After growing up in a working class family, and spending his teenage years shying away from coming out, Deven Vyas became an acclaimed prosecutor in London. Louise Sinnerton from myGwork shares his story.
Deven is a 46-year-old Asian man who comes from a traditional family background, and is currently Director of Client Development at Reed Smith.
In his professional life he is known for being tenacious with a 'can do attitude' and attributes the achievements in his illustrious career to his character and upbringing.
Deven tells me that he’s always been hugely focussed, even as a child: “I’ve always had fire in me, it’s in my blood. I was a latch-key child; my parents had to leave very early in the morning to go to work, so as children, me and my sister had to wake up in the mornings and had to go to school on our own.
"I am not sure it would even be allowed in today’s world! I didn’t enjoy being without my parents in the mornings but it was not their fault.
"I’m a sensitive person and wanted my parents to be there in the mornings. I remember thinking to myself that I wanted to do better.”
Deven describes his parents as extremely loving and hard-working, but growing up with hard working parents definitely stoked the fire in him, and shaped his dream of being a lawyer.
Deven was a committed student from school right through to University, but after spending years in the closet, coming out threatened to derail his education.
Deven describes this experience as a very big deal; on top of being the first openly gay man in his family, he was the first to go to University.
His sexuality and desire to be a lawyer were both untrodden paths: “I wanted to enter the legal profession – which at the time, was only open to a select group, which was traditionally very white, male and middle class. I didn’t fit any of those stereotypes.”
Not fitting in almost devastated Deven’s dreams. His academic world and personal life collided one unexpecting summer during his final year at University: “I went through this horrendous coming out process, I didn’t plan it, it sort of just happened.
"I felt that I lived a double life for so many years. God knows why it happened when it did, it was my last year of University.
"All of a sudden I couldn’t handle the 'coming out process' and it felt like I was having some sort of a break down.
"I come from a traditional working class background, and it meant I had to work that much harder to be successful in my career, and when I was going through this difficult “coming out” process I was determined to achieve at least a 2:1.
"I was fixated by that; knowing I needed it to get a Training Contract."
Although he missed one of his mandatory exams during this time, thanks to his previous outstanding grades, the University allowed him to pass this one missing subject.
However, University wasn’t always a supportive space, as Deven found out when discussing magic circle law firms: “One lecturer said to me no offence, but they look for Oxford or Cambridge only, he didn’t say white but he did mean that too."
Despite not seeing anyone from his type of background being represented in the City, he was determined to be the exception, and prove any naysayers wrong.
After a tumultuous last year of coming out, Deven graduated with a 2:1, successfully completed law school and began his dream job training and working as a lawyer.
Around this time, Deven also met his partner who he’s been with for the last 23 years, and talks about how this relationship has completely changed his confidence: “My parents are so loving and decent.
"However, they are very traditional which meant they thought a different way and that influenced the way I thought.
"Living with my partner and leading a more open lifestyle helped me to become confident in a whole new way.”
This confidence helped Deven to defy his University lecturer and he went on to work for three out of the five magic circle law firms. He did this coming from a working class and traditional family with no leg up, and no family contacts to help him get a foot in the law firm door.
Following accolades and several years accomplishment in the City, Deven decided it was now time to shake things up a bit: “I decided I wanted to give back to the community, while still being able to pay my mortgage.
"I moved to the Crown Prosecution office where I requalified as a solicitor advocate, attending and prosecuted cases at court and was responsible for making serious decisions about whether to prosecute someone - I was really doing work for the community.
"I used to leave court some days having remanded murderers, rapists and robbers in custody and I would walk home thinking wow I’ve really made a difference today!”
Deven’s flair for prosecution was recognised with a series of promotions, the position of Borough Crown Prosecutor for Tower Hamlets & Hackney, two of London’s high crime boroughs, where he achieved a high prosecution and conviction rate, and a profile in The Times newspaper naming him “the new face of the CPS“.
The Times published a big profile on Deven and interviewed him, and that was the crystalised moment where he thought he had overcome the various challenges he was afraid of when he was training.
After a successful period as a prosecutor, Deven moved back to the City and then joined Reed Smith seven years ago, where he tells me that coming out is part of what makes him successful as a professional: “If you can truly be who you are that makes you a better and stronger person.
"Coming to Reed Smith has been fantastic as they accept everyone, they recruit talented people and are very diverse in their recruitment.
"Given that I have had a very good career and have had the honour of working in top organisations, if I can help anyone , particularly if they come from that traditional background, I would do my best to help and support them.
"I am thankful to all my family, friends, colleagues and others who have helped and supported me in my career and life journey!”
Reed Smith is a corporate member of myGwork, the LGBT+ business community.