Danielle Joy Healey, Fish and Richardson

Fish & Richardson IP litigator Danielle Joy “DJ” Healey was working remotely this spring, so she was able to live as a woman for several weeks before she informed her firm she was transgender and transitioning to live as a woman.

Healey, a 57-year-old senior principal in Houston who was formerly known as David Healey, said the firm worked with her to make it as easy as possible to announce her change to clients and to people at work.

“They ultimately worked with me and put together a plan on how to do this and how to notify people,” she said, noting that the firm, to its credit, let her have the ultimate call on timing.

“They put an enormous amount of effort and time and energy into it. It just shows that the Fish family is really a family,” she said.

Fish & Richardson’s support for Healey, who was one of three lawyers who left Weil, Gotshal & Manges in 2008 to open the firm’s Houston office, is very unusual, said D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association.

“We’re delighted that DJ was able to transition with the support of her firm. We would not say that is typical in any way, shape or form. Firms have a long way to go,” Kemnitz said.

Kemnitz said Healey’s seniority at the firm probably worked in her favor in garnering support from Fish & Richardson. In another recent case, the Am Law Daily reported in January that a new partner at Goodwin Procter is transgender and had informed the firm even before he started work as a first-year associate that he was transitioning to a man.

Healey announced last week that she is transgender and living her “authentic self” as a woman. But she started living as a woman privately in late spring while working in California and at home in Houston. In early May, Healey said, she informed her firm, and lawyers and administrators from around the firm started talking to her about a plan for how to notify clients and people at the firm.

“It was a very well thought out plan. It went very smoothly. My clients have been very supportive,” she said.

The firm issued a written statement last week, saying it fully supports Healey in her transition to live as a woman.

“Diversity and inclusion are crucial to the positive culture and success of our firm, and we treat everyone with respect and dignity at all times. DJ is a valued colleague and an important part of the Fish family, and we will support her completely in the months ahead,” the firm wrote in the statement.

When asked for further comment today, a firm spokeswoman said Jane Smith, the firm’s chief human resources officer, and Peter Devlin, the firm’s president, led the internal announcement at the firm. Neither was available Monday for comment.

Last week was a momentous week for Healey. On July 17, she attended her first meeting at a client’s office as a woman. She was one of two women in a room with 10 others, including client representatives and lawyers from other firms.

The next day, Healey said, she went into the Fish & Richardson office in Houston for the first time since she started living as a woman. She said firm management gave lawyers and staff advance notice a few hours before she arrived. “It was a very warm and accepting environment,” she said.

Meanwhile, Healey said, she had kept her decision to live as a woman very private. So she announced her change on her Facebook page so friends would know she is living as a woman.

On July 20, the firm updated Healey’s online bio with her new name and photo. That same day, Healey gave her first speech as a woman before the State Bar of Texas Advanced Patent Law Seminar. The next day, she testified before a Texas Senate Committee considering a so-called “bathroom bill” that would restrict transgender people’s access to restrooms.

At the state bar seminar, Healey said, she introduced herself as DJ Healey, formerly known as David Healey, and tried to use humor to put everyone at ease. She said she told the crowd that she needed to figure a few things out in advance of her first time speaking as a woman, such as whether to leave her purse at her chair or bring it up to the podium. She told them that because patent lawyers are a “sketchy crowd,” she brought her purse with her.

She said a few people at the seminar she’s known for years were a “little spooked” to see her living as a woman, but she said that once she talked to them individually, many were very supportive.

Healey said she did not impulsively decide to live as a woman. The decision came after she and her medical and therapy providers decided it was time, and after acceptance from her wife and two young adult daughters.

“This is something I’ve been struggling with since I was 4 years old and it’s been something that I’ve had to deal with. … It doesn’t change me as a person. It just allows me to live more fully and happily,” she said.