The family department within Healys solicitors, a firm who are this month advertising their services in the print edition of The Pink News, are offering legal services tailored to the lesbian and gay community in response to the Civil Partnership legislation. In order to do this, Healys have taken on a new lawyer, Kahn Priestley, who herself recently celebrated a Civil Partnership, to head up the Brighton wing of Healys family law department.
Talking exclusively to PinkNews.co.uk Priestley explained: ” Healys are naturally interested in expanding into the Civil Partnership market and are particularly looking for someone who could empathise with that market, which was one of the reasons why they hired me.”
A widely experienced and accredited family lawyer, Ms Priestley is ideally suited to working in this position having seen the development of the legislation over the last few years. Years before the legislation was passed, Kahn was involved in campaigning for legal recognition of gay partnerships when she was part of the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association. She explained that “alongside accountants and tax advisers, I looked at the various consultation papers that led up to the Civil Partnerships Act. I was also involved in lobbying MPs.”
Since the legislation was passed, she has already advised various clients relating to the legal implications of the partnerships on financial concerns and any children they might have. “Yes you could call me an expert on civil partnership law” she agreed modestly.
Not only did this expertise make her a perfect candidate for Healys Solicitors Family Law department, but Kahn sees the firm as at the cutting edge of progressive legal practice. “The very first question that they asked in my interview was what i knew about Civil Partnership law, before they knew that I was gay. I just said ‘well apart from registering my own’, and it was out there on the table.”
Compared to other law firms, even many in Brighton, Priestley sees Healys as taking the initiative in LGBT-friendly legal practice. “Most firms know about Civil Partnerships but don’t have a strategy to really go out and target that market. In Brighton it makes sense, morally and also socially with 25-30% identifying as LGBT. It is so important that they have a supportive solicitor they can turn to.” A very visible indicator of Healys strategy is the annual presence of their stall at Brighton pride.
Rebecca Gardiner , the Head of the Family Law department is spearheading this appeal to the LGBT community. She told PinkNews.co.uk that she is delighted to have Kahn join the family department at Healys. Her legal experience, coupled with her proven business development skills and commercial acumen, will undoubtedly be an asset to the firm and assist them in growing the family practice further. Kahn and Rebecca are intending to forge business relations with the gay and lesbian business community in Brighton and the surrounding areas .
Having had a civil partnership ceremony herself, she is now even more qualified to advise clients considering it. About the ceremony she said: “we planned it from day one of the legislation being in place. It was from a practical point of view. Financial rights was really why we did it initially.” As a result, Priestley, and her partner Amanda Oswald opted for a simple ceremony.
“We were under a lot of pressure to invite people but we just wanted to keep it quiet. We had been together 11 years already. We only had three other people there: my brother and sister-in-law were our witnesses and a friend was our ‘maid of dishonour’.” Though initially entered into for legal reasons, Kahn explains that “as time progressed it got quite romantic and became a statement.
“I was really delighted to turn up in a country hotel thinking “yeah don’t mess with me, I am 100% legitimate here and entitled to a double room, not be looked at sideways – it really adds dignity to gay relationships.”