Q&A: Trial talks to Zachary Wool, founder and chair of AAJ’s LGBT Caucus
December 2014 - Q&A with Zachary Wool
Q: What is the LGBT Caucus, and who is it for?
A: The LGBT caucus is an affinity group within AAJ, akin to the Women Trial Lawyers Caucus (WTLC) and Minority Caucus, that is for AAJ members who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered—as well as their allies. We hope to put on programming that appeals to a wider audience within AAJ (those who do not identify as LGBT but are interested in LGBT issues).
Q: Why did you decide to start the caucus?
A: I decided to start the caucus likely for the same reasons that people founded the WTLC or Minority Caucus. There are challenges that LGBT lawyers face in their day-to-day practices that non-LGBT lawyers don’t. For example, clients frequently ask me (here in Louisiana) why I don’t have a wife or kids. It’s an uncomfortable situation where I can either lie or come out to my client, whose views on homosexuality may not be the same as mine. That is but one example, and by creating the caucus I’m hoping to create a place for networking and making connections, a place where lawyers facing a problem can talk with lawyers who have faced that problem before.
Q: What has been most rewarding about starting the caucus?
A: The most rewarding (and humbling) aspect has been the level of support I’ve received, both from more seasoned LGBT lawyers whom I look up to and also from non-LGBT lawyers, like AAJ’s fantastic president, Lisa Blue Baron. They have all been incredibly grateful that I have devoted the time and energy to start the caucus. I’m just honored to be a part of it.
Q: What do you envision for the caucus in the future?
A: I envision continued support from AAJ as a whole and also a growing number of members in the caucus to create a caucus that’s both supportive and informative. To help with those goals, we’ve proposed some exciting programming for upcoming conventions that will help get the word out about our humble caucus. My end goal, though, is to see the LGBT caucus through from informal status to a formally recognized caucus of AAJ. That’s going to be possible through continued hard work by me, my vice chair Laura Yaeger, and the members of our caucus.
Q: Your article in the December issue of Trial talks about the importance of being sensitive to and aware of some LGBT issues. What is a common issue that lawyers might not be aware of or might want guidance on?
A: It may not seem like a large issue, but one question we (as both humans and lawyers) reflexively ask in some manner is whether a new client is married. A lawyer, who may be meeting a client for the first time, can put that new client in an uncomfortable position by phrasing the question as “Do you have a wife?” These innocent questions that assume a client is heterosexual can put distance between a lawyer and a client, something that can be avoided by the lawyer giving a little thought to something that’s not otherwise thought of.
Q: What other resources might be available to plaintiff lawyers on representing LGBT clients?
A: Lambda Legal and Human Rights Campaign are two great organizations. The LGBT caucus also has a list server that is a great resource.