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Women barristers overlooked in favour of men, Supreme Court president says

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International Women’s Day: Female advocates complain to Lady Hale that males still scoop the big cases

📸 UK Supreme Court / Kevin Leighton

Women barristers think they aren’t getting the cases they deserve and the only reason is their gender, according to the top judge on the UK’s highest court.

Lady Hale, who was the first woman to become a Supreme Court judge, says that senior female barristers feel they don’t get the juiciest briefs despite having the necessary skills — with the work instead going to blokes.

Hale, 74, was careful not say that this was her personal opinion, instead ascribing it to word on the street. In an interview with the Times (£), she said:

“I have heard from very competent women barristers that they don’t feel they are getting the big cases that their skills and experiences deserve when compared with the men.”

The Supreme Court’s president — who has been compared to fellow feminist icon Beyoncé — made her intervention on International Women’s Day, which takes place today.

Hale also mentioned reports that female barristers’ fees, which are generally set by clerks, were lower than men of comparable standing in the profession. The former legal academic had recently taken aim at pay inequalities in society more generally, saying in a December 2018 speech that “there is still a gender pay gap which is far larger than it should be”.

The comments come against a mounting backdrop of claims that sexism and structural barriers are preventing women from making their way in the legal profession. Women account for 50% of all pupil barristers but only 16% of Queen’s Counsel, according to the latest Bar Standards Board (BSB) analysis.

In a bid to big up ladies in law, the First 100 Years campaign is marking International Women’s Day by having a photographer standing by to capture 100 portraits of women in legal roles. The photography pop-up is at the Law Society offices in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast until 5pm today.

The campaign marks 100 years since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which allowed women to become barristers, solicitors, jurors and magistrates for the first time.

The 2019 Legal Cheek Chambers Most List

66 Comments

Anonymous

People who spread rumours like this only cause resentment and demotivate women.

They need to stop doing it – even if they are venerable judges.

Gordon

what a depressing read these comments are. please attack me too for wishing my daughter, should she enter the legal world, might FEEL she should be treated fairly? isn’t that kind of what the law is there for – fairness? Even if it wasn’t before 1919.

Anonymous

Don’t forget your son, he should be treated fairly too.

Michael

I will treat your son very, very fairly..

Like a pretty young thing, PYT!!

Anonymous

I think you’re lost.

Anonymous

Oh no, he can stay at work, not be one of the gender that has massive voluntary drop out rates, and then face hurdle after hurdle in his career as the other gender pushes for 50/50 representation at the highest levels even if they don’t make up close to 50% of the profession through choice.

Anonymous

Penis.

Very amused

Vagina

Anonymous

Pejina

Anonymous

I think women barristers remain very motivated. Indeed one of my contemporaries in chambers tried persuading the clerks not to put me (a man) and her forward for the same work because every time they did I would get it. Of course, what this led to is the stupid wimp clerks putting her forward and not me in an effort to prove they weren’t sexist.

Anonymous

Probably exactly what she knew would happen.

Anonymous

What a disgraceful self-pitying story. Hale should be ashamed. No data. No analysis. Just cheap allegations. Even Wikipedia flags up as dubious allegation attributed to third parties with any reference points.

Anonymous

It would seem that feelings are more important than facts nowadays.

Anonymous

The SJW types call your demands for evidence and facts “ethnographic exploitation” apparently. It is in itself a form of oppression. You have to believe the marginalized group, no questions asked.

Welcome to 2019. Don’t think you can stick your head in the sand and ignore it.

Anonymous

Yup.

Just like trans issues are beyond debate.

Anonymous

🎶[I’m a] man, I feel like a woman…

Do…do do do do do do do…do….🎶

Anonymous

“I have heard from very competent women barristers that they don’t feel they are getting the big cases that their skills and experiences deserve when compared with the men.”

Ah, women FEEL as though reality is a certain way.

How do I put this.

When a man embarks on a relationship with a woman, he learns very quickly that her ‘feelings’ about reality are often complete BS.

Anonymous

Women: I feel this! I feel that! Pander to me! Accommodate me! Yield to my every demand.

Real men: Get f**ked!

Soy boys: Yes milady. Of course milady. Anything you want milady. Have my fedora too milady. (Internally: gonna get laid, gonna get laid, so gonna get laid!)

Women: you’re such a nice guy, and you deserve someone really special, but I’m shacking up with this real man right here.

Soy boys: …………………….

Anonymous

How’s the incel going for you?

Anonymous

I get lots of it, thank you very much. It’s one of the joys of being a sociopath.

Anonymous

Found that the ‘soy boys’ certainly include some of the geekier members of the Commercial Bar.

And then they wonder why their wives divorce them…?

Prickolas Smallcock

Because I show them my p3nis…

Anonymous

“Very competent women barristers” – so two then.

Anonymous

“I (an often very well paid barrister) don’t FEEL that I get the most interesting briefs (from my subjective viewpoint of what is interesting) that I am ENTITLED to have by virtue of being a women”.

