Alumni profile - Kerri Dixon-Jones
Although Mental Health Law is a world away from the type of work I do now, that role was fundamental in teaching me about people and hard work and I am forever grateful for my manager Kate for her mentorship and friendship. It was the training Kate gave me that has made me successful in each role I have had since.
Why did you choose to study Law at Queen Mary? Did you have a particular career path in mind? The story goes that at 4 years old I pointed to a lawyer on the television and announced to my family that that was what I wanted to be. That ambition stuck and it was always my goal from then on that I would study Law, nothing else came close. I chose to study at Queen Mary as I wanted to study in London. Being from South Wales, London was always the place that I wanted to move to, "Bright Lights, Big City" and all that. I love East London and it will always hold a place in my heart. I felt like such a grown-up walking down the Mile End Road at 18, hundreds of miles from home.
What aspects of your degree did you find most enjoyable? And what aspects of your degree do you still use today? I loved it all. In hindsight, maybe not the Commercial Law module that a friend and I were specifically told not to take in our second year as it was for final year students only. We saw that as a direct challenge but the advice was spot on and we should have listened to our tutor! The same friend pointed out my first grey hair walking out of that exam and I think that pretty much sums it up! At least we can laugh about it now.
These days I am a practicing lawyer. The law degree laid the foundation for my career and the knowledge I gained is such an integral part of me it is hard to distinguish what I still use today from what I learnt elsewhere. It runs through me like a stick of rock.
Can you describe your career path up to date and touch on your current role? Whilst at Queen Mary, fellow students started talking about training contracts that they had applied for and I just didn't have a clue on the next steps after university. I left university and spent a year working saving up for Law school at BPP. After Law school (where I studied the Legal Practice Course) I found work as a Mental Health paralegal. I spent the next few years representing people at Mental Health Tribunals who had been detained under the Mental Health Act. I specialised in high security forensic cases and I had a passion for human rights and the rule of law. Whilst I would feel sick before advocacy, the feeling afterwards was euphoric and the work was meaningful.
Although Mental Health Law is a world away from the type of work I do now, that role was fundamental in teaching me about people and hard work and I am forever grateful for my manager Kate for her mentorship and friendship. It was the training Kate gave me that has made me successful in each role I have had since. However, I always had one eye on getting a training contract in a commercial firm having focused on commercial subjects at Queen Mary. I finally found a training contract, qualified and practiced in a commercial law firm.
When my first daughter was only a few weeks old I was approached to interview for Roche Diagnostics for an in-house legal role. I moved in-house and will never look back. I currently work as Legal Counsel for Roche, in a role I love and am incredibly proud of. I advise the company on a wide range of subjects and pride myself on being a trusted business partner and not just a lawyer applying the law. Being in-house means that whilst I do work with a team of lawyers most of my colleagues are not lawyers and range from scientists, sales to marketing. I am very lucky to do what I do and to do it with the people I do it with.
For me, LGBTQ+ History Month is about honouring all the brave and dedicated people that have gone before me and whose legacy allows me to do so many things. As a lawyer I tend to focus on the legal milestones that have enhanced my life. My children have two mums on their birth certificates, I can marry my girlfriend, I can be myself at work without fear of reprisal. All of these things and so so much more are only because of the people that fought for them not the governments that eventually and sometimes reluctantly bent to that pressure.
What was so special about your time at Queen Mary? Can you give one or two examples of your most memorable moments? Leading up to results day for my degree I was so nervous I intentionally did not tell anyone the date that the results were coming out as I wanted to pick them up with expectations from anyone. Back then everyone's results were pinned on a public board in the Law building and you would find your number and your result next to it. Happy with my result I felt ready to call my family to tell them the good news. I will never forget stepping out into the sunshine on the Mile End Road and my dad (who had travelled 300 miles) standing there in front of the building waiting for me. He knew me too well and had somehow found out when results day was and had travelled up by train that day ready to celebrate with me. He said that he never doubted we would be celebrating and not commiserating. The two of us spent the day celebrating in London before he jumped back on the train to South Wales and it is still one of my happiest memories.
