Bar is ‘fantastic’ for working parents says Ed Miliband’s wife — but her chambers has just 17% women QCs

By on

Justine Thornton’s ringing endorsement of “family-friendly” bar not backed up by stats


39 Essex Street barrister Justine Thornton, who is married to Labour leader Ed Miliband, has described the bar as “fantastic” for working parents.

Yet her chambers has just 17% female QCs, with women making up only seven of the 41 silks at the top public and commercial law set.

In a speech to pupils at Sion-Manning Roman Catholic Girls School in Ladbroke Grove, central London — which is reported in today’s Evening Standard — Thornton (pictured above) said:

“Being a barrister is fantastic for being family-friendly. Because I’m self-employed. So that means if I want to see my kids in a school play, I don’t have to ask anyone, I carry on working in the evening.”

In fairness to Thornton, who is a senior junior specialising in environmental and planning law, 39 Essex Street fairs considerably better at junior level, where 38% of its barristers are female.

This places it in joint third place out of 30 top sets in the Legal Cheek Chambers Most List for gender diversity at junior level. Only No5 Chambers (40% women juniors) and Matrix (48% women juniors) boast a higher proportion of women.

Indeed, when compared to other sets at the famously male-dominated senior end of the bar, 39 Essex Street’s 17% women QC ratio is also — concerningly — pretty good, placing it in joint fourth place for silk gender diversity in the Most List.

One Crown Office Row has the highest percentage of women QCs (26%), followed by Keating Chambers (22%) and 7 Bedford Row (21%). At the other end of the spectrum sit Outer Temple Chambers and 3 Paper Buildings — neither of which has a single female silk.

Check out the Legal Cheek Chambers Most List to find out which chambers have most women, which have most ethnic minority barristers and which are most Oxbridge-dominated.