Lady Hale acknowledges ‘Beyoncé of the legal profession’ comparison

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By Katie King on

Exclusive: ‘It was on Legal Cheek, wasn’t it?’

The president of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale, is to many the Beyoncé of a judiciary otherwise filled with Michelle Williamses. Now, Legal Cheek can reveal Hale is aware of her pop star status among law students and she doesn’t mind it one bit.

This revelation came on Friday, when Hale met students at her old stomping ground, the University of Cambridge. Asked by one student if she’s aware of her Beyoncé likeness, Hale said yes, because a friend of hers told her about it. The family law specialist added: “It was on Legal Cheek, wasn’t it?”

Hale, the first female president of the country’s highest court, said that she doesn’t mind the comparison. You need really thick skin in the legal profession, so she doesn’t object to the humour. The Supreme Court declined to comment when approached by Legal Cheek.

The remarks follow an address by the University of Manchester academic turned appeal judge at The Cambridge Union. According to The Tab, Hale began her speech by noting her time as the sole female justice on the Supreme Court bench (she is now one of two) is not her first experience of gender imbalance.

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When she studied at Girton College, Cambridge, she said there were nine times as many places for boys as there were girls. In fact, Cambridge had only started awarding women degrees 15 years before she enrolled (before that, women could only gain the much joked about title BA (Tit)).

While the theme of gender equality and empowerment featured heavily in her speech — she described the judiciary’s lack of women as “absolutely shocking” — Hale couldn’t help but joke her fellow female Cambridge students enjoyed “the best sex ratio [they had] ever had in [their] lives”. A source who attended the event told Legal Cheek “she did mention a few times how much fun she had as a student here”.

While it’s far from uncommon for judges to give extra-judicial addresses at universities and practitioners’ events, the thrust of their work is, of course, hearing cases. Hale and six of her colleagues, including newbie justices Lady Black and Lord Lloyd-Jones, are currently hearing an important Northern Irish abortion law case.

Northern Ireland is not subject to the Abortion Act 1967, meaning its women cannot have abortions even where there is a serious foetal abnormality or where the pregnancy arises through rape or incest. Nathalie Lieven QC, who is representing the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in the case, argues these laws are unjustifiably incompatible with articles 3 (no torture), 8 (family life) and 14 (no discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The law, which carries a sentence of life imprisonment, causes some women to go through “physical and mental torture”, Blackstone Chambers’ Lieven said. The case continues.

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