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 associate chair Cody Rogers.
Where did you grow up? If you live and work somewhere different now, what drew you there?
I grew up in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah called West Jordan. When I was completing my undergraduate degree, I interned on the Hill in DC and I guess you can say I caught Potomac Fever because I decided that I wanted to make it back to DC at some point in my life. Now I have been in the area for 10 years, if you count my time at law school.
How long have you been at Nixon Peabody? What has most surprised you about the path of your career?
I have been at NP now for seven years. I think the most surprising thing to me about my career is the work I am doing in the Community Development Finance group. When I was a summer associate at NP, I was told about the “syndication” practice group and I thought it had something to do with syndicated television (and they must work on shows like Judge Judy). Awesome, but not necessarily what I wanted to do although if they could set up a time to meet Oprah or Judge Judy or someone else I would be down for that. So clearly, I knew nothing about the type of law that I have now spent the last seven years working in…so I would say, that is the most surprising thing to me.
How would you describe the outlook for junior LGBTQ+ attorneys now, compared to what it was when you started your career?
I first started the process of coming out in the middle of law school. I say process of coming out because even now, I am constantly coming out to people. But those first tentative steps in telling people you are gay (or any of the other LGBTQ+ community members) is a really vulnerable time, and it became even more so for me when I discovered that of the handful of people I told, a few had been outing me to the broader law school community. In something worthy of a high school movie, I received a misdirected text message from a fellow law school student that essentially said, “Who else has Cody told he’s gay?” even though I had never had a conversation with that fellow law student. On top of that, all of this happened in the middle of when I was summering at NP and I was desperately trying to prove myself. So I cannot say that I had a stellar start as an LGBTQ+ attorney but thankfully things have improved so much since then.
Sometimes it is hard to believe how much progress has been made since I started my career. When I graduated from law school in 2014, same-sex marriage was still not guaranteed across the United States (the Obergefell decision was not decided until June of 2015). So we, as a country, have made significant strides in the last several years, and I do want to recognize that, even though there is still significant work to be done. I have a lot of hope that the barriers are starting to come down and the outlook for junior LGBTQ+ attorneys is bright.
What is the first fun thing you’ll do post-COVID, that you haven’t been doing?
Travel. My husband and I love to travel and cannot wait to get out to see all the places in the world that we have yet to discover (and back to some of our favorites as well).
What is one piece of advice you would give to a rising LGBTQ+ attorney?
Rising LGBTQ+ attorneys should recognize the contributions of LGBTQ+ attorneys who helped pave the way for them, but also recognize that they might have to forge a path that LGBTQ+ attorneys have never gone down before, with the understanding that LGBTQ+ attorneys will be able to follow after you once that path has been forged.
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?
I think that increasing the number of LGBTQ+ attorneys is not something that is just going to happen and that increasing the numbers of LGBTQ+ attorneys is only half the battle in advancing the careers of LGBTQ+ attorneys. It is important to understand that LGBTQ+ attorneys may no longer have the same network of contacts that other attorneys can draw on for client or business development, because after we come out, it is not at all unusual or uncommon to lose “contacts.”