What made you pursue a career as a solicitor?
I was moved and awed by solicitors who can use arguments and emotional intelligence to persuade others. I wanted to learn people’s complicated stories and find the logic in amongst emotion that could help them in legal matters.
Can you tell us a bit about your career so far?
It’s been a bit here and there. After my LLB from Glasgow, I completed an LLM. I had studied public international law, and I wanted to see it in action, which took me to Nairobi. In the first fortnight, I researched who worked where, what work they were involved with, and more importantly the bars they drank and ate at. I got an interview at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at the end of the fortnight and began my internship the next day.
It felt dangerous, with daily terrorist and bomb threats, yet you felt you were making a real contribution to humanitarian crises response. I loved working at UNHCR, cooperating with international agencies and supporting people at the worst moments of their lives. The frail diplomacy of international relations helped me realise what an important cornerstone law is to society. So I returned to Scotland to qualify as a solicitor. I was fortunate enough to train and qualify as a litigator, which I love.
What motivated you to become so involved with equality and diversity for the legal profession?
As a law student, I saw so few visible LGBT+ role models in the profession, so I wanted to be the person I never saw. If you see it, you can be it. With more visible role models from all walks of life, more law students and trainees can see their futures in the legal profession.
I want people to be their best selves and deliver their best work. Ensuring people in the legal profession feel supported no matter their identity or background means we nurture a healthy and inclusive profession. This allows people to focus on performing at their best, which in turn supports a financially sustainable profession.
Have your perceptions of the Society changed since you joined the committee?
The Society has changed a lot: its active role and consideration of equality and diversity at every level has surprised me a lot as a committee member. With over 12,000 solicitors to consider and act for, there will always be disagreement at what action the Society takes, but I have been amazed at how the Society looks for innovative ways to support solicitors through each stage of their careers.
Can you tell us about any personal highlights?
The #TheseAreOurPrinciples campaign was a huge accomplishment for The Glass Network and the Law Society of Scotland. It was a collaborative campaign designed to resonate with solicitors across our jurisdiction, and it set the ball rolling. Since then, more firms are actively and vocally supporting LGBT+ initiatives and are visibly promoting equality, diversity and inclusion policies. The fact that The Glass Network, Scotland’s organisation for LGBT+ legal professionals, won the CSR Award at the 2017 Law Awards of Scotland was a positive testament to the effect of the campaign. That was a personal highlight, as I was just a trainee at that point, and I felt that the Society was helping me make a difference to the profession and to our wider Scotland.
What are the main issues that you think the Society has to address at the moment?
We need to address how we support women and non-binary legal professionals, who face discriminatory conduct throughout our profession. From the trainees whom partners sexually harass, to the sheriffs and judges who publicly humiliate gender non-binary legal professionals in the courtroom, to women whose achievements are still not enough for them to make senior positions, the Society and our wider profession need to act up to expel misogyny. Everyone benefits when we advocate for gender equality.
If you could change only one thing for members, what would it be?
Members would have to mandatorily undertake pro bono or legal aid work, so we understand the important roles we have in supporting people’s lives.
What’s your top tip for new lawyers?
Watch out for each other: it’s not a rat race. And don’t go sockless to an awards ceremony, no matter how good it looks.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
The Glass Network keeps me busy outside of my normal working hours, but when I want some mindfulness, I work out at the gym, and I have a dream to write children’s books, so I draft a lot of stories.
Drew McCusker is a personal injury solicitor with BTO Solicitors