Inside Pride Month with Pride in Law

Duncan and Louis standing together in a corporate environment

In celebration of Pride Month, we caught up with Duncan MacDougall and Louis Laing from Pride in Law on all things Pride Month and beyond.

As President and Vice-President, Duncan and Louis lead Pride in Law’s Queensland Chapter. Here’s what they had to say.


Duncan and Louis, thank you for joining us.


Firstly, can you tell us a bit about yourselves and your careers in the law so far? 

Duncan: I am currently a Senior Associate at FC Lawyers, in the Wills and Estates team practicing in all things wills, estates, succession law, estate planning and the litigation behind it as well.

I’m originally from Canada, I moved here in 2015 and was admitted to the Supreme Court as a solicitor in 2018.

I'm currently the President of the Queensland Chapter of Pride in Law and I've had that role for about a year and a half now. Prior to that, I've been involved with Pride in Law in a secretary position and also as a supporter.

Louis: My name is Louis and I'm non-binary, so I use they/them pronouns.

I'm not admitted yet, I'm going to graduate at the end of the year.

I’m a para-legal, currently working in the Native Title Litigation team at Crown Law. We represent the state in every native title application in Queensland. There's a lot of litigation matters for native title in Queensland so I get to experience involvement in court and preparation for court.

It's also great because native title is a relatively small or niche area of practice, so everyone kind of knows each other. You get to have involvement with other parties in conferences and you get to meet a lot of the applicant groups as well.

I'm currently the Vice-President of Pride in Law. Duncan and I took on our positions at around the same time and before that I was an Advocacy Officer with Pride in Law.

I joined as a committee member in 2020/21, and since then I have been involved with most of the Advocacy and submissions that we do in that space, you will see my name a lot in the footers of our recent submissions to Parliament.


What themes or issues have been top of mind for you this Pride Month? 

Louis: We’re still settling into Pride Month, but I think with everything happening across the world and in the media, not just in Australia, inclusivity and bringing everyone together has been on my mind this year. And obviously that should be a theme for every Pride Month, every year.

The situation in the UK hits close to home for me because I am non-binary, so all the trans and gender diverse issues really stick out to me because it could be something that I would have to encounter at some point in my life.

I do have a really supportive community and supportive family around me, so I'm pretty protected in that way but there's a lot of stuff going on in the UK at the moment that is vitriol in the media, particularly around access to healthcare. Things like not allowing minors to access hormone replacement therapy and I believe they've been trying to get that across the line for adults as well, making it illegal, which I obviously disagree with.

If it doesn't hurt anyone else, and it also, improves your mental health and your physical health, you should be able to access it.

I think inclusivity and really trying to understand other people's experiences, even if you don't necessarily agree, is the most important thing. 

There's a difference between wilful ignorance and being ignorant because you've had a lack of exposure, so I think reaching out and trying to get that exposure and being willing to listen to other people and their experiences, not just immediately shutting people down, is important.

Duncan:  Yes following on from those points, I think there's been a lot of keywords floating around lately, one I see is intersectionality.

It’s realizing that there's intersecting identities within the rainbow community, race, ethnicity, ability, religion, and understanding how these different identities and experiences can affect any sort of discrimination, or marginalisation within these communities.

Obviously, transgender and non-binary rights, as well. It's an ongoing discussion where the more we, I suppose, talk about it and open up to those experiences of others and listen I think is the biggest takeaway, listening to other people and learning from those experiences.

The other one, especially for young lawyers entering the profession, is what is a safe space and how firms can offer more of an inclusive workplace for individuals in the rainbow community to be able to live authentically as themselves without that fear of discrimination?

Another one I’ll just flag is mental health as well. These are some of the key themes as we go through Pride Month.

Louis: I would just add one more thing.

I heard our colleague, Sheetal Deo say that no act of inclusivity is worthless, even if it's really small. I feel like people often may think, why do you wear a rainbow lanyard to work? You know, what's the point? But I think anything you do to point out to people that they're in a safe space is really important.


Do you believe it is getting easier for those that identify as LGBTQIA+ to live authentically in Australia, without fear of discrimination? 

Louis: I think it's a hard question. While there's a lot more education going around, more awareness of LGBTQIA+ issues and a growing movement of allyship, because it's no longer the don't ask don't tell kind of vibe, at the same time there is as we've seen in the media, that kind of far right rhetoric that we're getting. It’s two-fold in a way, because progress is happening and it is really visible to everyone, even people outside of the LGBT community, but it's also more visible to people who kind of have that hate in their heart as well.

At the same time, the Anti-Discrimination Act is currently being reviewed in Queensland and that will hopefully strengthen the discrimination laws as well.

So these things are getting passed up to Parliament, which is obviously the highest that we can get to progress protection from discrimination, vilification and everything like that.



