14 February 2013
‘Is it okay for a lawyer to marry another lawyer?’ asked the Bitter Lawyer website last month, eliciting a stream of negative responses. Their tone echoed that of a recent interview given by Dinah Rose QC to the Chambers Student Guide, in which the Blackstone Silk advised high-flying women lawyers against marrying fellow lawyers. Instead, tongue partially in cheek, she urged them to ‘Marry a house-husband! A 1950s-style wife – someone to have dinner on the table!’.
Still, there is ample evidence that inter-lawyer relationships can work – and even bolster one's career – as these lawyer-power couples demonstrate…
Barack Obama and Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama
Barack Obama met his wife Michelle when she was assigned to mentor him during his vacation scheme at US law firm Sidley Austin. Barack, who was studying at Harvard Law School at the time, never went on to practise law, instead joining the University of Chicago Law school where he taught for 12 years before going into politics.
Michelle stayed slightly longer at Sidley Austin, but after a couple of years as a junior lawyer at the firm, she left to work in a number of public sector roles.
Mr and Mrs Obama are not, of course, the first presidential legal power couple, with Bill and Hilary Clinton meeting as students at Yale Law School – and going on to practise at law firms in Arkansas after they married.
Tony Blair and Cherie Booth
Tony and Cherie famously got together as they vied with each other for tenancy while pupils at 11 King's Bench Walk Chambers. Tony got taken on; Cherie didn't (although she was quickly snapped up by New Court Chambers), but this didn't stop love blossoming between the duo, who married four years later. Both would go on to take an active interest in politics, but only Tony made it into the Houses of Parliament, after he was elected as member of parliament for Sedgefield.
As Tony climbed the ranks of the Labour Party, eventually becoming its leader in 1994 and then Prime Minister in 1997, Cherie rose to be one of the country's top lawyers. She was made a QC in 1995, a recorder in 1998 and then co-founded leading human rights set Matrix in 2000.
Lord Falconer and Marianna Hildyard
While Tony Blair was getting together with Cherie Booth, his then flatmate, a rookie barrister called Charles Falconer, met another young female barrister, Marianna Hildyard. The careers of this couple followed a similar path to the Blairs, with Falconer juggling politics with a career at the Bar, and Hildyard climbing the legal ranks as a family barrister to become a QC in 2002. Falconer served in a number of senior roles in the Blair government, including Lord Chancellor. After quitting politics in 2008, the former Fountain Court barrister returned to private practice as an employed lawyer with the London office of US law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The couple have four children.
Patricia Scotland & Richard Mawhinney
Baroness Patricia Scotland is another lawyer-politician who is hitched to a fellow member of the legal profession. Scotland's husband, Richard Mawhinney, is a barrister specialising in personal injury at London's Outer Temple Chambers. Family Silk Scotland returned to the Bar in 2011 after stepping down as Attorney General. She practises at 4 Paper Buildings and last year was made Prime Ministerial Trade Envoy to South Africa. Scotland and Mawhinney live in Oxfordshire with their two children.
Janet and John Gaymer
It's not only UK barristers who find love in the legal profession. Back in 2001, Janet Gaymer became the first woman senior partner of a top ten City law firm. Meanwhile, the career of her fellow solicitor other half, John Gaymer, wasn't going too badly either, as he climbed the ranks to partnership at commercial boutique law firm Bracher Rawlins.
After quitting the City in 2006, Janet has gone on to serve as Commissioner for Public Appointments in England and Wales, and have a number of honours conferred upon her, meaning she is now both a Dame and an honorary QC. Janet is a vocal advocate in favour of greater gender diversity in the senior echelons of law firms.
Shami Chakrabarti and Martyn Hopper
Barrister and Director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti is extremely well known, and even got to appear in the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. Her husband, Herbert Smith partner Martyn Hopper, is rather less well-known, but highly respected in City circles as a regulatory lawyer par excellence.
At first glance a match between an anti-establishment human rights champion and a City lawyer may seem unlikely, but Chakrabarti isn't a complete stranger to Hopper's world, having considered becoming a City trader before embarking on Bar school. In a 2007 interview, the Liberty chief described her husband, who cut his teeth at the Financial Services Authority before making a lucrative move into private practice, as one of her ‘heroes’.
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