Equality and Anti-Discrimination Lawyers

Dr. Ann Olivarius is the Chair and Senior Partner of McAllister Olivarius, and Managing Partner of its sister firm, AO Advocates.

Ann has over 30 years’ experience as a lawyer, financier, philanthropist, writer, and advisor to public figures. With a background in both civil rights law and corporate law, she specialises in cases of discrimination, sexual harassment and assault, and online abuse. She has successfully represented clients against major institutions, ensured that institutions change their practices, and lobbied Parliament to introduce new laws protecting vulnerable people from abuse.

Ann’s work with McAllister Olivarius has catered to a wide range of cases and needs. She has helped clients pursue civil claims against their individual abusers and represented large groups in joint-action lawsuits against multinational corporations, universities, and medical bodies. With AO Advocates, she has represented victims of institutional abuse and brought suit against children’s homes, care homes, prominent schools, and major international religious bodies that allowed the abuse to persist. Her work also includes international corporate transactions, and divorces involving complex financial provisions.

Fighting for legal and institutional reform, to secure justice by protecting others in the future, is central to Ann’s philosophy. Her work in increasing public and governmental awareness of image-based sexual abuse led to its becoming a criminal offence in the UK, and she recently oversaw the establishment of consentlawyers.com, a new form of online service that helps victims of this abuse find affordable, anonymous help. Both her firms have worked closely with the 1752 Group to provide UK universities with better guidance on how to handle sexual harassment and assault investigations. She is a frequent contributor to both British and American media, and has spoken publicly on topics ranging from modern student life to the role of women in science. Ann has been honored by the ACLU, YaleWomen, and the scientific journal Nature.

Before establishing McAllister Olivarius in 1999, Ann worked in the financial sector. She advised Bill Gates on attracting investment after Microsoft’s initial public offering in 1986, designed European corporate structure for Perot Systems that helped make it an attractive candidate for sale to Dell for almost $4 billion, and was CEO of a medical foundation with assets she grew over four years from $7 million to over $100 million. As a negotiator for Mexico in the drafting of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), she introduced the concept of a feminist foreign policy at the trade negotiations, later adopted by countries across the world.

Prominent individuals advised by Ann on legal and policy matters include Margaret Thatcher and her Chancellor of the Exchequer Geoffrey Howe, Baroness Daphne Park, and Queen Rania of Jordan. She has served on the boards of Women Moving Millions, openDemocracy, and Autistica, and was active at the formation of the UK Women’s Equality Party. She is also founder of the Rhodes Project, which evaluates the lives and careers of Rhodes Scholars.

Ann attended Yale University, Yale Business School, and Yale Law School, graduating with highest honors. She also holds a DPhil in Economics and Management from Oxford University, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar and completed a prize-winning thesis.

Following his presidency of South Africa, Ann advised Nelson Mandela on how to lead efforts against inequality and social injustices in the developing world, and was influential in helping him establish the non-governmental organisation The Elders. Mandela described Ann as “a lawyer who has advised me well and who has courageously advanced the cause of justice, and improved life opportunities, for hundreds of millions of women, blacks, and disadvantaged, worldwide”.

More information on Ann’s life and work can be found at her website, www.annolivarius.com.

