Shock as private members club beloved of senior lawyers stays men only
One of Britain’s leading lawyers is urging the judiciary to cut ties with posh London members club, the Garrick, after its members voted to continue its men-only policy.
After the news broke this morning of the decision to keep blocking women following a vote last night, Dinah Rose QC took to Twitter to demand judges reflect long and hard about their membership of the Garrick.
How can judges justify continuing as members of Garrick? Would they belong to a club that barred Jews? https://t.co/74ZejktQQg
— Dinah Rose (@DinahRoseQC) July 7, 2015
The human rights barrister went on to add:
How can a judge declare commitment to equality while endorsing exclusion of women?
Rose’s initial tweet has so far had more than 30 retweets, with Jolyon Maugham QC and barrister-politician Karl Turner MP among those to have shared the strong words of the star of Blackstone Chambers.
Meanwhile, another leading silk, Hardwicke‘s PJ Kirby QC, backed Rose’s stance with a tweet of his own.
Employing slightly more measured language, commercial law specialist Kirby wondered aloud how members of the legal profession could continue their Garrick association in the wake of the decision.
Difficult to see how judges & barristers can continue membership of #Garrick – maybe they think court be better without distraction of wome
— PJ Kirby (@kirby_pj) July 7, 2015
Kirby’s tweet was retweeted by, among others, his chambers colleague Brie Stevens-Hoare QC. So that’s four QCs who seem to be openly questioning the legal profession’s links with the Garrick Club.
The quartet were joined by the Association of Women Barristers, which in May issued a statement to Legal Cheek describing the Garrick’s women-only policy as “unusual”.
The only female Supreme Court judge, Lady Hale, has also publicly admitted that she found it “quite shocking that so many of my colleagues belong to the Garrick Club, but they don’t see what all the fuss is about”.
But support for the Garrick within the legal profession remains strong. According to the Guardian‘s Amelia Gentleman, at least 11 QCs voted last night to keep women out of the club.
At the club’s annual general meeting yesterday evening at the Palace Theatre on Tottenham Court Road (members queuing up to vote are pictured below), those wanting the club to remain men-only were actually in the minority, with 50.5% voting in favour of allowing women to join. But for club rules to be changed the Garrick required a two-thirds majority.
Senior lawyer membership of the Garrick is seen as particularly contentious given the serious diversity problems of the judiciary and the higher echelons of the bar and the solicitors’ professions. Of 108 High Court judges, only 21 are women, while there are only seven women of the 38 justices sitting in the Court of Appeal and just one woman judge of the 12 in the Supreme Court.
Gender diversity is also poor among senior lawyers, with the Legal Cheek Firms Most List and Chambers Most List showing that men dominate the higher echelons of the majority of top firms and chambers.
Image via @ameliagentleman