Brian Goodrich and Katherine Skeele Share the Strength That Came from Being Out in Their Professional Lives
Holland & Knight's Diversity Council and LGBTQ Affinity Group were proud to celebrate Pride Month and engage in the conversation for equality and embrace our diverse community by coming together without exception and supporting everyone, including our LGBTQ colleagues. During Pride Month, we took time to reflect on how we could better support our LGBTQ colleagues by sitting down with attorneys and staff to have important conversations about what this month and embracing their identity means to them. We will be presenting a weekly video series showcasing some of these conversations. We hope that the stories conveyed in these videos help advance dialogue around Pride Month as well as lead to further discussions of how we can be better allies to our LGBTQ friends, family and colleagues.
In this episode, Dallas Partner Brian Goodrich and New York Partner Kate Skeele discussed their efforts in creating an inclusive workgroup. Mr. Goodrich and Ms. Skeele spoke about the impact younger LGBTQ generations can make in the workplace and highlighted the importance in staying true to your identity.
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Episode 5: Brian Goodrich and Katherine Skeele Discuss How They Can Build a Better Workgroup (You are currently viewing Episode 5)
Brian Goodrich: I've been out since before I was with H&K. I came out during college, and in 2019 I married my husband. That was actually the reason for my transfer from the D.C. to the Dallas office. I was following my husband who transferred down from D.C. to Dallas for work. We've been married now for three and a half years. I've got a, you know, robust family life that I love and adore, and I merged that with H&K. And my friends are at the firm and, you know, I've always been kind of open and introduce my colleagues to my family as well. So, it's been a great environment. I have gotten to know Kate Skeele. She's like one of the best people that we have. I say that confidently. She's been with me all night for a long time as well. She's one of those good people that Holland & Knight attracts and holds onto, and we're lucky to have her amongst our midst.
Kate Skeele: I went to law school at a Jesuit university, and the feeling there, there was a really vibrant queer student organization that was great. But there was also sort of a school infrastructure that was old. You know, we were told in preparing us for on-campus interviewing that women should wear a skirt and dress suits and to expect to dress that way going into court and to expect to dress that way in this profession. I was queer on my resumé, and I came to Holland & Knight very outspokenly queer. I also came to Holland & Knight as a Summer Associate in 2007, knowing that it had an out lesbian partner in its New York office. In 2007, that was a really big deal. At my law school, we were, all of the queer student organizations, sort of aware of that: Holland & Knight has an out lesbian partner. And that was really exciting to me. I was married as a junior associate before New York legalized queer unions. That was an interesting moment. There was a lot of discussion, just as much as you'd think there would be among lawyers, about the state of the law, and it was a strange an interesting time to be having those conversations at work, planning a wedding at home, and also balancing my own feelings about the limitations of marriage as an institution. Moving forward, I took a maternity leave from work at Holland & Knight, and I also took a parental leave as the non-birthing parent of my younger child. And through all of that time at the firm, I was always really outspoken about needing not just the family I built with my partner, but also the chosen family that we maintain, acknowledged as key aspects of who I am as a person and as a colleague and as a lawyer, and what's really awesome is that they have been.
Brian Goodrich: The firm has a great history of like pioneers and trailblazers that have come before us that have been very well known, have made sure that this affinity group, its voice is heard and has a presence and its voice at the table. One of the things that Kate and I were talking about or have been talking about is next generation and like what that looks like and how do we best serve them, like the prior generations have done acts that have paid it forward to us. It's baked into the fabric of the firm that LGBTQIA folks are welcome, are respected, and it's just kind of a foundational tenet of who we are. I really respect that, and that's why I've chosen to stick with Holland & Knight as long as I have and in perpetuity. You know, I think it took me a second to learn how to present myself in the workplace, to be taken seriously, but also be myself. I think there's something there towards just the extra work that I had to do to make sure that I was palatable to everybody who I was interacting with while also staying true to myself. Because like, my life has taught me that people who do the best are those that are the most authentic. They've tapped into their true energy. They're not inhibited and just going. So you've got to somehow take that energy and marry it with the way things work, and in the process, you can change how things work.
Kate Skeele: I think one of the most powerful opportunities in a workplace, particularly with colleagues that really collaborate and work together a lot, is really listening to each other, listening to each other carefully and over long periods of time with empathy and interest and learning from each other, not being afraid of changing your minds and being gentle and persistent in your efforts to change others' minds. I think that we have so much incredible opportunity here because there is a culture at this firm of listening to each other and getting to know each other. So many of the attorneys I work with here bring their whole selves to work, and regardless of identities, the more each of us brings, the more the rest of us are comfortable bringing as well.
Brian Goodrich: We think that lawyers, LGBTQAI lawyers, come with different skill sets, and sometimes it's because they've had to navigate really difficult challenges, whether it's coming out to your family, whether it's, you know, going getting a marriage license with someone else of the same sex in a place that maybe that's still not the vibe or, you know, I've also witnessed — I was doing a pro bono case, a family law case, and witnessed a trans person going through the name change process in Texas family court. To navigate all of that, to navigate the conversations that led up to it, the day of the court appearance and the paperwork and, you know, all the things that I imagine were going on in that person's life outside of that, you know, that is an incredible set of skills that is bred within the community just by kind of having to do a little extra and fight just a little harder sometimes. This is a moment, I think, for queer talent.
Kate Skeele: You know, culture of DE&I I is a curious culture and a culture that embodies like a willingness to know people fully and to recognize the strength that everyone here and everywhere has demonstrated, whoever they are, in just charting a course through the world, and queerness as an identity and as a politics and as a set of values is about, you know, breaking down barriers and assumptions. It's an imaginative, flexible, changing, fluid perspective on the world. You know, I see that contributing, that sort of ethos, contributing to my own practice of law and to our ability collectively to practice better together.
Brian Goodrich: Look for people that are good and like having robust affinity groups and having these types of conversations, having guests in to come and speak and kind of give different tastes of different experiences and different challenges and different communities have faced. Look for that because you spent so much of your time at work, and so it's got to be in a good environment.
Kate Skeele: Be professional in your work, in its substance, in its form, in its timeliness, in its attention, and be yourself all the rest of the time and look around you to the ways in which others are being themselves and don't be limited by it. Don't bring something only because you've seen it be done before and ask for support. This Affinity Group, the LGBTQ+ Affinity Group, is such an incredibly wonderful group of people. It took me so much too long here to tap into it and understand that it's not just an email chain. I reached out to members of the affinity group when I was doing my partnership application and I asked some folks for support, and I got incredible support from this group. And that's what this group is for, and it's also for other things. But probably before anything else it's for supporting each other and building possibilities for each other.