Another memorable moment was my graduation day. It was still to date one of the hottest days I had ever experienced in London. I got dressed up and was so proud to have my family watch me get my scroll after dreaming of this day since I was a little girl. My father has since died, so these memories and Queen Mary's role in them will always stay with me. Lastly without Queen Mary I would never have met my close friend Elizabeth. Whilst she now lives thousands of miles away in America these two girls from Swansea and Essex will never stop celebrating each other's successes both professionally and personally.
Do you think it is important to see LGBTQ+ representation in the curriculum and across the University more widely? For example, in academic staff and campaigns run by QMSU? Of course! Whilst I did not feel part of the LGBTQ+ community whilst I was in University having only felt part of the community later in life, I can draw upon how important representation is to me now that I am much older. I started school the year Section 28 was brought in and it was abolished the year I left school. Who knows what effect that had and how things may have been different. We have to work doubly hard now to undo that harm and that is everyone's responsibility including allies.
What does LGBTQ+ History Month mean to you and why do you think it is important that we acknowledge the contributions of LGBTQ+ people throughout history and in present times? For me, LGBTQ+ History Month is about honouring all the brave and dedicated people that have gone before me and whose legacy allows me to do so many things. As a lawyer I tend to focus on the legal milestones that have enhanced my life. My children have two mums on their birth certificates, I can marry my girlfriend, I can be myself at work without fear of reprisal. All of these things and so so much more are only because of the people that fought for them not the governments that eventually and sometimes reluctantly bent to that pressure.
Are there any LGBTQ+ historical figures you wish more people knew about? I am not going to preach to anyone about LGBTQ+ History. There are people far more qualified and knowledgeable about that than me and I still have a lot of learning to do. For me, it is all the people that have not made the history books but that are making history every day that I wish people knew about. Growing up, dance and drama were my whole life. For many LGBTQ+ folks youth theatres up and down the country were and are the only places that they feel safe and that they can be themselves. Those adults that make that happen and make it possible for young queer people to feel at home maybe when school or home is not a safe place are amazing.
The theme for this LGBTQ+ History Month is ‘Body, Mind and Spirit’, how do you feel that these experiences differ between the LGBTQ+ community and the cisgender, heterosexual population? I am sure there are many ways but one story will stay with me. My family and I irregularly attend a church in Brighton. The priest and most of the congregation are part of the LGBTQ+ Community. One day, an elderly trans woman collapsed during the service. My girlfriend came to her aid and we called her an ambulance. When the paramedics arrived despite their advice that she come with them to hospital she wouldn't. Even in a city like Brighton she was too scared to seek medical assistance even when she was clearly in need because of how she had been treated in the past. As a cisgender woman seeking medical assistance has been something I have never had to think about or fear and it opened my eyes for sure to those in our community who don't have the same access for many reasons.
What do you feel like is the best thing about being part of the LGBTQ+ community? My 4 year old daughter would say Pride, glitter and rainbows! She also asked me to add in unicorns when I read this out to her?! That girl has marched in more Pride parades than years she has been on this earth and she with her twin brothers will never know how privileged they are to never fear being themselves. I just love being part of a community that has so many interesting facets, history and feeling like I belong. I live in Brighton and Hove and I enjoy seeing other same sex families every morning on the nursery run. I enjoyed standing and clapping for the NHS and recognising all the other members of the community on their doorsteps and giving each other a knowing nod. It has also given me an understanding and empathy for other minority groups that I would not fully have without seeing the challenges past and present being dealt with by the LGBTQ+ community.
Do you have any particular LGBTQ+ role models? Cheesy as it may sound but I would have to say my very own girlfriend. She is superwoman. She is a firefighter in London Fire Brigade and an amazing mother to our three very young children. She lives her life as a very much out and proud gay person at work and is a role model for those that she manages in her team. She always puts everyone first and I joke that we cannot have a family day out without her coming across some incident where she comes to the rescue (what happened in church above is just one of many examples). She is a true example of someone in our community living their life in a true authentic way and is a role model for me.
This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Hannah Dormor. If you would like to get in touch with Kerri or engage her in your work, please contact Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org.