Caroline Harrison KC is a founding member of FREEBAR. She has recently been interviewed as part of the series of Next 100 Voices, as one of 10 emerging leaders in law from minority backgrounds. She shares here her personal journey, her career and her efforts to support the next generation of the profession.
“I grew up in a small town in Lancashire where people had ‘no time’ for anyone who ‘put on airs and graces.’ It didn’t matter if someone was a mill owner or a mill worker, but the expectation, quite rightly, was that everyone was entitled to equal respect.
The other feature of my childhood that has endured and explains why I am a barrister, is that fairness runs through me like the word ‘Blackpool’ in a stick of rock. How I felt about myself was not ‘fair’, even though it was no one’s fault. But in 1960s Lancashire I could neither share nor understand my own feelings. I had no tools to fight for my own fairness. Unconsciously, this became a desire to fight for fairness for other people.
Even now, when I attend LGBT+ events, I’m heartened that we have made great strides, but there’s still a long way to go. I often speak to students concerned about their place in the judicial world, and who ask me if being themselves, or becoming themselves, will hinder their career.
My answer always unwaveringly is that by being yourself, your career can only flourish.
Being transgender, for me has always been about being open about who I am and my journey so that more people may feel emboldened to be true to themselves, and so that friends and allies may have a better understanding of the unique issues that trans people face.
Everything I do as a barrister embraces this tenet, whether I’m speaking at a FREEBAR event, mentoring other trans lawyers, supporting a ground-breaking LGBT+ student moot, presenting on trans issues to the annual conference of Diversity and Community Relations Judges (DCR), including the Lord Chief Justice, or speaking about trans issues to the Middle Temple Student Association.
I hope that by being visible and ‘out there’ I can send a powerful message to students and young lawyers that being a trans Silk is an accepted ‘norm’.
Equality and diversity cannot be quick fixes, they are rooted in behaviours. Which is why diversity isn’t a ‘buzz word,’ or a ‘nice to have,’ for 2TG, it’s the way we do business.
We embrace diversity and inclusion, and we action it. Diversity is about having people, policies and a culture which creates an environment where all our people can grow and flourish, confident in themselves.”
Caroline Harrison KC
Caroline’s professional practice is predominantly in clinical negligence. She has a first degree in Philosophy and Theology at Oxford and did her law Diploma and Bar Finals in London. After around seven years in practice, Caroline did an MA in Medical Law & Ethics at King’s College, London. She was a member of the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee for ten years, and a Human Genetics Commissioner for seven years. She has served as a member and then chair of a busy hospital research ethics committee in London. Caroline was elected a Bencher of Lincoln’s Inn in 2012 and took Silk in 2013.
Caroline is a founding member of FREEBAR, has done many interviews about visibility at the Bar, in addition to being interviewed for the Next 100 Years Celebrating Women in Law, and she teaches advocacy extensively. She is a regular tutor on the advanced advocacy course at Keble, Oxford, which attracts Judges and senior practitioners, as well as trainees, from across the world.
Next 100 Years introduced the series of Next 100 Voices as an initiative to champion those in positions of leadership to encourage the next generation of aspiring lawyers to pursue their ambitions. These 10 emerging leaders, who were taken from across private practice, in-house, the Bar and the judiciary, were asked to share how they got to where they are now, what they are doing to change their area of the profession, and what lessons they think they can offer to those who are following them.