the climate of his time, he did not seem to recognize the danger of living as a gay man. I'd be fascinated to hear what he would think of our world today—how far we've come, and how far we have to go.
How, if at all, has being LGBTQ+ made you a better/different kind of lawyer?
I think that being a minority—and at times discriminated against—has taught me compassion for those who struggle for equality, and perhaps more compassion in general. Now, you might ask: how does compassion make you a better lawyer? My answer is that often our opponents and clients are driven not just by logic, but by some imperative they find within themselves—insecurity, aggression, envy, etc. Being able to recognize these drivers helps when dealing with people from different backgrounds.
How have you seen the legal industry shift in recent years with respect to LGBTQ+ inclusion?
While LGBTQ+ bias continues to be widely accepted in general society, in sophisticated businesses (including Big Law), such bias is now politically incorrect and socially unacceptable. In many cases, however, this simply means that the bias has gone underground. I am proud that MoFo has always been well ahead of its time in its openness and acceptance of people of all kinds.