“One of the things that drives this organization is the quality of its members,” says Lea Krauss, criminal defense attorney and co-chair of the Gay & Lesbian Lawyers Network (GLLN).
GLLN is composed of South Florida legal and allied professionals, with a stated mission of providing a social network through which gay, lesbian and gay-friendly lawyers can develop their practices through friendships, referral relationships and professional development.
Krauss’ co-chair and GLNN’s founder, Richard Stoll, says that when he came to South Florida, there wasn’t a resource for gays and lesbians that addressed the fine old art of practice-building.
“Many of the groups like Lambda Legal and Broward Human Rights Initiative that exist for GLBT attorneys are primarily service organizations. We applaud their good works, and many if not most of our members belong to one or more of them,” says Stoll.
“But in terms of actually networking with other gay lawyers who are interested in building their practices and marketing their businesses, it wasn’t there.”
Krauss says that GLLN’s purpose is to build a true business and social networking apparatus that lets its participating members support each other in their practices, as well as promote themselves within their firms, and generally offering a helping hand to each other when it’s needed.
Tanya Simpson, for example, shared her expertise at one meeting, conducting a seminar on domestic partnership law. In another seminar, which can be used by the lawyers to fulfill continuing legal education requirements, attorney Arthur Smith may address probate issues for single men.
Stoll says that unlike service organizations in which members donate money or time to a cause, such as legal services to the poor, GLLN’s members are cultivating a group which can eventually be a resource for the GLBT community collectively.
“Many gay and lesbian attorneys feel that they don’t have the clout working with larger firms. GLNN is a vehicle to interact with the local legal power structures,” Stoll observed. “When they get to network with gay lawyers and judges who have been here for a long time, and who know how the South Florida courts and players work, it gives you credibility and a base from which to enhance a practice.”
“So many of us get marginalized as practitioners because we don’t fit into the corporate environment in all circumstances,” he noted. “Our group creates strength in numbers.”
The organization clearly sees the wisdom in getting its message out early to hopeful members of the bar. Krauss says that GLLN has been asked to participate in the “Out In Practice” event at Nova Law School sponsored and hosted by Lambda United, a GLBT organization for law students.
“Out in Practice” is a program which allows GLBT law students to interact with licensed attorneys and judges who are openly gay and well-respected in the legal community. Stated Krauss, an attorney with ten years experience, “This event will consist of a panel of attorneys and judges talking to the students about our experiences as gay practitioners and professionals.”
It is scheduled to be held at Nova Southeastern University Law School on Friday, February 19th from 6 to 8 p.m.
In addition to networking and supporting its own members with marketing and practice-building, GLLN will ease access for members of the GLBT community to find gay lawyers to fit their own needs.
Says Stoll, a former prosecutor with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office: “There are many instances when a gay or lesbian client may feel more comfortable working with an attorney who is sensitive to the client’s specific needs as a gay or lesbian person. These clients don’t have to feel self-conscious when they speak with a lawyer who recognizes and understands their circumstances.”
Krauss, a private practitioner and former Broward County assistant state attorney, credits the group’s members for its growth and success over the past two years.
Stoll is more specific in his praise. “This organization would not be what it is today without Lea’s hard work,” he offers, praising his co-chair. “She has her hand in a lot of our success.”
The group itself is generating business for businesses. Some of its more recent events have filled Rosie’s for a luncheon, The Tower Club for a dinner, and Smith and Jones on East Las Olas for a brunch. Two weeks ago, more than a dozen GLNN lawyers gathered for a wine tasting at the Seventh Street Wine Factory.