Luke Furness

I can bring my whole self to work at Clayton Utz

By Luke Furness

Listen to my story. 
02:38 MIN


As a junior lawyer, your enthusiasm is in overdrive. Everything is interesting.

You have a million questions for everyone. You want to be the best. And for me, I wanted to be the best lawyer and leader I could be. 

Right now I'm a corporate and tax lawyer, doing things like buying and selling companies, structuring investments and having a lot of tax disputes with the ATO. I've always found corporate law fascinating and love being part of a big group solving complex problems. But being part of a smaller group with a more social focus is very important to me too.  

So, a little while after I started at Clayton Utz, I joined the Social Club. This is a powerful assembly fuelled by lunchtime pizza-wielding lawyers making important decisions like choosing the Christmas party theme. The Social Committee knew I liked pizza, but they had no idea I was gay. I wasn't out at work yet and this became a genuine source of anxiety for me for about two years.  

But in May 2015, we formally launched the LGBTI, meaning - the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex - Alliance and featured a surprise performance by one of Sydney's best known drag queens. Rolling out the rainbow carpet for our LGBTI Alliance remains one of the proudest moments that I have had at Clayton Utz and the proudest I've been at Clayton Utz as an employer and with a sequin-heavy swish of a mermaid-tail ball gown, my remaining anxiety was gone. 

Diversity wasn't a goal I had set myself at the start of my career, but leadership was. I remember thinking that I wasn't too sure how people would react if I got too involved in the diversity space. Then, a few days later, I was having dinner with a friend that challenged me to think about how I would feel in five years if I was a gay lawyer that contributed nothing to building the firm's new diversity surge. I still remember him telling me that "Leadership means going first. Cheering from the sidelines is great, but it's still following”.

Now every clerk and graduate in my office gets a spiel from me about diversity and the firm's impressive diversity portfolio. It’s essential all lawyers know right from the very beginning that there’s no need for fear or façades here whether you're gay, straight, male, female, black, white, Asian, whether you love tax or whether you loathe tax.

It’s important to stay true to yourself, and like all relationships, communication is king. The more we know about each other and the motivations for our actions, the more comfortable we feel about being open with our team and bringing our whole self to work. 

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