Case Experience

  • While an undergraduate at Yale, designed the legal theory for the landmark case Alexander v Yale, one of the first cases to legally define sexual harassment and the duty of care owed by institutions to prevent it.
  • Brought sexual harassment and assault cases on behalf of students, faculty, and staff at several universities in the UK and USA, including Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Warwick, Miami, and UCLA. Secured historic settlements, the removal of offending staff from posts, and institutional change, including an end to the use of non-disclosure agreements in investigation of sexual offences.
  • Secured a $9.4 million settlement with the University of Rochester on behalf of nine clients, including world-renowned scholars, who encountered systematic sexual harassment from a prominent member of academic staff. The case resulted in the resignation of the University’s president, and two of the plaintiffs were listed among TIME magazine’s Persons of the Year in 2017.
  • Represented international YouTube star Chrissy Chambers, and obtained a significant settlement for her, after her ex-boyfriend raped her while incapacitated and circulated footage of the rape widely online. At the time, there was no specific law against this type of abuse in the UK. However, Ann was able to make a novel argument in the High Court, combining various parts of the Prevention of Harassment Act and other existing laws to support Chambers’ case.
  • Successfully lobbied Parliament for a criminal law against image-based sexual abuse, enacted as Section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.
  • Represented an American teenager whose British former boyfriend distributed her intimate pictures to her family, friends, and various websites, then made threats of murder. After the firm intervened, he was convicted of image-based abuse and harassment and sentenced to prison.
  • Brought to trial – and won – the first successful child abuse case against the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the UK, making new law that extended the vicarious liability of religious institutions for child abuse committed by their low-ranking officials, confirmed on appeal. Subsequently, Ann briefed the UK Government about the danger of the ‘two-witness rule’ in Jehovah’s Witness communities.
  • Represented a woman who was made to witness the rape of her own children, who won only a small award from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). Lodged a successful appeal that increased her compensation tenfold, one of the largest awards ever given by CICA.
  • Brought a case against one of the world’s wealthiest banks for racial and sexual discrimination against a staff member, including physical violence, resulting in potentially the highest settlement achieved to that point for physical demonstration of discrimination.
  • Brought a major race and sex discrimination case against a Magic Circle law firm which resulted in an eight-figure settlement and a total overhaul of the firm’s training and promotion practices.
  • Represented the Europe Editor of a world-famous news magazine, in both US and UK lawsuits, for age and sex discrimination.
  • Represented an American working for a British company who was sexually assaulted by her boss during a business trip to headquarters in England. Secured a major settlement for the client, the resignation of the perpetrator, and new procedures for protection of employees at the company.
  • In a case that received major media coverage, represented a British-born couple of Sikh Indian background whose local adoption agency would not allow them to apply because only white babies were anticipated. The case was supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission; the court agreed that the Council’s actions were discriminatory and awarded substantial damages, a ruling that has caused adoption agencies around the country to improve their treatment of non-white couples.
  • Led AO Advocates’ participation in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), as part of efforts to trigger Parliamentary reform in this area.
  • Worked in partnership with the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association to represent many victims of historic child abuse in the London Borough of Lambeth, achieving some of the largest settlements paid under the borough’s Redress Scheme.
  • Currently representing eight former employees of Mount Sinai Health System, New York, in a lawsuit for gender, race, and age discrimination that has attracted significant media coverage and prompted the introduction of a bill to create formal anti-discrimination procedures in New York hospitals.

I will always be grateful for your unwavering support of me. Equally, I will always be grateful for showing me how to find my voice and strength.

Title IX case against UCLA, client confidential

It was such a weight off our shoulders; suddenly somebody else with a lot more experience was managing the case.

Sandeep Mander, Mander and Mander v. Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead and anor

We really thought that there was nothing that anybody could do for us. We were wrong.

Dr Celeste Kidd, Aslin et al v. University of Rochester et al

To get the result you got you must be as tough with your legal opposites as you are kind and understanding to your clients.

AOA client, confidential

Compared with other law firms I’ve worked with, no one matches the combination that McO has of experience, brilliance, ferocious fighting and deep empathy for their clients.

Dr Holly Atkinson, Atkinson et al v. Mount Sinai Health System, Inc. et al

Because my case could not bear public scrutiny, a very powerful institution used massive financial resources to try to crush me for asking for my disability rights. This was a huge mistake, as they didn’t know that I would obtain McO representation. I couldn’t ask for better representation.

Disability Rights client, confidential

I would like to say from bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you to all the team. Now I can go and forget my former employer. God bless you all.

Unfair Dismissal client, confidential