I think it's just that ongoing education that is most important. The ongoing advocacy, making submissions to government and policy changes, things like that, to continue this movement to a more inclusive society.

Other things to flag, I know there's issues around the healthcare aspect of everything going on as well, especially for transgender or gender diverse individuals facing those sorts of unique challenges. 


What does allyship look like to you?

Duncan: We did a presentation up at the NQLA Conference recently and as part of that presentation, there was a discussion around to allyship in which Louis put together some really good points on that.

One is putting in the effort and failing is better than not trying at all. Despite best intentions, nobody is going to get it right 100% of the time, but actively trying to do better by your rainbow clients, colleagues, your friends, and family is always a step forward.

Louis: I think, any kind of marginalised person, whether it be LGBT plus, race or whatever, I feel like they know the difference between good faith and bad faith. So they'll recognise whether you're asking something out of malice or not.

There might be some quite invasive questions that you get. Particularly, I think in the trans and gender diverse space. You might get asked, for example, medical types of questions which feels quite invasive and you might not want to answer them.

It can be quite uncomfortable to get those questions but there are people who are genuinely curious and want to learn and just have that inquisitive kind of personality.

But I feel like we do recognise the difference between good faith and bad faith.


Duncan: Yeah, that's exactly it. The active ally, it is top down support as well. 

If you see your supervisors or people you are dealing with on a day-to-day basis showing this support, it’s going to naturally flow down.

Getting involved with other organisations such as Pride in Law, or other Pride organisations that support different people in the community is worthwhile, so you can start to learn more about what it is to be involved. 

Get involved with events such as IDAHOBIT Day, Wear it Purple Day, get involved with things in Pride month, it shows that you are actively showing acceptance.

Louis: And I think that kind of goes to the point that I said earlier with Sheetal’s quote, no act of allyship is ever worthless.

I'm sure these things might seem unimportant, if for example we have rainbow cupcakes during Pride Month and then we don't have rainbow cupcakes throughout the year, but at the same time to any of your LGBT plus colleagues or even your clients, it shows that you are a safe space, you are someone that they can go to who is safe to be open with about your whole person.

So even if it is really small, things like just wearing a rainbow lanyard, do help.

Duncan: Yes, or a rainbow sticker on the back of your laptop.  

Louis: It just pings to someone that they can be truthful and open with you.


For those aspiring lawyers out there, can you tell us a bit about what it’s like coming out in the law? 

Duncan: I think I have had it easy, I know a lot of friends and colleagues that don't have it as easy as me.

It was a struggle for me at first, but I haven't faced the true nature of it all, I should say, and I was lucky to be in a workplace where it was very accepting and eventually I did become myself and open up. As soon as I started to show that, people accepted that and got behind it and supported me as I progressed in my career.

Things like joining Pride and Law for example, it got me to a place where I surround myself with those like-minded individuals, colleagues that I want to be involved with, who can lend support with a multitude of things, and I think that's the kicker when it comes to Pride in Law.

It's the networking for one, but it's also that support element as well, where you know that there's people behind you in the profession backing you.

Louis: I have a little bit of a different experience to Duncan, not that I've had a lot of hate or discrimination or anything like that, it’s just because it is an ongoing thing for me because it's about my gender.

It's not just about my relationship, your relationship isn't always the topic of conversation, whereas we constantly use pronouns in our day-to-day conversation and I don't use he or she pronouns, I use they/them which are not pronouns that people think of as being for an individual.

So it's an ongoing thing for me because every time I meet someone new, if I don't want to be misgendered I have to be open about what my pronouns are, and even if I am open about them, it doesn't always mean that they get used.

I think it is changing a lot though. Pride in Law was part of a working group, in 2022 I think it was, with QLS and others to create a practice direction for the pronunciation of names and pronouns in court. The court appearance slips have been updated so that they now include pronouns and they also help with the pronunciation of names that people aren't so familiar with, like my name for example. This was endorsed by Chief Justice Helen Bowskill and has been adopted by the Federal Court as well.

In my first job as a legal assistant, which wasn't at Crown Law, I was open about my gender identity in my job application but it was kind of never brought up again and so I was constantly misgendered, which was really difficult.

It's very different here at Crown Law, I feel like my team is really close, and when you are more comfortable with your colleagues, it is easier to have upfront conversations with them about that kind of stuff.

But yes, it's a constant struggle for me.

Duncan: Another thing that has really helped, is the Language Guide we developed in consultation with the College of Law and put out as a guide for firms to review and adopt. I think that has changed the conversation and has created a new threshold of what is acceptable, so if you're not meeting this new threshold, you're behind the wagon and the way most firms are now operating in terms of engaging with your colleagues, friends and family.

Louis: Yeah and I think what you said before, Duncan, about when you have a really good community around you, when you have people you identify with who are out, who are quite senior in the profession as well, it makes a real difference.

