Finding a good solicitor can be hard, especially when your issue is a very sensitive LGBTQ+ one. But, McMillan Williams Solicitors are definitely up there, as not only do they have “LGBT representation at all levels of the firm from support staff to partners and senior management”, they have also won awards, and were even legal sponsors of Brighton Pride this year.
I discussed a few issues with them, so let’s take a look.
How many LGBT people would you say you help per year?
We don’t routinely record the sexual orientation of our client base, as this would be inappropriate/breach of confidentiality. However, we are publicly proactive supporters of the LGBT community and have a number of senior LGBT personnel flying the flag for us as well.
How would you describe your involvement with the LGBT community?
MWSL have LGBT representatives at all levels both on the main staff and at Board level, and we would count ourselves as having many straight allies supporting gay rights and causes too. Our Charge d’affaires is a senior lawyer who sits on the Law Society’s Equality Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which is actively involved promoting LGBT events and individuals within the legal profession, and championing the work that they are doing as an inspiration for those looking to, or just entering the profession.
This year, MWSL have sponsored Brighton & Hove Pride and acted as official Solicitors to the Brighton Pride organisation itself. We have entered a 3 year relationship with the organisers, so they can count on our support in 2016 and 2017 also. We have high street offices in Brighton, Hove and Worthing and so cover a stretch of the South Coast offering high quality legal services to the Public.
Our offices in Brighton on Princes Street and Edward Street are in the heart of the LGBT community, and we offer a range of services from Family and Private Law, Court of Protection, Employment Law, Injury Specialists, Civil & Criminal Litigation all of which can support the LGBT community in their legal needs. We are also a large Conveyancing Practice and can facilitate our clients needs when buying and selling their homes.
What is the most common problem you think LGBT people face? (Answer from David Fazakerley, MWSL’s Chief Information Officer and LGBT Officer)
I personally believe some employers still discriminate against LGBT persons in the workplace and so supporting employees in this area and protecting against discrimination is important. With the advent of Civil Partnerships and now Gay Marriage, come the additional requirements concerning Wills, Powers of Attorney, Property ownership and disputes, Children, Adoption and of course, Divorce!
So there are plenty of areas in which LGBT persons will require help, advice and legal support. We are also well placed to understand and take action on other related issues – for example, against hate crimes; or advising partners in business on commercial issues where they might ultimately need to look at dissolving the legal structure or for one of those partners/Company Directors continuing the business without the other.
You were at Brighton Parade, what did you think? (Answer from David Fazakerley)
The Parade was phenomenal in terms of the huge turnout from the public who came out to show their appreciation and support of the LGBT community; we were delighted to play a part in that Parade and also in the Park with our stall. We were warmly received by the hundreds of thousands of people lining the streets, the parade route passed our offices in Brighton and Hove so it was great to be able to show MW Solicitors at the heart of the communities.
In the not so distant past, the Pride Parades were a show of solidarity within the LGBT community and a march for justice for all LGBT persons. Today, many of those inequalities and injustices have been corrected and resolved, but there is still a way to go around the world and still more to do here in the UK. However, the parade is a just celebration of that equality hard fought for and hard earned and at MW Solicitors, we want to help the LGBT community access that equal justice now afforded to them under the law.
You have won multiple awards, what is your proudest moment? (Answer from Nicola Manning, Chargé d’Affaires)
Winning not only the Working Mums best larger SME employer last year, but also taking their overall Top Employer Award! A fitting testament to our strong corporate commitment to retaining female talent and supporting staff in balancing their work life commitments – and which included within the ten real life MW case studies, one gay female couple with childcare issues to manage between them, as well as a primary carer dad!
You are very influential to the point where you have even helped along changes in the law, what do you have your sights set on now?
All our lawyers are hugely committed to ensuring access to justice for all clients. MWSL are at the cutting edge of many changes in the law, but right now we are extremely proud of our extradition* team based at London Bridge, who very recently represented a gay client on an extradition request to Romania – and won.
Our client had relocated to the UK some years ago and had met his partner, with whom he has been in a relationship for three years. His partner is HIV symptomatic and also has other longstanding health issues. He relies heavily upon our client for physical, as well as emotional, support. We raised a number of issues in the case, including an argument under Article 8 – the right to family and private life – based upon our client and his partner’s life together in the UK.
*Extradition is the process whereby a requesting Judicial Authority submits a request or European Arrest Warrant for the surrender of individuals to either stand trial or serve sentences overseas.