Ann Olivarius’ legal career predates her admission to the bar: when she was just 22 years old, she made American legal history as a plaintiff in the landmark 1977 Title IX case Alexander v. Yale, which for the first time determined that sexual harassment was a form of sex discrimination outlawed by Title IX. For Olivarius, the experience of fighting for women’s equality in a courtroom proved inspiring and transformative: she turned down medical school to pursue a legal career. Olivarius attended Yale Law School and the Yale School of Management, where she completed a five-year joint JD/MBA in three years with highest honors while pregnant in her final year.
Olivarius grew up in New Jersey, the oldest of five daughters in a Catholic household headed by parents who never had enough money and would have preferred boys. The ambition to compete and win on male-dominated professional playing fields spurred Olivarius to join corporate America as a lawyer and financier on graduating from Yale Law School and the Yale School of Management. In those years, working at Goldman Sachs, Perot Systems and Shearman & Sterling, she became convinced of two things: that for women, money is part of the path to full equality, and that it is possible to earn good money while doing good.
In 1996, Olivarius decided to start her own legal practice: that year, McAllister Olivarius opened its doors in the United States. Just three years later, in 1999, the firm moved its headquarters to London. In 2006, Olivarius asked her husband and Yale Law School classmate, Jef McAllister - who was TIME magazine’s London bureau chief and White House correspondent during the Clinton years – to join her, and he has since become her firm’s managing partner.
Today, McAllister Olivarius enjoys a global reputation for both its corporate advisory work and its fearless representation of women and minorities in employment, education, and online. In the last decade, McAllister Olivarius has won multi-million dollar awards for her clients in challenging cases on both sides of the Atlantic.
While the feminist thrust of McAllister Olivarius’ legal practice generates newspaper headlines, less attention is paid to the firm’s more traditional area of expertise: corporate advisory work. Thanks to Olivarius’ deep knowledge of the financial industry, her practice is adept at solving the intellectually complicated, highly individual problems that so often confront companies doing business overseas.
Beyond corporate advisory work and litigation, Olivarius focuses on four areas of law:
When you’re a woman or person of color, excellence frequently doesn’t protect you from employers’ and colleagues’ prejudices. Olivarius specializes in representing clients who have faced discrimination and harassment at work based on their gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity or religion and holding their employers to account. Olivarius excels at building cases against precisely the kind of prestigious, legally aggressive and deep-pocketed businesses she used to work for, including publicly traded companies, top investment banks and international law firms. She operates on the assumption that these businesses desire to do good in the world, but sometimes lack the necessary tools or motivation to confront the problems created by a few bad actors. Olivarius seeks, as a lawyer, to help companies live up to their best standards while vigorously advocating on behalf of clients whose rights have been violated.
After her early formative experience with the importance of Title IX in protecting university students against sexual harassment, Olivarius has taken up the mantle of furthering Title IX’s effectiveness, challenging universities when they have failed in their duty to protect their students from sexual harassment and campus rape. She has also campaigned in the United Kingdom to introduce a law similar to Title IX, as the UK currently has no legislation requiring universities to have a system for responding to campus sexual harassment and sexual assaults.
In both Britain and America, the laws dealing with revenge pornography are relatively new and rapidly changing. Olivarius was instrumental in getting Parliament to pass the UK’s first revenge pornography criminal law in April 2015. She has continued to do pioneering work in this field, representing YouTube star Chrissy Chambers, whose ex-boyfriend filmed his rape of her without her knowledge and then distributed the videos to porn sites.
Child sexual abuse
As part of her ongoing work protecting vulnerable individuals from sexual exploitation, Olivarius helped found a new firm, AO Advocates, along with the foremost American legal activist in the area, Jeff Anderson. AO Advocates focuses exclusively on bringing historic sexual abuse cases against religious and educational institutions like the Catholic Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, groups of Hasidic Jews, and prestigious schools that have tolerated adults’ sex abuse of children over decades. AO Advocates has won substantial sums for many clients and, through sympathetic treatment, helped them on their individual paths to recovery.