Throughout Pride Month, we'll be speaking with firm leaders and members of the LGBTQ+ community about their careers, their lives outside of work, and their thoughts on advancing representation in the workplace. In this interview, we hear from LGBTQA Resource Group partner chair Marissa Wiley.
Are there LGBTQ+ role models that influenced your decision to become an attorney?
Elle Woods (of course).
What is the first fun thing you’ll do post-COVID, that you haven’t been doing?
Yoga in a studio with a live teacher and other students. Air travel is a close second.
What is something (other than the law) you are great at doing?
I have a special talent for grounding and empowering people. Friends, family and coworkers come to me to talk through whatever is bothering them at that particular moment, and I am able to listen intently and see through distractions to the core of the matter. I process with them, leaning heavily into my no-nonsense nature, and help them get down to the bottom of it and then problem-solve their way through it. Most of the time, people just need an attitude adjustment and a firm reminder that they are absolutely fabulous just the way they are. I love helping people through tough moments, building them up, and then watching them push through to the next level.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a rising LGBTQ+ attorney?
Never compromise yourself. If a workplace is asking you – scratch that – if you even so much as feel the temptation to tone down your true self in the workplace in order to fit in and succeed, that workplace is not the place for you. Find the work environment that celebrates and supports you exactly as you are. We have reached a point in the evolution of LGBTQ+ human rights in our niche, privileged legal society that anything short of full acceptance, encouragement, and celebration is unacceptable. You will be the happiest and most successful when you are living your truth, and you deserve the space to do that.
What is one thing people in our industry can do to be supportive of efforts to increase the number of LGBTQ+ attorneys advancing in the law?
Speaking to firms such as ours specifically, we have to prioritize elevating LGBTQ+ attorneys into not only equity partnership, but also into the top tier leadership positions. We have to integrate LGBTQ+ attorneys into the top levels at firms in order to create a pathway – and a proof of concept – for other LGBTQ+ attorneys, and other diverse attorneys in general, for progression through the ranks. We also need the ability to bring our unique and valuable perspectives to the table, thereby creating stronger and more inclusive institutions. There is a disproportionately small representation of LGBTQ+ attorneys in the partnership and leadership of law firms generally, and we have to take aggressive and intentional steps to change that inequitable reality. We need to build from the top down, rather than from the bottom up.