Affinity Group Collaborations
Our firmwide affinity groups have spearheaded significant pro bono engagements, including the first-ever online legal clinic to help trans, nonbinary, and gender-diverse young people change their names in the United Kingdom.
Mermaids: Changing Names, Transforming Lives
For Alex Woolhouse, the Pro Bono and Legal Strategy Coordinator at Mermaids, changing her name was a collaborative, family-first process: “While I’ve always gone by Alex, it was still an emotional and exciting day for me when I changed my name. I did end up changing my first name to Alexandra, but when it came to my middle name, I wanted to choose something that validated who I was but also paid respect to my family’s traditions. My middle name was my dad’s name — the eldest gets their father’s name in my family, so I went for a feminine version: Nell. Not only is it interesting and different, it’s another version of my sister’s name, Ellen, so it’s also in tribute to her.”
Many individuals seeking to change their name do so with a mix of celebratory enthusiasm and bureaucratic dread. Some people even face formidable legal challenges.
After seeing an increase in demand for information and resources on transgender issues, including questions from individuals about how to change their names, Ms. Woolhouse and Mermaids turned to Latham for assistance. Mermaids, an LGBTQ+ charity based in the United Kingdom, has been supporting transgender, nonbinary, and gender-diverse young people and their families since 1995. Together, Mermaids and Latham launched the first online legal name change clinic in the UK, with a focus on using deed polls for name changes.
Hosted over Zoom, our lawyers answered questions about the process, helped young people access the right forms, and offered guidance to ensure that new legal names would be updated on passports and with banks, schools, and medical services. The first clinic in April 2021 was so successful that clinics are now held quarterly, with approximately 30 individuals advised so far across three clinics.
"We believe everyone deserves the confidence to explore their gender identity free from fear. Our name change clinic with Latham & Watkins allows our clients to be themselves and to thrive."
Alex Woolhouse, Pro Bono & Legal Strategy Coordinator, Mermaids
“We believe everyone deserves the confidence to explore their gender identity free from fear,” said Ms. Woolhouse. “Our name change clinic with Latham & Watkins allows our clients to be themselves and to thrive.”Our London effort was based on similar successful name change clinics we have attended in the US, including clinics with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery. We also partner with the Name and Gender Change Clinic organized by Whitman-Walker, a nonprofit community health center with expertise in serving LGBTQ+ individuals and those living with HIV/AIDS. Alongside Whitman-Walker, we created the first comprehensive guidebook to walk individuals through the steps necessary to effect name and gender changes in West Virginia based on a similar guidebook we produced for Maryland. These clinics provide practical, actionable advice. They also give participants a chance to feel seen and heard.
“I wish I’d had access to Mermaids when I was younger and beginning my own journey of discovering and exploring my gender,” said Danni Davies, the London associate who developed the clinic with Mermaids and who serves as a global leader of the firm’s LGBTQ+ Lawyers Group. “As a nonbinary lawyer, I feel especially privileged to use my legal training in a way that benefits gender diverse youth. For a lot of people, the idea of changing your name can be quite daunting and difficult. But having a name that matches your gender identity is an amazing and important milestone.”