Non-binary barrister listed as ‘Mx’ by chambers in legal milestone

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By CJ McKinney on

Lamb Chambers’ Oscar Davies thought to be the first barrister to use gender neutral alternative to “Ms” or “Mr”

The board outside Lamb Chambers – credit: Oscar Davies

A new tenant at Lamb Chambers is thought to be the first barrister to be listed as “Mx” rather than “Ms” or “Mr”.

Oscar Davies took to Twitter on Friday to celebrate landing tenancy at the central London set, and included a snap of the updated name board out front. In line with the rest of the tenants, Davies’s name is prefixed by an honorific — but one that doesn’t specific a gender.

It’s thought to be the first use of Mx (pronounced “mix”) in that highly traditional setting. Davies, who identifies as non-binary, says chambers didn’t make a big deal about it and they’ve been “pleasantly surprised” by the responses to their little wooden piece of legal history.

“I just wanted to use the term that I felt most comfortable with”, Davies told Legal Cheek. “I suppose I was aware that Mx may not have been put on a wooden board before, but luckily the conversation was very straightforward and I’m grateful to chambers for not making it difficult at all”.

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Mx hasn’t been around that long, first appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015 (which said it’s used by “those who wish to avoid specifying their gender or by those who prefer not to identify themselves as male or female”).

But Davies’s move can be seen as part of a broader trend towards gender neutral language in the law. Firms are increasingly ditching traditional terms like “Dear Sirs” in correspondence — admittedly the replacement of “Dear Sir or Madam” doesn’t cater for non-binary lawyers — while legislation is supposed to be “drafted in a gender-neutral way” so far as possible.

Davies, who has also set up a @nonbinarybarrister account on Instagram, says that the world is moving in a direction where gender neutral terms must be available in organisations to avoid inadvertent discrimination. “Without Mx the only gender neutral honorific is Dr, and certainly not everyone has the time/resources/ability to become a Dr!”

They added:

“Whilst law and in particular the bar can sometimes seem a conservative profession, I have been pleasantly surprised from responses that I have received in chambers and from the legal profession more broadly.”

A 2018 report by Stonewall found that 37% of non-binary people weren’t “out” at work, compared with 26% of trans people, 7% of gay men and 4% of lesbians.

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