Featuring a diverse range of impactful individuals across the sector
IMAGE BY PEXELS, FOREWORD BY HELENA KENNEDY KC, BARONESS KENNEDY OF THE SHAWS, WORDS BY JACQUI RHULE-DAGHER
When I came to the legal profession, only five percent of practitioners were women. I knew only one “out” lesbian, Marguerite Russell, and she joined a group of us – three men and three women – who set up a radical Chambers at the Bar. She was a bold feminist and I learned so much from her about sexual politics. At that time, being declared a “lesbian” in law was unheard of, and there were few women of colour too. The very idea of a Black lesbian lawyer was unimaginable.
Fast forward to the present day, and my friend, Jacqui Rhule-Dagher, a Black lesbian lawyer, has brought together a group of 25 lesbian lawyers. Significantly, this diverse group comprises different levels of seniority and areas of expertise. Each and every one of these individuals is making enormous contributions to both the legal world and the LGBTQIA community.
Jacqui Rhule-Dagher has been featured on the DIVA Power List 2023 — which celebrates LGBTQIA women and non-binary individuals across a number of sectors. In February 2023, Jacqui was also recognised as one of the Top 10 Future Leaders by the British LGBT Awards. In 2022, Dr Keina Yoshida was one of the lawyers who successfully litigated the Rosanna Flamer-Caldera v Sri Lanka case before the Committee On The Elimination Of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This case was the first international human rights case to establish that criminalising lesbian relationships is a human rights violation.
In 2021, Daisy Reeves, was ranked as the fifth most influential LGBTQ+ Executive in the world, in the globally recognised Outstanding LGBT+ Role Models List, which recognises and ranks the most senior LGBTQ+ leaders in business worldwide, who are making the workplace more welcoming for the queer community. Finally, proving that it is never too early to make a positive impact, Zareen Roy-Macauley was named the TARGETJobs LGBT+ Undergraduate of the Year in 2020.
In the inaugural Legally Lesbians series, these 25 individuals write about their careers and why visibility is important to them.
Olivia Amos – Associate – Dispute Resolution – Northridge Law LLP
I trained with Ashurst and qualified into their disputes team in 2016. Having always been a keen follower of sport, in 2018, I joined Northridge Law, a Tier 1 firm for sport. Five years on, I have been lucky enough to be involved in many disputes or regulatory projects that have occupied the back pages or sports news bulletins.
Visibility is important to me because it normalises lesbians in the legal industry. I hope, in today’s society, we are now close to a point of normalisation such that no one should have to “come out” at work in the traditional sense.
Aderonke Apata – Barrister – Human Rights – African Rainbow Family
I am a multi-award winning human rights activist, feminist and lawyer. My campaign expertise are in LGBTQIA asylum. This is as a result of being granted asylum after a 13-year battle to remain in the United Kingdom myself.
In 2014, my passion for justice was recognised by the National Diversity Awards, where I won the Positive Role Model for LGBT Individuals Award. I was described as “an unstoppable force in fighting for justice”.
As a Black lesbian lawyer, I believe it is important that people are able to identify people like themselves at the Bar. It is hoped that in doing so they will be encouraged to pursue a career at the Bar.
Victoire Binchet – Senior Knowledge Lawyer – Competition – Addleshaw Goddard LLP
I have been a competition lawyer for 10+ years. After moving to the UK for university, I worked at a Silver Circle firm, then did stints in-house and at a regulator, before coming back to a law firm as a knowledge lawyer. Addleshaw Goddard felt like a great fit.
I think of visibility every day — I came out in my 20s, and one of the things that really helped me in my career was to see visible and supportive queer women at work. Now, I do the same for others — if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.
Paola Bruni – Associate – Real Estate – Hogan Lovells International LLP
I am a dual-qualified commercial real estate lawyer at a leading global law firm. My focus is on large-scale development and redevelopment projects. Being raised in a country in which same-sex couples are stigmatised meant that I did not know of anyone “like me” growing up. The lack of representation, and plethora of harmful stereotypes attached to the word “lesbian”, meant that I never considered the possibility until my early 20s.
Visibility is key to ensuring that coming generations see themselves represented, understand they don’t need to “fit a mould” to be valid, and feel proud to show who they are.