Good for you. Why do I care? How many male barristers don’t get the cases they think they should get, how many female barristers don’t without attributing it to sexism?

Also what is the solution here? Mandatory briefing of women, mandatory refusal of briefs by male advocates? Compelling all barristers to work the same long hours to ensure they get the most demanding cases? Make no mistake, to achieve total equality of outcome you will have to give up your freedom to the state. If you are ok with that, then I guess go straight ahead.

Anonymous

Stopping female barristers marrying rich men and having kids would be the single most effective measure to deal with drop out rates. Why have the equality lobby not advocated this?

Anonymous

^this.

Anonymous

I’m starting to get sooo tired of this whole Lady Hale and sexism thing… yaawwwwn. When does she retire again?

Anonymous

Just wait until the crop who believe this tosh and rode the wave of positive discrimination come along. This is nothing.

Anonymous

Oh they are on their way already

Anonymous

The headline is misleading.

Anonymous

Cry me a river, Brenda.

Anonymous

Remember guys, this is Lady “the law has moved on [and therefore I will make up new law” Hale. Always changing things to suit the narrative.

Anonymous

Disappointed at Hale here. It seems a shame to focus on negative allegations on International Women’s Day instead of focussing on the positive contributions of women to the law.

SJWeary

Let’s try a thought experiment: leading male barrister sounds off (offering no evidence whatsoever) that his female opponents are given an easier time by judges and fawned over because of their feminine wiles, complains that he “feels” that this isn’t fair.

Leaving aside the inevitable career-ending Twitterstorm from the perpetually offended, how long before he is hauled up before the BSB on some equalities code/bringing the profession into disrepute charge?

Anonymous

There really doesn’t seem to be a demand here for the constent stream of ‘women are oppressed’ articles. Why keep publishing them??

Anonymous

What do you mean? The engagement below the line on this sort of article is much greater than most of the other articles on Legal Cheek.

Turning offhand vaguely feminist comments into hate-click driving articles looks like a good business model when a large part of your readership consists of insecure male law students and trainees.

Hale and Proudman bring all the boys to the yard. And their lives are better than yours. 🙂

Anonymous

Always a mistake to confuse hate with disagreement or irritation. The comments show that the vast majority of people agree with this type of narrative.

Anonymous

Yeah it’s been obvious for a while that LC is routinely trolling its angry male student readers to drive up traffic. It continuously publishes nothing stories on topics vaguely connected with feminism or diversity in law and then sits back and watches its bitter young readers tie themselves in knots in the comments. I get the there is a commercial imperative here, but even so I think it’s a pretty irresponsible tactic – firstly because everyone would be better served if LC actually put it efforts into reporting legal news (instead of desperately searching for some angle that will trigger its more unhinged readership) and secondly because it’s amoral or even immoral to deliberately rile up hostility against any group, just for the sake of more comments/traffic to show advertisers and sponsors. LC needs to have a word with itself.

Anonymous

I think LC knows that a lot of the anti-male sentiment expressed in the media is not reflective of the views of the wider public. Allowing comments on the articles shows the sheer volume of disagreement and to an extent negates the anti-male views being expressed. Far from unhinged, many of the comments are a cool dismantling of discriminatory views, and many female QCs and judges are among those posting comments disagreeing with the views in these types of article.

Anonymous

Yeah, I’m sure Sonia Tolaney, Dinah Rose, Catherine Newman, Liz Gloster, etc are being massively outearned. The bar is about merit. If you want to be a star, get really good, whatever your gender. Nobody gives a flying eff if you’re male or female.

Anonymous

Actually the bar isn’t really about merit, although you can think that if you want.

However, the bar doesn’t *systematically* privilege anyone other than those who are well connected in the legal system, and this includes people of all ethnicities and genders (although admittedly one ethnicity pointedly manages to do better than the others).

Anonymous

A least one of those names is hugely overrated and overpaid.

Cynic

Let’s put it this way, I’m glad both my children are female: one hopes to be a doctor, the other to follow myself and her mother and become a barrister. I have little doubt they will have an easier entry into and better career in either profession by virtue of them being female. Now I’m certain they will be more than capable of doing very well regardless (but then I’m their Dad!) but if I had sons, regardless of their ability I would be concerned if they wanted to follow the same career path. Not an edifying thing to write but will the next generation of males suffer massive discrimination for the susposed ‘sins of the fathers’ What do you reckon Brenda???

Anonymous

This. It looks better for the books if I hire a woman, someone who is disabled, who is not white, who didn’t go to a posh school, etc. Albeit I wouldn’t just for the sake of the books, but if it was a close call between two candidates I’m not going to pick the white male.

Kestrel Shelby-Body

Well exactly. If I was LGBT, Black Caribbean, disabled, from a North West comprehensive I would stroll into any job.

