Supporting LGBTQ2S+ Pride With More Than Just Empty Words: Why A Personal Injury Lawyer Should Understand You And Your Community

Gluckstein Lawyers


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For decades, the LGBTQ2S+ community has understood the value of the old saying: "Put your money where your mouth is." If a business supported bigoted policies or personalities, withholding community...
Canada Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
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For decades, the LGBTQ2S+ community has understood the value of the old saying: "Put your money where your mouth is."

If a business supported bigoted policies or personalities, withholding community purchasing power could have a significant effect on their bottom line. Let's be honest, a successful boycott against the Florida Citrus Commission (and their spokesperson Anita Bryant) tasted sweeter than orange juice ever could.

The flip side of the coin, of course, is when a commercial interest fosters a positive relationship with LGBTQ2S+ people to demonstrate that they want our business. At times this has also meant the community taking action to counter boycotts against businesses that proudly employed LGBTQ2S+ people and/or represented us in their promotional activities and services.

Seeing that early business allies not only survived but also profited from community support, other mainstream businesses realised they too wanted some of the rainbow's gold. But if a business markets to a community without understanding its members' individual and collective wants and needs, it creates an unbalanced and potentially harmful relationship.

When in private practice, individual lawyers offer their legal services through an independent business model. If they are in a larger law firm, the lawyer's services are provided in a structure similar to a corporate business or franchise. Whatever shape their business takes, however, lawyers seeking clients from specific communities, such as the LGBTQ2S+ community, owe it to the community to provide more than just "lip service allyship."

In this blog post, I explain the benefit of ensuring that lawyers who market to the LGBTQ2S+ community take the time necessary to understand this community.

Marketing with Integrity.

Lawyers and personal injury law firms market their services in a variety of ways. In some cases, these advertisements and other marketing initiatives are for a general audience. In other cases, they sponsor community-specific events, use members of a community within promotional material, or run advertisements in media that serves a community.

At a minimum, any personal injury lawyer marketing to the LGBTQ2S+ community needs to do market research to get a better sense of this group. We are an incredibly diverse community - unity in diversity is one of our strengths - so it is important to know that one-size does not fit all.

Next, a personal injury law firm offering professional services must have employee buy-in. If you market to the LGBTQ2S+ community but they are met by frontline employees who are either ignorant of their needs or behave in an unwelcoming or bigoted manner, it's counterproductive.

Not every employee can be expected to know everything about people a business attempts to draw in, but an appropriate level of diversity/sensitivity training is important. This training should stress strategies to use inclusive language and explain why making common-yet-ignorant assumptions are a disservice to both the firm and its clients. Training should also not be a one-and-done proposition. Refreshers, reevaluations based on evolving understandings, and lessons integrating teachable moments are all necessary.

Deliver What You Promise.

In some cases, if a business fails to follow through with what it promises in its sales pitch, it's merely disappointing to consumers who were fooled. But in other cases, it can be damaging. This is especially true for a professional services business such as a lawyer's office or law firm.

People frequently seek legal assistance when confronted with a stressful situation - be it a criminal matter, an estate or family law matter, a personal injury accident, or another type of civil dispute. They may be in a uniquely vulnerable state and not have the energy or emotional capability to advocate for themselves if a professional falls short of the understanding and respect they advertised.

This is especially true for marginalized members of the LGBTQ2S+ community who are at greater risk of experiencing verbal, emotional, or even physical harm when they venture out of safe spaces created and defended by our community. Visiting a business that has marketed itself as an ally but that has fallen well short of how an ally should act can be extremely disappointing to a person who is in a vulnerable state.

For example, in my work as a civil sexual abuse lawyer and sexual assault lawyer at Gluckstein Lawyers, I encounter many potential clients who have been severely traumatized by what happened to them. Empathy for all survivors is essential, of course, but recognizing the specific types of concerns an LGBTQ2S+ person may have when confiding sensitive information to someone can make a real difference. Listening to someone is only the first step to developing a relationship. To be heard is to be understood.

Therefore, when making first contact with clients, my colleagues and I are sensitive to some potential fears.

These include: whether making a civil claim or police report will mean coming out before they are ready; how allegations of intimate partner violence could become known within a small community; whether they will be treated fairly by their lawyer and other segments of the justice system if they participate in less conventional or kinky consensual sexual activities; whether uncontrollable physiological reactions in their bodies (for example, having an erection when abuse or an assault occurred) will be used to dismiss their experience.

In my line of work, anticipating these fears and, if appropriate, preemptively mentioning them as legitimate concerns, can substantially ease what can already be a tense moment for a survivor.

Walk The Walk... And Then Some.

Gluckstein Lawyers has been proud to march in Toronto's Pride parades and celebrate Pride Month with a host of other initiatives. But we know that if an LGBTQ2S+ person needs a personal injury lawyer, that lawyer needs to be there for them on any given day of the year. Therefore, while we delight in displaying our pride during the festivities, we know that being a firm with employees who are members of the LGBTQ2S+ community and/or allies and supporters means doing much more.

When you are hurt, whether it's from a car accident, slip and fall claims, or other causes, you need a experienced personal injury lawyer who makes a point to understand your life rather than making assumptions or casting judgements about it.

We've come a long way as a community. Increasingly hearing from companies or professionals that they want our business is certainly better than messages explicitly or implicitly indicating that it's not wanted. But deserving our business means doing more than offering empty gestures. When a law firm demonstrates that they understand you and your community, it suggests they value you - not just your cheque book.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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