Feature: The inspiring story of Gill Phillips

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In 2013, when the Guardian newspaper began publishing information about international intelligence operations, including widespread eavesdropping exercises that ignited protests around the globe, Gill Phillips found herself on the frontlines of an unprecedented legal fight.

Phillips, who serves as director of editorial legal services at Guardian News & Media Limited (publishers of the Guardian and Observer newspapers and theguardian.com website), was among those navigating the complex intersection of journalistic freedoms, classified information and international relations. The story, a result of Edward Snowden’s NSA disclosures, was one of many challenges the openly lesbian Phillips has faced during her tenure at the paper, which has also included breaking the phone-hacking story, The Trafigura Super Injunction Saga and the Leveson Inquiry.

In November, she’ll be recognised for her work, and her visbility as an out legal professional, when she receives The LGBT Bar Association’s “Out & Proud” Corporate Counsel Award. The honour, bestowed by the United States’ largest association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied legal professionals, will be part of a day-long event in London presented in conjuction with Interlaw Diversity Forum.

The LGBT Bar’s first-ever European event, modeled in part on its hugely successful “Lavender Law” conference in the US, is being hosted by JPMorgan. Called “The Business Legal Conference,” the November 19th event will feature a career fair for LGBT legal professionals, CLE & CPD panels and an evening event, at The Club at The Ivy, recognising both Phillips and Fiona Woolf, Lord Mayor of the City of London. Woolf will receive The Bar’s “Ally for Justice” award, in honour of her work to expand LGBT equality.

“We’re thrilled to be bringing The LGBT Bar’s quarter century of experience working with legal professionals to London,” said D’Arcy Kemnitz, the organisation’s executive director. “Our annual ‘Lavender Law’ conference brings together more than 1600 legal professionals each year. We know, however, that issues impacting the LGBT legal community are universal. When Interlaw proposed bringing exporting our ‘Lavender Law’ experience to Europe, we jumped at the opportunity.  For our first-ever event abroad, we’re designing a day of programming, awards and networking that will help attendees raise the bar on their careers, their connections and within our community.”

For Phillips, who started her career at Clifford Chance and went on to serve in in-house legal roles at the BBC, News Group Newspapers and The Times prior to joining the Guardian in 2009, it’s a chance to underscore that being out and visible is no longer a bar to career advancement and opportunity.

“I’m especially proud to receive The Bar’s honour because of the message it sends to the next generation of legal professionals,” she says. “We can, at last, have it all: a career we enjoy and a private and professional life that we live with honesty and integrity. Those values are, indeed, a core part of being successful. Our profession, and our community, benefit from the expertise, and diverse backgrounds, that LGBT lawyers bring to work every day.”

For more information on The LGBT Bar’s event, including online registration, click here
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