Russell-Cooke has a long and proud history of campaigning for the rights of, and continuing support for, the LGBT+ community. To mark Pride this year it is worth reflecting on some of the legal and campaigning work some of the firm's solicitors have undertaken in this area:
Fiona Read is a partner and head of the family team in Russell-Cooke's Putney headquarters. Fiona was involved in campaigning with the organisation Rights of Women for lesbian custody rights in the 1990s. She also campaigned with Stonewall and the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association (LAGLA) for the change in the law recognising same sex relations for some years before 2005 when the Civil Partnership Act came into force. She was invited by the MOJ on behalf of the family law group for LAGLA to contribute to the consultation process during the drafting of the bill. Fiona's campaigning continued up to the time of the change of civil partnership to marriage.
Fiona was a founder member of Qpod, the lesbian and gay family lawyers collaborative practitioners group set up to encourage same sex couples going through separation to work collaboratively. Whilst Qpod no longer exists the group did create good working practices amongst Qpod members which continue today.
James Carroll, a partner in the family team, has been actively involved in campaigning for legal reform for LGBT+ people throughout his career spanning two decades. James has been particularly engaged in the reform of family law, which is his specialism. James was heavily engaged both in the advent of the civil partnership bill, leading to the Civil Partnership Act 2004, and the introduction of same sex marriages, resulting in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. This was both through LGBT+ specific organisations and through James' wider practice and committee memberships and chairships. James' professional practice encompasses acting for all individuals and families as both a solicitor and a mediator, with a particular focus on those in LGBT+ relationships and their families. He has spoken nationally and internationally about how family law applies to and impacts on the rights of LGBT+ individuals.
Gareth Ledsham is a partner in the trust and estate disputes team. His practice encompasses challenges to wills, claims for financial provision from estates, and claims relating to interests in property. He also advises on disputes in the Court of Protection. He has acted for numerous clients claiming provision from the estates of deceased partners with whom they were in same sex relationships in circumstances where the deceased's family has denied the existence of the relationship.
Gareth was actively involved in a working group set up by LAGLA to examine the government's proposals to introduce same sex marriage prior to the passing into law of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.
Sarah Richardson, a partner in the children law team is experienced in representing members of the LGBT+ community in many areas of children law. Sarah and her team assist couples and individuals wishing to adopt children. They advise people wishing to begin a family and are sensitive to all the issues faced during these often difficult and extremely emotional times. They are also experienced in representing members of the LGBT+ community when things go wrong and family relationships are breaking down.
Nimmisha Aslam is an associate in the personal injury and clinical negligence team. She is also a founding member of the Law Society LGBT+ Lawyers Division. The Division aims to promote inclusion in the legal profession, reflecting the diversity of our society. This year she is on the Pride project sub-committee which involves organising the Law Society's Pride marches in London, Bristol, Newcastle, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff, ensuring Law Society representation across England and Wales. She has therefore been an active participant in ensuring the continuing growth of representation of lawyers at Pride marches.
Managing Partner Jonathan Thornton says: "Campaigning for equal rights for the disenfranchised has been in Russell-Cooke's DNA since our earliest days when our founders had close links to the fight for women's suffrage. In more recent years some of our lawyers have been at the coalface campaigning for LGBT+ rights and at the cutting edge in changing the law in support of these rights. Pride is a good opportunity for us to appreciate all they, and many others, have achieved through their hard work and to celebrate the rich benefits that inclusivity brings to us as a firm."