As part of Pride month we have been interviewing key figures in the legal industry for our series “Talking Pride with…”

We are excited to share insights from Jeremy Seeff, Partner at Epstein Rosenblum Maoz (ERM) . In this interview Jeremy discusses with Nishlis Legal Marketing the impact of identity on career choices, the importance of authenticity in the workplace, and ERM’s commitment to Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI).

How – if at all – has your identity shaped or influenced your career choices? 

Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community did not influence my decision to become a lawyer in my ‘day job’, however I have spent most of the last decade working on LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion in the workplace in my ‘gay job’ as a director of non-profit organization LGBTech. 

Naturally, there is a lot of overlap given the outsized influence that the law has on the equality (or lack thereof) afforded to members of the LGBTQ+ community – both at work and more broadly. Although there is so much to improve, I am lucky that I get to work with some of the world’s most open and sophisticated clients, who help to inspire me on how to make all personnel feel valued, even where the law does not always do that.

What were your expectations of the law as a member of the LGBTQ+ community? Did you have any specific preconceptions, fears, or concerns and how has that turned out in reality?

Unfortunately, even in the most liberal countries, the law does not always afford equal rights to the LGBTQ+ community. This is obviously even more true in countries that do not actively provide equality for LGBTQ+ people. It is therefore imperative that those with the knowledge and opportunity to use the law as a tool for social justice, work to advance equal rights under law. 

In Israel, almost all of the legal rights afforded to the LGBTQ+ community have come through hard-fought battles in the courts. Indeed, the Knesset has advanced legislation to ‘equalize’ the LGBTQ+ community on only a couple of occasions (most recently for the tragic need to recognize the same-sex partner of a fallen soldier as being entitled to the rights otherwise afforded to heterosexual partners of fallen soldiers).

Lawyers in the fields of family and labour law are often at the forefront of some of the key fights for LGBTQ+ equality, however businesses also have enormous power to drive change – in particular when it comes to affording equalizing benefits in the workplace, and using their economic and social sway to influence government policy and change in society.

Much is made of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) these days and its role in law, how active are you / your law firm in this area?

Epstein Rosenblum Maoz (ERM) is extremely supportive and participates in various DEI initiatives. Most directly, though my membership on the board of LGBTech, I am deeply involved in LGBTQ+ DEI. ERM supports the legal needs of @LGBTech on a pro bono basis and participates in various @LGBTech initiatives.

What initiatives are you involved in? 

At @LGBTech for example, we are now launching our third-annual ‘EqualLGBTQ+ Index’ – a measure of Israeli employers’ inclusivity towards the LGBTQ+ community. Participants doubled to 17 in 2023, and we expect more significant growth in our 2024 index which is opening for registration.

We also run a huge annual campaign, where our specially chosen ‘Pride Squad’ of inspiring speakers give lectures each pride month (or beyond) – with a growing list of over 50 companies (employing between them over 10,000 people) providing substantive content to their personnel, to foster a better understanding of the challenges and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community.

Beyond that we also work with companies year-round to help them develop, improve, and maintain their policies of DEI towards the LGBTQ+ community, work with policymakers on broader matters of national inclusion, and host events for our community members on a range of topics. This year was the 8th year in which we hosted a reception at the residence of the British Ambassador to Israel.

At ERM, we also help guide clients on the legal aspects of their DEI efforts – whether it comes down to general corporate governance, or more bespoke labour-related queries, and beyond.

How do you feel law firms are generally today on this topic and what work remains to be done?

Larger law firms tend to be generally open to providing diverse and inclusive workplaces, but like with all other industries, there is unfortunately often a gap between intent and reality. Whilst DEI efforts are more well established in large legal markets such as NY and London, in Israel this receives much less focus. In fact, lawyers – given their access to, and trust from, a wide range of companies (and in particular, senior decision makers therein), have a rare opportunity to influence diversity and inclusion well beyond their own workspaces. 

Through initiatives such as @LGBTech’s ‘EqualLGBTQ+ Index’, by taking on important cases in the fight for equality, and by incorporating advice on governance and compliance -including on ways to improve on these beyond strict legal requirements – lawyers have a lot of power to improve LGBTQ+ DEI.