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Lady Arden: I was told I couldn’t be a barrister because solicitors would never instruct a woman

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Supreme Court justice reflects on legal career in new interview

📸 Lady Arden (100 Years Project)

Fresh from her Supreme Court appointment, Lady Justice Arden has revealed how she was once advised not to pursue a career at the bar on account of her being a woman.

Speaking in a short video interview, Arden reflected candidly on the barriers she encountered at the beginning of her legal career. Having flirted with the idea of becoming a doctor (she confesses that being hopeless at maths scuppered this particular dream), Liverpool-born Arden decided to follow in her family’s footsteps and become a lawyer.

However, unlike her grandfather, father and brother, Arden harboured ambitions of becoming a barrister, not a solicitor — an unorthodox career move for a woman at the time. Arden, who studied law at Cambridge’s Girton College, before going on to complete an LLM at Harvard Law School, said:

“There was lots of sucking of breath saying it’s going to be difficult you know, but it was all about well you can be a solicitor, but you can’t be a barrister. People will never instruct you and you will never be able to get on.”

Fortunately, Arden pursued her dream, spurred on by the pioneering exploits of Rose Heilbron, a Liverpudlian barrister who was one of the first two women to be appointed King’s Counsel and the first woman to lead in a murder case.

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Arden, pictured below with Legal Cheek‘s Adam Mawardi‎ and Aishah Hussain‎, continued:

“But, and this is a big but, I come from the North West and in our area we had a very famous woman advocate, Rose Heilbron, and she was in the newspaper pretty much every day. And she was very glamorous, she had a huge amount charisma, she won a great deal of her criminal cases, and so there was a role model.”

Carving out an equally successful legal career, Arden went on to specialise in company law at London’s Erskine Chambers, talking silk in 1986. She served as Attorney General of the Duchy of Lancaster between 1991 and 1993, and later the Court of Appeal from 2000 to 2018. Arden, who is married to Lord Mance, former deputy president of the Supreme Court, was appointed to the UK’s top bench last October.

You can watch the interview, produced by the First 100 Years project, a celebratory campaign to mark the year when women could first practise law, in full below:

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36 Comments

Anonymous

Cambridge and Harvard educated student carves out successful career. I’m shocked.

Anonymous

Wikipedia: “Mary Arden … daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Eric Curthbert Arden TD… a solicitor… Her grandfather was a partner at a … Liverpool firm of solicitors… the family firm… merged with Hill Dickinson in 2007.”

Oh yes, it was an uphill battle from the very start, I’m sure.

Anonymous

THIS ^^

Bored of cucks

I’m really glad people are seeing through this type of virtue signalling sh*t. Privileged people jumping on the bandwagon to get sympathy. There were no doubt women who were discriminated against and guess what, we have probably never heard of them as they didn’t have family members to pull strings for them. Rich privileged white women want to present this woe is me view to the world, to the point where they’ll tell a white working class boy from a single parent family in Huddersfield or Glasgow to suck it up because of his privileged. Cut the crap and stop fishing for sympathy or trying to show you are some sort of pioneer/MLK/Gandhi type.

Anonymous

Grow up,m. You do realise that it’s possible for both sexism and classsism to exist? The existence of one doesn’t magicallly cancel out the other. Obviously Lady Arden has achieved spectacularly and overcame prejudice against women to do so. She literallly was a pioneer. Why can’t we acknowledge that without four Yorkshireman style complaints about how she could have had it a lot worse?

Anonymous

She may have overcome sexism, we don’t know. We do know that she benefitted from her background.

Anonymous

You’re missing the point. Just because someone is a woman does not mean that they can’t have *some* advantage that a man didn’t benefit from.

Anonymous

Exactly – in this case she had the advantage of her background. That’s what people have been saying.

JDP

I regularly females to perform various tasks for me. Can’t call me sexist.

JDP

INSTRUCT*

My typist is getting a rollicking for that

Anonymous

“Arden, pictured below with Legal Cheek‘s Adam Mawardi‎ and Aishah Hussain‎…”

It looks more to me like Adam Mawardi pictured with Arden LJ and Aishah Hussain.

