Justin is part of Allen & Overy’s global LGBTQ+ network committee and speaks at internal and external panel events to foster greater industry-wide inclusion. In 2020, Justin founded ‘GROW’, a mentoring initiative that supports 1300 aspiring lawyers/barristers from underrepresented communities in the UK/USA. Beyond the legal profession, Justin is a role model with the LGBTQ+ charity, Diversity Role Models, and actively raises money to support their classroom based workshops. In 2021, Justin won our British LGBT Future Leader award, so we thought we would catch up with him a year later to see how he’s getting along.
How has it been since winning the British LGBT Awards, Future Leader award last year? How has it helped?
Winning the award has helped me to build upon the work I was doing, gain more momentum and help to contribute towards greater change for the community. The award helped to raise my profile and meet new people within DEI, which has ultimately led to more collaborations and opportunities to support the LGBTQ+ community. Most importantly, the award has allowed me to learn from senior leaders and cross paths with many inspiring change makers – this is something I’m especially grateful for!
The work you’ve done with young people really inspired the judges. How can we help young LGBT+ people in navigating careers?
For young people starting out, it’s really important to have role models and people to look up to. The work the British LGBT Awards are doing to highlight all the Top 10s and share their experiences is definitely helping with that. There are many people in the Top 10s that I have spoken to and learnt a lot from. The more opportunities we can create for young people to hear from diverse role models, the better! Naturally, as I run a mentoring charity, I also think the power of mentoring for young LGBT+ people is very important and can help to reduce some of the barriers young people within the community face when entering the world of work. Mentoring was especially beneficial for me as a gay man entering the legal profession, and I hope other sectors take inspiration from what I have created with GROW Mentoring, to help provide more mentoring opportunities for diverse professionals within their industry.
What areas around LGBT+ campaigning and issues faced are you really passionate about?
There are many issues I’m passionate about, whether it’s mental health within the LGBT+ community or protesting alongside the trans community. From a careers perspective, I’m especially passionate about helping to level the playing field for young LGBT+ people entering the world of work, and in particular those entering ‘traditional’ industries. I think minorities face many barriers when they start out, and I hope to do more to help change that for the future generation of LGBT+ career starters. Helping students and young LGBT+ professionals address imposter syndrome, tackle the feeling of isolation and seeing themselves as ‘the odd one’ in a room are all things I want to reverse for the better.
What has been a turning point in your career?
Mentorship and the influence of role models has definitely been a turning point in my career. Like many people, I struggled a lot with imposter syndrome and always saw myself as slightly different, in a negative way. I’ve spent a lot of time with my amazing mentor Joanna Hughes and now see my differences and diversity as a strength to be celebrated and something that enables me to positively contribute towards my workplace and wider society. That helped to spark the idea of founding my charity, GROW Mentoring through my own personal experiences. To date, we’ve provided over 3000 diverse students with their own individual mentor and are helping many more through our events and workshops. I’ve benefited so much from mentorship at an early stage in my career and hope to provide the same for many others.
What is your life motto?
My diversity and uniqueness is my superhero strength and something to feel proud of – I said this on stage at the British LGBT Awards 2021 and have owned it since.
Who/what inspires you?
I’m inspired by so many people, but especially young change makers already playing a large role in helping to support so many other diverse people around the world! Seeing the impact my generation is making across the world fills me with a lot of hope for the future, and I’m excited by that!