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NALP (National Association for Legal Career Professionals) studies1


reveal no sizable increase in the


number of LGBT associates working in small fi rms in recent years, but the attorneys interviewed for this article have noticed that lawyers of all stripes who in the past might have overlooked smaller shops are now taking the time to check them out. Diffi cult economic times have necessitated this, but also more people are considering lifestyle and wondering if big fi rms are truly the optimal way to go. Attorneys are more willing to think outside the big fi rm box. “At bigger fi rms it’s easier to get lost in a sea of asso-


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ciates, and I think being gay factors into that,” says Agcaoili, who prior to joining the fi rm in 2009 also served a clerkship on the Ninth Circuit. Before that, he worked as an associate in the New York and London offi ces of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. “Partners tend to take on mentees with whom they identify. At a smaller fi rm every- one is forced to work together, and when that fi rm touts its openness to working with LGBT associates, it makes it that much easier to connect with a mentor and to develop professionally in general.” Perigoe likes how senior attorneys at smaller fi rms seem


to be more in tune with what associates are doing—making sure they are working on the right level and getting the cor- rect experience. In terms of LGBT diversity, she believes that while international and national fi rms may purport fi rmwide policy, it tends to play out diff erently from offi ce to offi ce. “It’s one thing to look at a large fi rm’s Web site to see


what they have to say about LGBT diversity, but in real- ity, diff erent offi ces might demonstrate diff erent levels of


commitment. I’d say policy is more clearly defi ned in small offi ces, and that means a lot to me,” Perigoe says. Giang, the most senior of the three associates, believes


that at small fi rms associates are more likely to be con- sidered individuals and not fungible cogs. While an out associate may potentially encounter diffi culties at a particu- larly conservative fi rm, he or she is typically better accepted and appreciated at those small fi rms that are moderate or more progressive, Giang says. And, of course, a smaller shop off ers more responsibility sooner as well as more client contact. At the legal behemoths, there is the risk that LGBT associates might not get a lot of substantive work. A small fi rm, Giang attests, is an antidote to that. “At small fi rms, all associates need to know all aspects of a case.” Also located in Los Angeles, Kendall, Brill, & Krieger


LLP (KBK) is a smaller, gay-friendly litigation boutique. When the 13-attorney fi rm was founded in May 2009, gay associate Richard Simon followed the three found- ing partners (two of whom are LGBT) from their former workplace, a larger specialty practice law fi rm. “My move was primarily motivated by my knowing, liking, and respecting the partners,” says Simon. “Also I knew that sexual orientation would be a nonissue at the fi rm, and I wouldn’t have to worry about clients who might be uncomfortable with me being gay.” Immediately after joining KBK, Simon experienced a


substantial jump in front-line client contact. Because the fi rm is small, he is more able to see the contours of every case. Additionally, Simon enjoys the close contact with the fi rm’s partners. “When you have a problem or need to


“ At bigger fi rms it’s easier to get lost in a sea of associates, and I think being gay factors into that.”—ALASTAIR J. AGCAOILI


DIVERSITY & THE BAR® MAY/JUNE 2011 MCCA.COM


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