Aussie barrister

Lady Hale’s observations are consistent with research into briefing practices at the Victorian Bar in Australia. The numbers of women being briefed have improved but the quality work most often goes to men, so brief fee disparity remains a concern. Equality in briefing is an ongoing project to ensure our legal system is representative of the community it serves.

Anonymous

A.K.A not the UK ?

Anonymous

The “representative of the community” nonsense is an insidious way of trying to push 50% quotas through the back door. Shipping companies and banks want the best representation not selection based on who lives in a few streets in Preston.

Anonymous

Spot on. It sounds a fair enough principle, but really is part of the evil discrimination machine to push gender over talent.

Anonymous

You’re hurting my feelings!

Anonymous

Haha there’s a lot of feels in these comments, and it’s not the ladies who are feeling them…

Anonymous

This Bar is the very definition of the free market. Big cases and big money flow to the best who have, more often than not, sacrificed a balanced life to be the best over 20+ years.

In my commercial set, we have some excellent female barristers. However, there is a significant minority that have sailed in with superb grades and just think they are equally entitled to a well paying career without the constant networking and total dedication to tHe Bar demands.

Unfortunately, the only ppl that suffer are the clerks; getting it in the neck from the junior female barristers, who believe chambers/men/clerks are against them and complain. The hard truth is that X prefers Z in chambers because he is equally good but has better soft skills and responds to your emails after 8pm and on Sunday.

Thankfully, these barristers can’t afford to stay too long and /or marry rich and reduce the Bar to a hobby. At least that way they can tell everyone over dinner that they are some high flying commercial barrister…. I just look at the banker/lawyer/accountant husband trying his best not to role his eyes ….we both know that he is the one funding this hobby.

Anonymous

“role his eyes” …. and you’re a high flyer in a commercial set, you say?

Anonymous

No, I think it’s pretty clear he’s a clerk. What he says may be unpalatable, but it also might be true.

Anonymous

Or might not be. Just because something might be true doesn’t mean it is, without any proof.

Anonymous

Preferring to instruct male silks is economically rational behaviour if the charging rates are the same because of the difference in success rates between male and female applicants, which is annually somewhere around 15% and sometimes higher. Given there is no explanation for this difference ever proffered, especially since the discrimination rates persist in the second interview stage, the natural assumption is selection bias in the process to push female silk numbers as a per se good, so a male applicant has to perform better than a female candidate in the process. All other things being equal in a blind selection, it is better for the client to pick the barrister who has passed a review to a higher standard, which would be the male option. That is simply a function of the costs of the discrimination in the process, if the entry quality is objectively lower then it will affect market decisions. The system probably does work against the interests of the female applicants who achieved the higher “male standard”, at least in the short term after appointment. Most women silks would fall in that category, but their achievements are tainted, and rationally so, by the those who are in the 15% gap.

Anonymous

Is there any evidence to support the Australian research?

Anonymous

So many innocuous comments have been deleted. You’re pathetic LC

Anonymous

I know. And we no longer get the “removed for breaching comments policy” posting either so it is not clear how many have been slashed.

LC used to be so much fun.

Anonymous

I suspect it started when sponsors threatened to remove funding for unflattering posts and Joly-boy threatened to sue.

Anonymous

Yes. Jolly seems really, really insecure doesn’t he?

Anonymous

Maybe he has daddy issues…

Associate

Failing to see how Hale’s position is not based in fact:

“Hale also mentioned reports that female barristers’ fees, which are generally set by clerks, were lower than men of comparable standing in the profession. … The former legal academic had recently taken aim at pay inequalities in society more generally, saying in a December 2018 speech that “there is still a gender pay gap which is far larger than it should be”.

…Women account for 50% of all pupil barristers but only 16% of Queen’s Counsel, according to the latest Bar Standards Board (BSB) analysis.”

Women ‘feel’ they aren’t given big ticket cases exactly because of the fact they ‘know’ they aren’t being paid as well as their male counterparts. This is hardly a controversial piece.

Anonymous

The gender pay gap is a myth and you cite no evidence for it.

The total silk percentages reflect appointments from the 80s an 90s (and even the 70s) as those silks are still practicising and the lower number of women at the bar at senior junior levels (here’s the main reason why – a lot of them marry rich men, have kids and say “sod it:”). In fact for modern silk appointments there is massive discrimination in favour of female applicants who have a far higher success rate than men on the competition.

So yes the piece is very controversial, and probably says more about oversensitivity of moaning SJWs and twitterati than reality.

Anonymous

If I may sum up, QCs are typically towards the middle/later stages of their careers. Pupils are at the beginning of their careers. Fast forward 20 years when this generation of pupils are in the taking silk range and I am sure we will see equal representation.

Clearly what has gone before has been unacceptable, however significant inroads have been made, lets not detract from the progress that has been made. Equally, lets ensure that we do not get to a point where the change is so extreme that we then have to consider a similar scheme for males in the profession.

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