Jon Olafson Joins "Our Voices" Podcast to Discuss LGBTQ Leadership and Equity in Law
Denver, Colo. (October 12, 2021) – Denver Partner Jon Olafson recently joined The Colorado Bar Association’s “Our Voices” podcast to discuss his journey becoming a leader in the legal field, while actively working to improve representation of LGBTQ members in the profession.
In the 45-minute conversation, Mr. Olafson discusses his upbringing in a small town in Minnesota, where there wasn’t much visibility for the LGBTQ community. Up to his senior year in high school, he faced verbal and physical bullying because of his orientation.
“I wasn’t out, and didn’t know what that meant,” said Mr. Olafson. “I had no mentors, and knew I was different. My classmates knew I was different but couldn’t quite put a finger on it. 10-year-old Jon would have killed to see rainbow flags - those symbols would have mattered to me, as I was alone on an island. You don’t even know if you can trust your family, because you don’t know how they are going to react. Fast-forward, when I did come out to my family, they were incredible.”
Mr. Olafson came out openly as a gay man after graduating law school in Texas while awaiting bar results in 2001, surrounded by supportive friends.
“My whole life, I had been conditioned that I was bad,” said Mr. Olafson. “When you start to tell people, you expect that same backlash and that same anger. Now I’m 45-years-old, and to this day, I still think about those things when I meet clients or colleagues. To this day, I still have that wall up.”
On his diversity and equity work, Mr. Olafson spoke of increasing representation in the profession, especially in leadership positions where decision-making initiatives happen. He mentioned why he doesn’t like the term “leadership pipeline,” as it excludes many underrepresented populations who don’t have a seat at the table.
“As lawyers, we’re super good at writing policies and coming up with plans,” he said. “But we’re not always the best at actually doing. That’s what I’m trying to fight for - we have to keep showing up for one another and we have to keep being visible and vocal. People in marginalized communities share an affinity, and the more we grow in that affinity together, the stronger we get.”
Mr. Olafson is a member of Lewis Brisbois' Labor & Employment and Trade Secrets & Non-Compete Disputes Practices. He regularly counsels business clients on a variety of regulatory and dispute resolution matters and works with them on domestic and international trade secret protections, corporate espionage, data & cybersecurity, and how to handle situations where a client’s most valuable data are threatened by internal and external sources. He is a founding member of Lewis Brisbois' LGBTQ affinity group and is co-editor of the firm's Labor & Employment Law blog, The Grindstone. Recently, Mr. Olafson was named the Colorado LGBT Bar Association’s Attorney of the Year.
In addition to his position on the Executive Council of the Colorado Bar Assocation (CBA), he also chaired the CBA's Working Group on Racial Justice and formed the organization's Racial Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (REDI) Committee. Mr. Olafson founded the Colorado LEADS (Lawyers Engaging About Diversity and Solidarity) video series, featuring frank discussions on various topics related to inclusivity, equity, diversity, and racial justice, and he co-founded the Colorado Diverse Attorneys Community Circle (CODACC), which aims to build up and support diverse attorneys in Colorado through intensive networking, leadership training, and public service opportunities.
You can listen to the full “Our Voices” podcast episode here.