ON BEING A TRANSWOMAN LAWYER…
By Danielle Joy Healey1
I am a Senior Principal at Fish & Richardson P.C. where I specialize in intellectual property and related antitrust law. I am highly ranked in Chambers, Best Lawyers in America, Texas Super Lawyers, yada, yada, yada….2 As a practical matter, however, those accolades are drowned out by the only label that has mattered since I transitioned in 2017: "transgender woman". Reflecting on my past life compared to my present circumstance, I realize now that being a white man gave me privilege I did not understand until I wasn’t one. And being a transgender woman puts me at the opposite end of the spectrum, something I never could have appreciated until I became one.
I have learned that true allyship and support is when someone with privilege is willing to take a risk by disrupting the status quo. I am grateful to my firm because it was one of the first large firms in Texas to publically embrace a transgender woman lawyer. If you have followed the news recently out of Texas you know that embracing a transgender woman in this place and time is risky business. Yet I know that even with this acceptance by my firm, that allyship has not been shared by the legal industry or even some courts, so that "transgender woman" label still dominates my practice. Today in Texas, this label is especially hard on me and other transpeople.
As a man, I always had business. As a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, in the peak of the patent litigation boom in the early and mid-2000s, I was working as much as 300 hours a month and spending almost all my time on the road, in depositions and in court. By 2007, I was spending about two calendar days per month at home. In 2008, I was asked to open Fish & Richardson P.C.’s Houston Office. Ultimately two of my partners and I, several associates, three paralegals, and our administrative assistants were in Fish & Richardson P.C.’s new Houston office that fall. Even after I cut back my hours in 2010 to work on myself and try other things (I wrote a book, a screenplay and made a movie in my family’s hometown in Sicily3), I had business.