MYGWORK’S LOUISE SINNERTON SITS DOWN WITH THOMAS GANLY FROM CLIFFORD CHANCE
Why did you want to be a lawyer?
I guess I’m a bit of a geek in a way, and have always enjoyed intellectual stimulation, I wanted to be challenged and thinking about issues on a daily basis.
I wanted a job where I was essentially advising someone. I tried work experience as a lawyer, and I quite enjoyed it, then the research side of law really attracted me as well.
I work in commercial law, and business is something that I’ve always enjoyed.
How did you get your first job?
I actually went to a conference about human rights. There were lots of talks, representatives from different employers, and LGBT+ leaders there, it was mainly aimed at undergraduates.
I had a casual chat with somebody from HR, and that was someone from Clifford Chance, which I thought came across as a friendly and accepting place.
They seemed perceptive of LGBT+ issues. Although the idea of going to law school was daunting because of the cost, as a solicitor you often get the job ahead of law school.
Once you’re through the exams, you’re in, although you do have to pass everything to make sure you don’t lose your job - which is another pressure!
When did you start and what was your first impression?
I started in September 2017, and like any job, your first graduate job can be a very daunting place.
The good thing about law firms and specifically Clifford Chance is that you have a lot of contact with the firm.
I’d already gone to talks and got some good contacts, I’d had an induction week, which was great, but of course the first few months were still a bit stressful.
What were the hardest moments of your first six months?
Well, the pressure is a lot higher because at University the consequences of getting something wrong only really affects you.
If you don’t work hard enough on an essay the fallback is on you - you have the responsibility for your actions.
When you arrive in a big firm like this and you’re given work, you realise there are other people counting on you.
There’s an added pressure there as you want to have good relationships and do right by the team, and of course you don’t want to mess up!
What’s your involvement in the LGBT+ community at work?
I was involved in the LGBT+ community from day one - I went to the annual pride art show, which is across all the offices, and I was involved in that before I actually started my traineeship.
Then, when I started I was offered a mentor, which I accepted and he was there to help me out with anything.
I would say that Clifford Chance is extremely gay friendly, and I feel happy here as I know that other companies in the city don’t necessarily replicate that.
What’s it like when you realise that not every workplace is set up for people to feel open?
It’s quite sad, as how can you be expected to work efficiently? From a money making perspective, it doesn’t make sense for there not to be an open environment.
It’s not a nice feeling when you go to a new office, or meeting outside of work and worrying how someone would react to you having a boyfriend.
Wherever I am in Clifford Chance, in London, or any of the other offices, I would never worry about telling a new supervisor or new colleague.
As a graduate, how do you see and experience LGBT+ networks?
There’s almost a split from my point of view, as I think the networks have two functions: the first is to promote visibility and equality, and the second is social support and networking.
Although gay men at Clifford Chance are so accepted that they might not use it for equality, it’s useful for networking which is great - that’s what I use it for.
There are some openly gay people I know that haven’t joined the network, as they felt the working environment was so open. I joined to meet new people, and the great thing is you meet people from all levels of the business.
And you meet people that you immediately have something in common with - it’s great to have that community. I was so excited by the opportunity to be involved, and to help them out with any events they were organising, it seemed a logical thing to join.
What do you think about the rest of the community, other than the G that represents you?
Gay white middle class men are represented extremely well, and they are the ones that can often do well and have the wonderful opportunity to use the networks.
You don’t see many women, nor do you see a strong representation of working class people, in these networks.
This might be a reflection of the wider industry, but I do think it’s important to be aware of the disparity.
We did a joint event with the LGBT+ and the BME networks to celebrate intersectionality, and I feel that we need to push things further and help promote rights for everyone, not just for one section of the community.
I think I may have had a fairly easy life while others may have faced far more discrimination. At Clifford Chance that is what the conversation is about, and we’re all aware of this.
What is your own personal experience of discrimination?
I grew up in France and went to your average school, and did experience homophobia when I came out. Friends stopped speaking to me, and I definitely experienced instances of hate.
In the UK, I was spat on in Soho - of all places - as I was holding hands with my boyfriend walking down the street. I wouldn’t say I’ve experienced institutional homophobia, but yes active and aggressive homophobia on the streets unfortunately.
How did you deal with that discrimination?
In any of those instances - I see it that those people are sadly misinformed. From my point of view, whoever you are and whatever you do, there could always be someone who has an issue with who you are.
It is really hard, it is a personal attack, definitely, but there’s not much you can do in that moment apart from not letting it make it hide who you are.
If I’m being completely honest, when someone started shouting abuse at my boyfriend and I, it did impact me, and I wasn’t as comfortable holding hands with my boyfriend in public.
Of course I wish it hadn’t affected me, but for two years it did. That’s why it’s also important to have these networks and be able to share these experiences.
Sometimes people think that the LGBT+ community is a certain type of person, and it’s important to show that there’s a lot of different facets, different types of gay men and different lived experiences.
What would you like your future to look like?
I would like to think its exciting, I’ve been lucky enough to train at an incredible law firm. It’s been amazing training and I think I’ll always be seeking out ways to be involved and improve the status quo with the LGBT+ community.
I’ve faced people that have said, 'What’s the point in having Pride now', even if we solve all the problems and reach true equality then it’s still good to celebrate. We’ve progressed so much, but we can’t accept just the progress we’ve made so far.
Clifford Chance is a corporate member of myGwork, the LGBT+ Business community.