Dr. Ann Olivarius, founding partner of McAllister Olivarius, trained as a corporate lawyer and financier before starting her own firm in 1996. McAllister Olivarius is a transatlantic law firm specializing in cases of race and gender discrimination. An innovator who has made legal history in both Britain and America, Olivarius has consistently won multi-million dollar awards for clients in both the US and the UK, pioneering a legal practice that is self-consciously pro-women.
Olivarius’ journey to the feminist front lines began in New Jersey, where she grew up the oldest of five daughters in a Catholic family that often struggled to make ends meet. Her life changed when, at 17, she won an American Field Service scholarship that allowed her to study in Peru throughout the summer of 1972. There she saw the poverty and violence that women suffered when they broke the rules – by seeking sexual freedom, abortion, or divorce – in an ostensibly Catholic country. The following year she enrolled at Yale University, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1977. In 1977-78 she worked with a team of midwives in Manila, Philippines, delivering babies in poor parts of the city.
While an undergraduate, Olivarius identified the problem of widespread sexual harassment of students by professors at Yale and, after the university refused to do anything about it, shaped a legal solution by convening a group of plaintiffs and working with legal scholar Catharine A. Mackinnon and lawyers Anne Simon and Kent Harvey. The case, Alexander v. Yale, was the first to establish that Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination in institutions of higher education also applied to the sexual harassment of students, a landmark in American legal history.
Olivarius won a Rhodes Scholarship to study Economics at Oxford University, where her dissertation, “Working Democracy: Analysis and Prospects of British Worker Co-operatives,” earned the Nuffield Prize for an outstanding doctorate in Economics. The thesis remains one of the most extensive, fine-grained scholarly analyses of worker-owned businesses in Britain.
She enrolled in Yale Law School and the Yale School of Management, becoming the first person to complete the 5-year joint degree program in 3 years, graduating with highest honors in 1986.
On leaving academia, Olivarius dedicated the next ten years of her professional life to mastering litigation, finance and corporate advisory work. In her first year working in the Mergers & Acquisitions department at Goldman Sachs, Olivarius beat out several hundred other associates to win the “Best in Finance” award from John Thornton, then head of its European operations. She served as legal and financial advisor to Perot Systems, drafting software licensing contracts that became industry standards, and devising the company’s European structure that underpinned its strong international expansion, leading to the company’s acquisition by Dell, Inc. for $2.2 billion in 2009. At Shearman & Sterling, Olivarius represented the government of Mexico and served as counsel in negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement on Mexico’s behalf. Olivarius founded her own law firm, McAllister Olivarius, in 1996, opening headquarters in London in 1999. That year, she served as advisor to Hambrecht & Quist CEO Dan Case, helping arrange H&Q’s $1.35 billion sale to Chase Manhattan Bank.
Forty years after she first made legal history, Olivarius remains at the legal vanguard, using her knowledge of the corporate world and litigation to expand and redeem the law’s transcendent promise of equality for all on both sides of the Atlantic.
Since starting McAllister Olivarius, in the United States, Olivarius has successfully pursued impact lawsuits against major companies, financial institutions and law firms for race and sex discrimination. She regularly brings lawsuits against American universities, including the Ivy League, for permitting sexual harassers to remain in position or receive token discipline. She has also represented prominent individuals including European royalty in prenuptial agreements and divorces in the US and UK. In the UK, Olivarius started an additional law firm, AO Advocates, representing surviviors of child sexual abuse. It has broken new legal ground in a series of child sexual abuse claims against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She often makes headlines in both Britain and America for her work representing the victims of revenge pornography, including YouTube star Chrissy Chambers.
In 2019, Olivarius was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from YaleWomen, for her tireless work throughout her career fighting for gender equity and a more just society.