The law firm of Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP (MMM) announced on April 10 the launch of a new LGBTQ business practice group that will offer culturally conscious legal services to LGBTQ businesses and Fortune 500 companies. MMM is the first Southern law firm to launch a practice dedicated to LGBTQ business.
The firm has a long track record of pro bono work in the LGBTQ community. More than 50 firm attorneys participate in Atlanta Legal Aid’s Gender Affirming Name Change Project, a pro bono legal name-changing service for low-income transgender, gender nonconforming and nonbinary people. The firm scored a perfect 100 in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, an annual assessment of LGBTQ workplace equality, and earned Mansfield 5.0 Plus certification status, an objective measure of the firm’s commitment to diversity, including LGBTQ attorneys.
In launching this new practice, the firm will leverage the strength of its full-service business law practice with its lawyers’ deep understanding of the LGBTQ community. With strength in numbers, MMM’s Washington D.C. and Atlanta offices hope to support some of the country’s largest LGBTQ populations.
The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) certified its 2,000th LGBTQ Business Enterprise in March.
“LGBTQ-owned businesses contribute nearly $2 trillion to the U.S. economy, and have created tens of thousands of jobs nationwide,” Chance Mitchell, Co-Founder & CEO of NGLCC, said in a press release. “As the number … continues to grow, so will our positive impact on the nation.”
MMM’s LGBTQ business practice attorneys will counsel LGBTQ-owned and operated businesses, business owners, investors, brokers, buyers, sellers, and lenders on legal issues unique to the community, ranging from real estate and finance to mergers and acquisitions and litigation. The group will also help corporate clients fulfill their diversity goals by providing counsel on issues related to supplier diversity initiatives.
“The goal of this new practice area is to ensure LGBTQ clients have ample opportunities to find the structural support and build the professional relationships necessary to thrive in the business world,” practice co-chair Douglas D. Selph said. “The firm’s experience and long-held commitment to equity and inclusion create an ideal platform to help LGBTQ businesses form strategic partnerships with other culturally aligned entities.”
“It’s the right thing that our firm needs to do. It’s no secret that there’s a lot of sort of increasing hostility toward the LGBTQ community throughout the South and in other parts of the country,” Selph added. “We want to continue supporting the [LGBTQ] community as a law firm and in business by recognizing LGBTQ-owned businesses and supporting them.”
Selph, who is a real estate and finance partner and the former president of the Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia, will co-lead the group with commercial real estate associate Charles E. Hicks. Hicks is an OUT Georgia Business Alliance ambassador and is actively involved in the LGBTQ community.
“Our vision is to become the go-to law firm for LGBTQ entrepreneurs in the South, and those who service those entrepreneurs and businesses to create an ecosystem of excellence,” Hicks told Georgia Voice. “By starting the LGBTQ Business Practice Group, Morris, Manning & Martin hope we make it easy for LGBTQ businesspeople to identify us as a friendly and socially conscious place to bring their business, and we lower the barrier that might exist for folks in terms of knowing where to go.”
Hicks’ work to support and advocate for the LGBTQ community includes campaigning for the Stonewall Equality Scholarship Fund at UGA for LGBTQ law students in 2019, the first of its kind in Georgia law schools.
“We are thrilled to launch a formal practice to serve this historically underrepresented, yet rapidly growing, minority business sector,” Hicks said. “Our subject matter expertise combined with our value-based service model makes Morris, Manning & Martin the optimal partner for LGBTQ entrepreneurs and the community’s corporate allies.”
“OUT Georgia is incredibly proud to see Morris, Manning & Martin make such a bold, innovative investment in the growing LGBTQ+ business community,” Chris Lugo, executive director of OUT Georgia Business Alliance, said. “Aligning the firm’s values, expertise, and commitment to equity will drive significant impact for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, and we are honored to partner with the firm on these efforts.”
The practice will be supported by an advisory council made up of prominent firm partners who will offer LGBTQ businesses supplemental counseling services in their respective practice areas. Council members include real estate development and finance chair Matthew J. Sours, hospitality partner Catherine Morgen, intellectual property and chief diversity partner Daniel L. Huynh, private equity partner Scott L. Allen, corporate partner Larkin B. Ellzey, and litigation partner Jessica A. Rodriguez.