Sunday, 1 September 2013

Family Law Institute conference


Recently I went to San Francisco and attended the 25th American LGBT Bar Association conference, Lavender Law, and its offshoot, the Family Law Institute conference.

The Family Law Institute conference is limited to 125 credentialled lawyers who in the opinion of existing members have not only acted for LGBT clients in a family law context , but have publicly advocated for LGBT people. Thankfully, I was accepted! I was the only non-US lawyer at the Institute. I quickly found myself amongst friends, both old and new. Amongst my friends was renowned surrogacy lawyer from L.A., Rich Vaughn (pictured) and a pioneer of the fight against same sex domestic violence, Terra Slavin.

Topics discussed at the Family Law Institute included all the old perennials- love and marriage, who is a parent, surrogacy issues, and same sex domestic violence. I met several attorneys, Including Terra,  whose job was solely to act in same sex domestic violence programs.

I was lucky to catch up with one of the pioneers of LGBT law reform in Queensland, Dr Phillip Tahmindjis. Phillip helped end the anti-sodomy laws in Queensland, and was head of the QUT Law School. He now heads the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association, and has helped put LGBT rights on the international human rights agenda.

Lavender Law is a huge conference. I would guess a couple of thousand lawyers and law students turn up.

Big law is there, including Sullivan and Cromwell, and publishing outfit Thomson Reuters,  willing to embrace LGBT lawyers, in a way that I have not seen in Australia. The large law firms help sponsor the careers fair, but most amazingly as one attendee said to me:  “It’s so easy to have access. Here are these big name lawyers that you never get to see, and yet you come to this conference, and you can just go up and chat to them. They are real people.”

 

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