I was never really out at uni but then I joined Pride in Law and Michael Bidwell really made a difference in my life, having that community around you is really, really important to be able to be yourself. 

It also means that if something goes wrong you have people to fall back on who you know will take care of you.


You are both passionate advocates for the LGBTQIA+ legal community through Pride in Law, can you tell us what inspires you and keeps you going? 

Louis:  I feel like I've had some really low moments where I feel like I don't really have a place in the law to be myself, and I guess I don't want other people to feel like that.

Duncan does a lot of the events side of things at Pride in Law and I love the advocacy side of it. By doing that advocacy, it makes me feel like I'm doing my part in trying to make a space for people who identify like me in Queensland.

Duncan: Yes it goes both ways. You've got the advocacy on one end but you also need that visible engagement with the community on the other, saying this is what we're trying to do.

It’s networking with your colleagues and friends and other firms, and being amongst those like-minded individuals to start making those changes.

So that's what inspires me, when you can see it actually working and moving forward.

Louis: We've got so much going on in the background. The start of this year was crazy in terms of the submissions that we did to Government. We're trying to push legislation forward that is inclusive of LGBT plus issues.

What do you see as the greatest opportunity for LGBTQIA+ lawyers moving forward? 

Duncan: It depends on what you define as opportunity, but in terms of the rainbow space, I would say there's still a lot of advocacy that can happen.

Whether it's through Pride in Law or some of the other organisations there's a lot of advocacy and activism that that you can get involved in. Representation as well.

I would say also in the corporate diversity space, firms are starting to adopt diversity inclusion policies as part of their ongoing framework to make sure certain categories are addressed as well as how we handle discrimination if it were to happen. Find your like-minded people and then see, it's amazing what can come of it.

Louis: Yes, for the legal profession in particular, I think it’s important for law firms to get involved in the Pro Bono side of things. Whether it be helping CLCs with law reform submissions or helping with specific kinds of LGBTQIA+ legal matters. 

A lot of our community is marginalized and potentially on the lower socio economic side of it so it’s important to lend a hand. It paves a way forward for LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the Queensland community at large, as well as in the legal profession.


Of course, it doesn’t stop at the end of Pride Month – what projects does Pride in Law have in store for the rest of the year and beyond? 

Duncan: One that comes to mind is getting out to regional areas. It's been amazing to see the level of support we've had when we visit, we've previously gone up to Cairns and Gladstone, just recently we went to Townsville for the NQLA Conference and panel event and also an event at JCU where we got to meet some students and have a good well rounded discussion with those entering the legal profession. 

In terms of where we are now, it would be great to continue the support in the regional areas, continue getting involved with other organisations such as QLS, College of Law, Queensland Young Lawyers, I believe there is an event coming up with them in October. 

Obviously we've got our Annual Address every year, which takes place in November. I don't think its public news yet, who the keynote speaker is for that, but stay tuned, very, very exciting.

We're excited to come together as a committee and plan the second half of 2024 and to continue with our social events, visible education and advocacy as well.


Louis: Our pride in law award will be presented at the QLS Excellence in Law Awards Gala, in August. The award provides visibility in the community of a really outstanding LGBTQIA+ legal professional. 

I'm speaking at an event tomorrow at Griffith University for Pride Month, around diversity in law. As Duncan said, we did a similar event in Townsville at James Cook University for the students and I think it's really good to be that visible organisation for law students. 

As someone who is really early in my career, I can say that before I was approached by Michael Bidwell, who is one of our national directors, who let me know about Pride in Law, I feel like if I had known about Pride in Law earlier on in my law degree, it would have been a different experience. I feel like I would have had less of that struggle of do I belong in this profession? 

Dean Clifford-Jones our Chairperson will be talking at an event at the end of June, the details haven't been released yet, but stay tuned for that! He is a great voice for the community.

Duncan: Also collaboration with our other committees in other states, such as our committees in Victoria and recently WA and also in New South Wales who I believe this year had their first official launch.

Louis: Yes that’s right, they've been active in NSW with law reform and events but hadn’t officially launched until earlier this year. 

If anyone finds themselves in Sydney this month there is a panel event coming up called, ‘Coming out in the law’, it’s sure to be a really good panel that will discuss a lot of things that we've touched on today about the difficulties and challenges of coming out in the law.

If any of our readers would like to get involved with Pride in Law, how can they go about it? 

Louis: Membership is free, so you can just join online, and then you'll get all the emails and everything that we send out about our events. 

Or if we’re talking corporate level sponsorship, our sponsors pay annually and collaborate with us on things throughout the year and that really helps us keep going and be able to do everything that we do.

Duncan: I'd say follow our socials because that's where you'll get the ideas and the upcoming events, whether that be the monthly socials, or a panel event or whether it be something else to get involved with. We’re very active on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.


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