Professional Ambassadors

Simon O

Senior Associate | Clyde & Co

Profile Highlights:

  • First generation lawyer and to university
  • Low income family
  • LGBT sexual orientation
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I grew up in a lower middle class family in Middlesbrough in the North East of England during a time of significant economic hardship (the 1970s and early 1980s). I attended a mixed state comprehensive school and sixth form college.

In 1984 I sat the Oxford entrance exam and secured a scholarship to study at Keble College. Whilst not the most public school Oxbridge college Keble still came as a shock. Studying at Oxford did however give me a route into the City of London.

I joined Lovell White Durrant (now Hogan Lovells) in 1988 qualifying into their litigation department in 1990. I have subsequently worked as a litigator specialising in claims against solicitors and other professionals in a number of large city firms and in house at an underwriting agency before moving to Leeds in 2017.

In 1988 the city was not an easy place to be a gay man. It was the time of Clause 28, open media hostility and the start of the HIV / AIDS crises. There were very few out gay men in any of the firms that I worked with, no support networks and no legal or indeed emotional support for LGBT+ employees. Perhaps in those circumstances it is no surprise that I took my time in coming out.

In 1988 the city also provided challenges to a young lawyer from a northern, comprehensive school background. Regional accents were derided. I had no old school network to support or promote me and the confidence of colleagues from more gilded backgrounds was rather intimidating. The position has changed significantly. Society has moved on from 1988. LGBT+ rights have both legal and societal protection. Overt discrimination is a thing of the past. Networks and supportive colleagues help challenge any remaining subtle discrimination that remains.

Lawyers from less privileged backgrounds remain under-represented in London. This is a challenge that is being addressed. It is one not faced in my current legal environment in Leeds.

I am happy to lend support and guidance to any that think it may be of assistance to them.

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