Chloe Derrick – Managing Associate – Dispute Resolution – Mishcon de Reya LLP
I am a managing associate in the Insurance Disputes practice at Mishcon de Reya. I act exclusively for policyholders on coverage disputes with their insurers.
As co-chair of Mishcon’s Pride Network, it is important that lesbians (and the LGBTQIA community as a whole) are encouraged to stand up and be visible. As a network, we work to ensure that individuals can look around and see that they are represented and supported within our organisation, across all different levels.
I am also co-chair of The London Gay Women’s Network, which equally works to amplify the voices of professional women in the workplace.
Eleanor Diamond – Associate – Employment and Partnership – Fox & Partners
I am a solicitor specialising in employment and partnership law. I started my career by training at a Magic Circle firm. I now work at Fox & Partners, a boutique firm in the City. A large part of my work is acting for individuals and helping them navigate the challenges of life at work.
My job means that I encounter employers with excellent practice on inclusion and unfortunately the other end of the spectrum too. One thing I observe is that if employees don’t feel valued and able to be their authentic selves, they will vote with their feet.
Claire Fox – Barrister – Family Law – 1 Crown Office Row Chambers
I have been practising as a barrister in family law for 20 years. When I joined, the number of women were increasing. This gave me the confidence to know that I could succeed. The number of LGBTQIA barristers, however, felt less visible.
I have always fundamentally believed you should not leave your personality at the door. Our authenticity and integrity is our asset. Visibility is important to encourage the next generation to know that they can thrive and be supported at the Bar from any background, thereby ensuring that the Bar is as diverse as the people we represent.
Emily Garland – Associate – Private Equity/M&A – Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
I started my career as a trainee solicitor in Leeds before moving down to London as a newly qualified solicitor in 2020. I’m now an associate in the Private Equity/M&A team at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
Visibility has been crucial in giving me the confidence to be open and authentic, especially at work as a trainee/junior constantly trying to impress in order to progress, to see that being openly lesbian wouldn’t be perceived negatively and hinder that progression was essential. That authenticity has been fundamental in allowing me to thrive in my role and to develop professional relationships, which have ultimately led me to where I am in my career today.
Bridget Garrood – Family Law Solicitor – The Law Society – LGBTQ+ Solicitors Network Committee Member
In 2016, The Law Society acknowledged my professional existence by its first official network of LGBT+ lawyers. This was the first time I felt seen by the professional body, which had admitted me in 1994. I cannot recall a visible lesbian legal role model from whom I may then have drawn courage about my own visibility. Visibility is being seen.
I have represented queer clients, and their straight and cis counterparts, for nearly 30 years. It is devastating that trans clients and colleagues are having to endure the weaponisation of the term “lesbian”. Equal legal rights for others does not mean less rights for you. It’s not cake.
Charlotte Godber – Barrister – Crime and Public Law – QEB Hollis Whiteman Chambers
I made a conscious decision when I applied for pupillage to be an “out” lesbian. I knew that approach might risk discrimination, but I decided “if they don’t want me then I don’t want them”. It worked and I was fortunate to get taken on at a top criminal Set, QEB Hollis Whiteman.
The word “lesbian” is stigmatised and still raises a snigger because it has been commandeered by heterosexual male pornography. The only way to claim it back is to remind people that it’s just the word for a woman who is same-sex attracted, and it’s what I am.
Anna Grant – Casey – Director – Pride Legal Ltd – The Law Society – LGBTQ+ Solicitors Network Committee Member
I qualified as a private client solicitor and as a STEP practitioner in 2017. My particular expertise is trusts and tax, although I deal with a wide range of matters. Since 2023, I have been working as a consultant in this field.
Lesbian visibility is important to me as a non-binary lesbian to fight the assertion that lesbian relationships are restricted to those who identify as women. Sadly, this assertion can come from cisgender lesbians. Gender and sexuality are different, and lesbians can express themselves in a wide range of genders, all of which are valid and are beautiful.
Elizabeth Isaacs KC MCIArb – Head of Chambers – Barrister – Specialist Child Law Silk – St Ives Chambers
I came out aged 21, after graduating in 1984.
