Who? Ryan Whelan, an associate in the London and Dubai offices of global firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Why is he in the news? Partnered with Gina Martin (pictured) to successfully make ‘upskirting’ a criminal offence. The Voyeurism (Offences) Bill received its third reading in the House of Lords last month. It will soon become law. Martin campaigned for the ban after a picture was taken up her skirt at a festival in 2017.
Thoughts on the case: ‘Upskirting is a vile and intimate violation. Gina has shown incredible strength in channelling her anger into positive action. I’m very proud of her and the trust that she put in my judgement throughout the campaign. We were repeatedly told – inside and outside of Westminster – that we would never succeed in changing the law. I never believed that. Having devised a multi-faceted strategy and holding our nerve, it is satisfying to now see the campaign described by politicians as game-changing and the best they’ve seen. As to the new sense of belief that we seem to have inspired in grass-root campaigners across the country, that’s the most wonderful bonus.’
Dealing with the media: ‘Being right that the law is inadequate is one thing; having sufficient political momentum to secure law reform is quite another. Much of our challenge was in building and maintaining political pressure at a time when parliament was necessarily dominated by Brexit. The media was central to this but you need to direct media for it to be truly valuable. Gina became adept at pivoting to stay on message. It is not easy but when you do that, as she did, the media can help ordinary people do extraordinary things.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I was curious to see if I could. I’m from a state school, the first in my family to head to university. Not one to listen to naysayers or believe in stereotypes, I thought law might be the natural fit for me. I’ve never looked back.’
Career high: ‘Moments of significant pride occur on each win, whether in arbitration, litigation or acting pro bono. This campaign is certainly up there, and so too my representation of Claire Morris’s family in the successful fight to reclaim her grave from Malcolm Webster, the man convicted of her murder. I did the latter case while I was a student.’
Career low: ‘My first day in the office as a trainee. I was sent to join an important client meeting but half-way through my nose started to bleed with such ferocity that I quickly resembled an extra from the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. It wasn’t the ideal start, but then again, as the client noted, it was good to get blood out of the way early.’