Anonymous

It looks more to me like Adam’s jumper pictured with Adam Mawardi, Arden LJ and Aishah Hussain.

Anonymous

“Would never” is different to “would never want to”

Anonymous

OK, she had a good education and the sort of family background that may have opened doors. But, I’m sure she still faced a lot of prejudice simply for being a woman.

Yes, the profession has work to do to ensure that it employs a broader cross-section of society where possible, but Lady Arden’s journey has probably helped to improve gender equality.

Anonymous

What encouragement does it give if a Cambridge and Harvard educated, daughter of a solicitor and granddaughter of a law firm partner, struggled to make it?

Anonymous

Tbf, in terms of struggles, it doesn’t sound like it was exactly the Long March.

Anonymous

That was the point….

Anonymous

In that case I was refining the point…

Anonymous

She may have suffered a lot of prejudice for being a woman, I’m not sure. I am sure that she benefitted from her background.

Anonymous

You would have thought that whatever prejudice she suffered didn’t amount to a whole lot of suffering, if judged by her stellar career.

Anonymous

Shame to dwell on something negative from decades ago instead of celebrating the positive.

Anonymous

As explained the last time this came up, discrimination years ago is relevant when pointing to the advances that have been made. Much as your ilk would love to shut down any woman who dares to suggest she has ever been discriminated against.

Anonymous

As you know from the last time this came up, negative allegations from decades ago are not the best way to celebrate positive events. Much as your ilk aren’t able to acknowledge the positive aspects of womens’ achievements.

Anonymous

How is this an ‘allegation’? No one is named and no crime has been suggested. One might almost conclude you are a random troll rather than a lawyer.

Anonymous

Says you who doesn’t seem to know what an allegation is. Instead of focussing on negative allegations try focussing on positive achievements on celebratory occasions.

Anonymous

I hope I live to see the day when casting yourself as a victim isn’t the only way of gaining respect.

Anonymous

There there. Respect.

Anonymous

Yes, campaigns really need to stop doing this to gain attention.

Anonymous

Love these comments.

“Outrageous!! The very idea! Female barristers just can’t have experienced sexism in the 1970s! Preposterous. You can’t prove that they did!! No, the direct testimony of people who was there is certainly *not* good enough! Anyway, a rich woman is basically an honorary man, so that doesn’t count. Besides, even if there was sexism, it’s very depressing to mention it. So we should just never talk about it. Even if it does exist. Which it doesn’t. Apparent from the REVERSE SEXISM that is stopping me getting pupillage that is.”

You’re just too precious. Never change, boys.

Anonymous

This cannot be genuine. Please tell me if it is, I don’t want to waste my time refuting every point you just made if you’re just being purposefully obtuse.

Anonymous

Haha, wouldn’t want to waste your time, oh deep thinker. I’m sure you have some training contract rejections to file or you’ve scheduled a cry-wank over the website photos of some young women barristers all of whose daddies probably got them their jobs. Enjoy!

Anonymous

What you’ve written, both now and before, is so unbelievably absurd that I could not even pretend to take you seriously.

Anonymous

Oh no! not being taken seriously by a random internet sexist, particularly one so fiendishly adept at high level debate that he knows exactly when to deploy a spluttered “ABSURD!”, has always been one of my greatest concerns.

Anonymous

I am personally very offended by (if you are the original poster) the lack of equal positive celebration of men in the 70’s.

I would think, along with my well-minded female peers surely agreeing, that we will only become a truly equal society when addressing both side’s achievements in any situation. Meritocracy is for the sexist pigs and pigettes.

Capitalism is the shoe that keeps down equal rights.

The above are equally connected but pointless paragraphs, that are aimed to mirror your post for equal opportunity.

Anonymous

Its still odd to dwell on alleged negative comments from decades ago instead of celebrating the positive. Thanks for demonstrating that, anonymous @7.33pm.

Night Owl

Don’t eat where you shit

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