I worked as a social worker for 13 years but it felt very unsafe in the 80s and 90s to be open in my professional life. I re-qualified for the Bar via a part-time law degree. I was called in 1998, aged 35, but I never felt able to come out at Bar School, and still remained fairly closeted throughout pupillage.
Now, I regard it as my responsibility to be as open and visible as I can, to act as a role model, and to support and mentor other lesbian barristers.
Nikki Johnstone – Partner – Fintech & Payments Regulatory – Allen & Overy
I’ve spent most of my career in private practice at international firms. Since I started in 2008, I’ve always loved the quality and variety of work, as well as the chance to learn from exceptional colleagues all over the world.
As a partner, it’s important for me to live authentically — being open at work has immeasurably improved my resilience and makes me a better lawyer for my clients. Seeing other queer women thriving in law is crucial to building a more open and diverse community in the UK — I can’t wait to see even more young lawyers being their true selves!
Claire Manches – Vice President – Corporate Counsel – PGIM Real Estate
I am a vice president at PGIM Real Estate and the lead legal counsel for the European Debt Platform.
Based in London, I oversee the delivery of legal services across PGIM Real Estate and throughout Europe, via both in-house and external resources. I started at PGIM on secondment in August 2018 and I took the decision to stay, as I enjoyed working in-house and being closer to the business.
I currently chair the PGIM Pride Network, and I spearheaded our collaboration with BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival as co-sponsor. It is hoped that these initiatives will encourage everyone to bring their authentic self to the workplace.
Laura Middleton – Guerard – Partner – Serious Injury – Irwin Mitchell
I studied English & French Law. I thought about corporate work but after a seat in serious injury, my fate was sealed. I have been at Irwin Mitchell since qualification and I was made a partner in 2018. My work involves using litigation to put rehabilitation in place for people after life-changing injuries. Really rewarding work.
When I first started, I was not sure how much to share, or if I should share — would it harm my career? Over the years, things have improved (Stonewall Index and Lesbian Visibility Week!) but those questions still come up. It’s important to show aspiring lawyers that they can be their whole self at work and be successful.
Christie O’Connell – Pupil Barrister – 1 Hare Court Chambers
I am a pupil barrister at 1 Hare Court Chambers, a specialist matrimonial finance set. I am relatively new to the profession, having started my pupillage in October 2022. Prior to the Bar, I worked for a social enterprise providing advocacy assistance to clients in disability-focused welfare applications.
I am fortunate enough to have never felt the need to hide my sexuality at the Bar — the visibility and camaraderie of other LGBTQIA barristers has made that possible. It is important for me to keep being visible to show other newbies to the profession that diversity at the Bar is something to be celebrated.
Elaine Penrose – Partner – Commercial and Financial Services Litigation – Hogan Lovells International LLP
I’m a litigation partner at the international law firm Hogan Lovells, having spent my entire 23-year career there. I’m also a mum of two brilliant 8-year-old twin girls, sharing custody with my ex-wife, where we each have our own long-term partners.
Visibility is important to me because if I am not open and proud of who I am and how I live, then how can I expect the most important beings in my life to be self-confident, proud of who they are, and to know that our differences are something to be celebrated and not ashamed of?
Helen Randall – Public Sector Commercial Lawyer – The Law Society – LGBTQ+ Solicitors Network Committee Member
I have a portfolio career now. I’m fortunate to be out at work in genuinely LGBTQIA inclusive workplaces: City and international law firm Trowers & Hamlins, the Bank of England’s Legal Directorate, and pro bono chairing Stonewall Housing.
When I qualified in a big City firm in 1992, it didn’t feel safe to be out. I also volunteered on a free legal advice LGBTQIA helpline when the queer community had few legal rights back then.
For me, visibility of lesbian identities must include trans and cis people. Our hard-won LGBTQIA rights are too fragile now for infighting.
Daisy Reeves – Partner – Global Inclusion & Diversity Client Relationship – Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP
For now, I am the only person in the global legal world that has my job. In 2021, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner appointed me as its global inclusion & diversity client relationship partner — a role I truly love as I advise clients about best and next practice in the I&D sphere, worldwide. Previously, I was global co-leader of our Banking Sector across 30 international offices. When I started out, in the early 2000s, there were no visible lesbian lawyers. There is that old adage “you can’t be what you can’t see”, so a few of us metaphorically stood up to change that, to be “seen”, and here we are.
