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Celebrating Pride Month: Matthew Brooks, Partner, Troutman Pepper (GA)

“Be authentic.  In our new reality of ring lights and photo filters, people crave authenticity.  Clients are no different.  They want their lawyers to be authentic, relatable.  These are the words of Matthew Brooks, Partner at Troutman Pepper in Atlanta, GA.


Being true to oneself should be second nature to us all, but in today’s society culture often sets the tone and determines the beat to which we march. In that reality, authenticity isn’t always the easiest path. Brooks is an active member of the LGBTQ+ community who has set out to walk boldly in his truth; however, it wasn’t always easy for him to do so. “I was not out when I joined Troutman.  In part, I felt it would stunt my advancement because all the clients I worked with, and most colleagues, were hetero males. It took the courage of a former colleague and now good friend to bring up the issue and talk through my fears.  Coming out was both the hardest and most rewarding decision I’ve ever made.  It seems like a distant memory now, but to be fair, I continue to “come out” to clients or colleagues who ask, for example, what my wife does.  It’s never ill-intended but does show we still have work to do and the importance of educating those around us.”


Brooks began his legal career at Troutman in 2008 on the same day that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy – a fitting first day for a restructuring attorney who now has 14 years of experience under his belt. Being new to the restructuring industry, Brooks was instantly thrown into the trenches, but the encouragement given by his practice group leader kept him afloat. He was advised to take time to get involved in organizations that were of interest to him and several of his colleagues mentioned TMA as one he should consider. 


Brooks decided to join TMA and was drawn to the NextGen component. Interacting professionally and socially with other restructuring professionals of similar age was extremely valuable. Several of his connections have now turned into lasting friendships and lead him to learn more about a group of LGBTQ+ restructuring professionals called “WorkOUT” based in New York City.  Brooks has found these sources of comradery as a way to find his rhythm in life, reflecting “being able to connect with LGBTQ+ colleagues and mentors and share achievements, as well as struggles, has made me a better lawyer and a better person,” states Brooks.


With organizations like these now on the scene helping to impact the culture in vast ways Brooks says, “I’m inspired by the continued elevation of the queer community within their organizations.  I think everyone can agree DEI initiatives make sense, but it is particularly encouraging to see companies make specific asks of their partners regarding the promotion of diverse employees.  For example, I recently attended a DEI discussion with one of Troutman’s clients, Delta Air Lines.  It was apparent that times are changing.”


“Delta made it clear they were not interested in simply paying lip service to DEI but would be actively engaged with their law firms to ensure that diverse lawyers were staffed on Delta matters and those lawyers had access to meaningful mentorship and advancement opportunities.   The discussion was powerful, but particularly moving for me was the fact that nearly the entire Delta legal team was present and engaged.  I think our community’s professional future is very bright if companies like Delta continue to drive change through action.”


Achieving authenticity through action takes the work of many.  Brooks suggests ways of how companies can go to action in support of the LGBTQ+ community, noting that “encouraging individuality” is key.   “I recently got my ears pierced.  Several friends suggested I was having a mid-life crisis.  I’ll reserve comment on that, but the decision was actually in response to discussions I had with several lawyers who were leaving their firms because they felt as though their look had to conform with their hetero colleagues.  Stifling, I recall, was the term used.  I struggled with coming out early in my career and I want to do whatever I can to make members of our community feel supported and comfortable being themselves.  Perhaps Tank Top Tuesday is a bit too far, but companies should encourage their LGBTQ+ members to be authentic.”


As you can see, Brooks proudly identifies with and supports the LGBTQ+ community and encourages those who are struggling with being their authentic selves to find a colleague or mentor that can help them harness the confidence within. He himself is also available to help those who reach out to him for advice or support. Through our bravery we can accomplish things that we never thought possible. Surprise yourself and be authentic!

 

Read the profile of Erica Richards>>