Zoe Dolan practices law according to the belief that everyone deserves a defender. Known for handling tough cases and zealous advocacy, Zoe is an experienced federal trial attorney who has won acquittals for clients on both coasts.
Fluent in Arabic, she was part of the team that defended Osama bin-Laden’s son-in-law during the US government’s terrorism trial against him in 2014. (Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was convicted later that year, and sentenced to life in prison.) She never disclosed her gender identity to her client, but it was part of a New York Times profile published at the time on her legal work.
She has since written and spoken widely about her work and her trans identity, and how “the experience helped me understand perseverance – even when the light at the end of the tunnel is obscured by too many twists and turns to imagine.”
When she’s not taking on the federal government of the United States, Zoe is an avid and highly accomplished skydiver
Please describe how and when you first knew you were LGBT+:
I think I always identified as female, which I guess qualifies me as transgender.
In 25 words, describe how you came out:
I was profiled in the New York Times.
How has coming out, and being LGBT+ or an Ally at work, influenced your leadership approach and style?
It certainly was a relief. Now I’m able to give everything to clients knowing that there’s nothing to hide. I find that they appreciate me standing up for myself – for that is precisely what they ask me to do on their behalf as a lawyer.
If you could have any job other than the one you have now, it would be:
Is it okay to say that I love practicing law and writing – which I am so lucky to get to do – more than anything?
The most important thing I have learned from a boss is:
Know thyself. (I am my own boss!)
The most important thing I have learned from an employee is:
Do your best – especially when no one’s looking. (Remember: I’m my own boss!)
If I could tell someone who is graduating from college this year one thing I’ve learned, it would be:
As Joseph Campbell said: follow your bliss. For what it’s worth, that advice has served me exquisitely.
A time a sponsor helped me take my next step:
A mentor tossed me in front of a jury to sum up on my very first federal trial. Baptism by fire!
This person is my LGBT+ hero, because:
Ned Rorem, the composer and diarist. He was born in 1923 and lived an incredible life that took him to Paris and Morocco as a young (gay) man. His written work that I’ve read – mostly memoirs and diaries – is food for the soul, and inspired me to follow my passion and drink every drop of life that lands in my cup.
My first job was:
A bookstore clerk. I wanted that job so badly I went back every week until they finally caved.
The best piece of advice I ever received was:
“There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
My motto is:
Love is freedom. – J. Krishnamurti
What would be the opening song in a movie about your life, and why?
Something with a beat that people can dance to.