OutLaw hosts forum featuring gay, lesbian attorneys
Three Greensboro lawyers shared their experiences of practicing law as openly gay and lesbian attorneys during a March 12 forum at Elon University School of Law. The Out Lawyer Forum was sponsored by OutLaw, an organization of LGBT and allied law students at the law school.
Andrew Spainhour, Ron Johnson and Rebecca Perry, left to right in the photo, said their experience in Greensboro legal circles and in the community at large has been mostly positive.
"When I came out in 1984, I did worry if there was a place for openly gay lawyers in Greensboro," said Johnson, a partner in the law firm of Johnson Peddrick and McDonald. "But the reception I got was tremendously positive. I actually, in a sense, gained clients." Johnson said one particular family gave him all of their legal work and began steering other clients in his direction because they were impressed with the honesty and integrity he displayed in revealing his sexual orientation.
"I have never lost a client because of my orientation in and of itself," said Perry, who opened her own law practice in Greensboro in 2002. A specialist in family law, she said she did steer away one client whose wife had left him for another woman. She revealed her orientation to the client, saying "you might have a hard time with this and you need to know about it."
Spainhour, general counsel of Replacements Limited, said the Greensboro community has been willing to accept gay lawyers and other professionals for who they are. Because of that, gay and lesbian professionals serve on numerous boards and are leaders in the community. "I think it's important to not hide," Spainhour said. "I think it's important for all of us to be up front about who we are."
Johnson has found similar support for gay and lesbian attorneys at the state level. In 1995, he was tapped by other attorneys to approach the N.C. State Bar Association about the formation of a LGBT lawyers group in North Carolina. "I went to Raleigh for that meeting with some trepidation, but as soon as I walked in the door, their response was 'what took you so long? We've been wondering when you were going to organize.' We have a state bar association that is very supportive of gay and lesbian lawyers," Johnson said.