Jacqui Rhule-Dagher – Associate – Litigation – Hogan Lovells International LLP – The Law Society – LGBTQ+ Solicitors Network Committee Member
I consider myself to have a “day” job and a “gay” job. In my “day” job, I advise clients on a broad range of corporate and commercial disputes. These disputes typically relate to issues such as breach of contract, misrepresentation, negligence and civil fraud. I started my career by training at a Magic Circle law firm, and I am now an associate in the corporate litigation, fraud and investigations team at Hogan Lovells. As part of my “gay” job, I sit on the steering committees of the Hogan Lovells UK Pride Network, and of The Law Society’s LGBTQ+ Solicitors Network.
Visibility is vital! After all, if you don’t meet people like you, you may start thinking there’s something wrong with you. Everyone deserves the dignity of seeing their identities represented positively. Visibility, however, should not be the ultimate goal. Rather, it should be a step towards equity.
Zareen Roy – Macauley – Future Trainee Solicitor – Clifford Chance
As a proud Black queer woman, leading spaces that celebrate marginalised communities is of high priority. Visibility allows others to reimagine parts of themselves that they may have hidden, and to boldly imagine what could be. I was the first LGBTQ+ Officer of the University of Cambridge’s African-Caribbean Society, and President of FUSE — a society for queer students of colour that bolstered their inclusion and visibility. Consequently, I won the 2020 National LGBTQ+ Undergraduate of the Year Award, and was listed in Attitude Magazine’s 2021 Top 10 Under 25 LGBTQ Trailblazers.
Nik Tait – Senior Legal Counsel – Laing O’Rourke
As a disputes lawyer, I have practised at two international construction and energy firms, followed by one of the world’s largest litigation firms. I now act as Senior Legal Counsel for a sustainability-focused international construction company.
Throughout, I have remained a vocal member of the queer community. This is vital both for my own sense of self, and to assure others that it’s possible to thrive while being ‘out’ in the workplace (even in the male-dominated heteronormative construction environment).
When I became a lawyer, someone asked me: “Won’t your sexuality detract from your employability, how will you manage?” This is how.
Laura Rhiannon Thomas – Court of Protection Lawyer – NHS Wales SSP – The Law Society – LGBTQ+ Solicitors Network Committee Member
I am a court of protection lawyer and I have just started working for NHS Wales SSP. I have been out as gay since around the end of my undergraduate degree, not long after I realised myself! I consider visibility to be so important. It is needed to show that LGBTQIA people exist in all spheres of life.
When I first entered the legal industry, I certainly had no idea about the diversity that existed within the legal profession. I would have found it both comforting and motivating to know about the amazing feats, and incredible careers, that LGBTQIA lawyers have had.
Zoe Woodhouse – Managing Associate – M&A and Private Equity – Sidley Austin LLP
I’m a managing associate in the M&A and Private Equity practice at Sidley (London). I advise private equity sponsors and other financial institutions on cross-border corporate and M&A transactions. I also spent two years in Sidley’s Hong Kong office advising on a range of private equity M&A and investment funds matters. I’m associate co-leader of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.
Being visible within an organisation is important for our younger generation of lawyers and their clients, not just for recruitment/retention, but because it empowers LGBTQIA lawyers to feel their diversity is valued and their voices are genuinely relevant to the conversation — the importance of visibility/representation in leadership positions should not be underestimated.
Dr Keina Yoshida – Barrister – International Human Rights – Doughty Street Chambers
I am an international human rights lawyer, barrister and author. I am a proud non-binary lesbian and queer parent. I was one of the founding members of OUTy Street, the LGBTQ+ group in Doughty Street Chambers, and now co-lead the Pride group in the Center For Reproductive Rights.
Being visible and celebrating queer communities is important to me. Growing up, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me in legal careers in Northern Ireland. I want all aspiring young lesbian lawyers to know that the Bar is a welcoming space for all the rainbow lives of the law.
Jacqui Rhule – Dagher is a lawyer at Hogan Lovells International LLP, and is a member of The Law Society’s LGBTQ+ Solicitors Network Steering Committee. Jacqui also featured on the DIVA Power List 2023.
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