England: Lawyers reprimanded and told to pay compensation for using transgender client’s birth name
Lawyers have been reprimanded for using a transgender client’s birth name when advising them on a discrimination claim.
A leaked document from the Legal Ombudsman shows that a law firm was forced to compensate the client after it used her birth name in correspondence that provided advice on the claim.
The firm had to pay even though it had asked the client how she wanted to be referred to but received no response.
In the memo, leaked to TalkRADIO, the ombudsman noted that the lawyers “chose to refer to the complainant using her birth name throughout a long letter assessing her claim”, resulting in her complaining that she “felt disrespected”.
Officials acknowledged that the client had given lawyers documents that “showed her name to reflect her gender at birth”.
The firm itself exonerated the lawyers initially on the grounds they were unaware the complainant was obliged to maintain a legal identity reflecting her birth gender, which is why she used this name in official documents.
The ombudsman said that “unsurprisingly” the complainant was dissatisfied with the finding.
And it too disagreed with the firm’s finding – citing advice from American LGBT campaigning group Glaad – which states that “when a transgender person has transitioned and is living their life as their authentic self, that is their truth”.
The firm was told to reconsider its approach and procedures and that it should pay the client “to recognise the emotional impact of their service failing”.
The report stated that the client told the ombudsman’s office: “I wish more people were like you. So often we complain when things don’t go our way but when there is clearly a strong and good understanding of these matters I feel that people like you should be championed.”
The ombudsman refused to identify the law firm or amount owed.