Hong Kong Lawyer

March 2017

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I magine you are a senior partner at a networking dinner with your colleagues. Over a glass of sauvignon blanc, your client starts rattling off all the extra-curricular activities he and his wife have enrolled their daughter in for the next school term. "We have to make sure she maintains a competitive edge," he says while playfully prodding your colleague. "So, do you have kids?," he turns and asks, trying to bring you into the conversation. Interactions like these are without a doubt the social glue that helps us forge close relationships in the business world. We share stories to get to know one another and form bonds outside of work – disclosing titbits about the real human stuff that comprise our lives. While this question can prove uncomfortable for a variety of lawyers for a variety of reasons, imagine for a moment that you are a closeted lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender ("LGBT") lawyer who is fielding this question: someone who is wary of being discriminated against. Under those circumstances, "Do you have kids?" becomes much more complicated to answer, as your response can lead to a deluge of other questions about your personal life. While such a lawyer might want to open up about the trials and tribulations he and his partner have faced when juggling their son's busy schedule, he likely won't. Rather, he will likely offer a simple response, keeping any evidence of who he really is hidden away. LGBT-Inclusive Law Firms Eliminating this type of stressful situation in which one's social and work lives collide is exactly what LGBT-inclusive law firms and businesses across Hong Kong are taking on, explains Justin D'Agostino, Global Head of Practice, Dispute Resolution and Managing Partner for Asia and Australia, at Herbert Smith Freehills * . "Our firm is very sensitive to local cultural norms, and as an employer, we are also very clear that we stand proudly for diversity and inclusion (or D&I). We have created an inclusive environment where people are welcomed, valued and rewarded on the basis of their talents and skills, without reference to their gender, culture, family status or sexual orientation," he said. "It's in our firm's DNA and highly appropriate for the complex environment that is the typical Asian workplace." * Mr. D'Agostino was named one of the world's leading OUTstanding Executives in the Financial Times' 2016 Global List of LGBT and Ally Ambassadors. 90 www.hk-lawyer.org •  March 2017 Making the Case for Diversity & Inclusion By Cynthia G. Claytor As the line between social and business lives often blur for lawyers in Hong Kong, Justin D'Agostino, the Global Head of Practice, Dispute Resolution, and Managing Partner for Asia and Australia at Herbert Smith Freehills, explains why open, inclusive and diverse workplaces not only make good business sense, but are also crucial to succeed in Asia.

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