What are you most proud of having achieved in your career so far?
I am proud of the fact that I feel that I have inspired people to bring their whole selves to work. I have had junior lawyers come up to me and tell me that they had reservations about being out at work but, by seeing me as a visible role model at the Firm, it has really given them the confidence to do the same. It is just so important and feels so much better than any other professional achievement that I might have had.
My now husband was a trainee in the same intake. I met him during the LLM CLP and it certainly helped that we were both at Clifford Chance. When you move from university to work life it can be quite a shock – you spend a lot of time in the office. We ended up doing seat abroad together in Madrid which was absolutely amazing.
You are Co-Chair of our LGBT+ affinity group ARCUS. What achievement are you most proud of when it comes to your involvement with ARCUS?
In terms of achievement, we are very proud to have got to number 19 on the Stonewall Equality Index. Our focus within Arcus, more recently, has been on our memberships, trying to get more women, people of colour and trans colleagues to join. Now Arcus is a much more inclusive group than ever before. It has been really powerful in bringing people together.
We organise lots of internal events, training and networking events and more recently we have moved all of our activity online. We have a queer film club, we meet regularly, we have new joiner drinks, we do lots of things to try to support the membership. We regularly collaborate with other affinity groups, REACH, Accelerate but also with client organisations. We have held joint film screenings, networking events and joint cooking lessons as a way to get our members to network with the wider community and LGBT allies at client organisations.
Can you tell us about your work on gender identity and LGBT+ rights?
I did not always want to be lawyer – it was something I got to slowly. I think that I was drawn to it because I liked debating and, when I started realise how the law can be a powerful tool for protecting the rights of people, I knew it was the right route for me. We are not a Human Rights firm but litigation is about protecting your clients interests, defending their rights and trying to help them achieve what they want within the framework of the law. That is what drives me.
At the moment, we are representing Christie Elan-Cane who identifies as non-gender and on Christie's behalf, we are suing the government against their policy not to allow passports to be issued with an X, so non-gender. The government is refusing to do that and we say this is in breach of Human Rights law. The courts have agreed with us for the very first time in the UK that there is a right to respect non-gendered identity.
That was a great result in the Court of Appeal, that recognition, but unfortunately both courts ruled against us that the government still had a right to ensure consistency, therefore was within its rights to refuse non-gender passports. We actually went on to secure permission from the Supreme Court to appeal the Court of Appeal position which was the very first time the highest court in the land has considered the rights of non-gender, non-binary people. The hearing took place at the Supreme Court in July 2021 and we are awaiting the result - the fact we have been able to get this far marks an incredible milestone for LGBT rights in the UK.
How do you juggle being a working parent with being a dad to a young daughter?
It is hard being a first time parent – it is so rewarding but equally challenging trying to juggle everything at times. I have a very supportive husband and we share childcare equally. We work really cooperatively to make sure that it works.
What do you think about the firm’s recent introduction of inclusion targets?
They are a very important step when it comes to equality and inclusion but it is also important that we understand that they are not quotas. They are a powerful tool to measure progress in respect of inclusion. They are the only way you can measure if your inclusion initiatives are working. The targets will be a very useful reminder of what needs to be done to get more people up through the ranks.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in law?
Not just specifically to law, you must bring your whole self to work. You are going to spend more time at work than with your friends and family, and you will only be able to thrive professionally if you are authentically yourself from the start.