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 Roy Sexton, Director of Marketing at Clark Hill and Past President of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA). In this interview Roy discusses with Nishlis Legal Marketing the impact of identity on career choices, the importance of authenticity in the workplace, and Clark Hill’s commitment to Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI).

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

Whether from being a member of the LGBTQ+ community or being an only child or some intersection of both, I’ve always been willing to take risks. This world imposes unnecessary limits on us based on identity, and when faced with that, I always feel some peculiar urge to prove everyone wrong. I had an executive coach once who laughingly said I seemed willing to put myself in harm’s way (career-wise) just to see what might happen. Lol.

I had spent the better part of a decade in healthcare and found myself getting bored with it, so I just threw my résumé out there and was hired by my first firm in 2011. The managing partner at the time was running for Congress and wanted someone to step in and pick up the marketing responsibilities he had so ably carried.  I didn’t realize I was taking a risk making such a dramatic career pivot, but I’m incredibly glad that I did. 

This has been such a rewarding industry to support, and being part of the Legal Marketing Association community and being embraced by it so fully gave me a sense of self and confidence that I don’t know that I had had previously. 

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?

Given what might be perceived as career recklessness on my part, I don’t know that I had any perceived notions when I joined this industry in 2011. I mean, much like healthcare, I presumed there would be an element of keeping focus on the work first and foremost with identity/authenticity being secondary. 

I’ve always felt differently about that notion and have tried to flip it on its head wherever I worked. I believe when we can be our authentic selves, we are free and comfortable to do our best work. I’m glad to see the world catching up to that idea.  

And honestly, I think I was refreshingly surprised by the firms where I’ve had the privilege to work. Yes, there has always been an element of keeping a professional polish on everything, but I have also found in law, a great joy in celebrating our own quirks and eccentricities and differences. I feel like that’s where the marketing magic really lies. And thereby one can execute some really fascinating storytelling to promote one’s chosen organization. 

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?

I’m really thrilled by our leadership in this arena. Our CEO John Hensien and leadership team more broadly have such a visible commitment in this space. We have dedicated resource groups to support everyone in the firm, attorneys and staff. 

And we have made a concerted effort to weave DEI education into all of our external marketing messaging. The firm rolled out allyship training firm wide in the last couple of years, requiring all to attend. The conversations were robust and thoughtful and energizing. We have pursued and achieved Mansfield certification multiple years in a row, and our DEI videos and external content have received hundreds of thousands of views. 
The team I am privileged to lead has been involved in all of these efforts at various levels, in partnership with our fantastic HR team and other operational leaders. It is very gratifying. 
And, of course, in my leadership role last year as president of the Legal Marketing Association,  I put this issue front and center in all of my communications. And I may have brought a drag queen on stage in Florida at 8:30 in the morning just to make a point. 😊 I was honored to be recognized for these efforts by INvolve People as one of their top 100 LGBTQ executives worldwide last year.

This all sounds very self-aggrandizing to type, but the real point of it all at this stage of my life is to be the visible example I would have appreciated at earlier points in my career. If I can show people that being myself – my weird and happy and quirky self – yields success, while celebrating the joyous life I have with my husband and our rescue dogs is, then I feel like I can make some small difference.

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

I think we have come a long way, and I encourage the industry to keep the courage of its convictions. I have been cautiously optimistic/pleased this Pride month (so far) as I feared firms might walk back visible messaging in light of the cultural pushback that we saw last year that caused some consumer facing companies to walk back their visible advocacy efforts. 

It feels as though the industry has in fact, stayed the course, on the balance, and I would encourage those midsized and smaller firms that might still be on the fence about making visible declarations of inclusion to realize the world is evolving, clients are evolving, talent is evolving, and the future will be an inclusive one. Not an exclusive one.

Roy Sexton, Director of Marketing, Clark Hill and Past President of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA). 

Founded in 1890, Clark Hill is an international law firm with 700 attorneys in over 25 offices in the U.S., Ireland and Mexico.