Round-up

Tuesday morning round-up

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The top legal affairs news stories from the Bank Holiday

Families of London Bridge attack victims are still waiting for legal aid in their quest for justice two YEARS on (but terrorists and criminals are handed thousands of pounds) [Mail Online]

Online political ads “need law change” [BBC News]

Date set for court case which could prosecute Boris Johnson over £350 million EU referendum lie [The New European]

SRA reveals allegations against Freshfields partner accused of sexual misconduct [Legal Cheek]

Britain’s anti-porn law is well-intended but flawed [Financial Times]

Is working in the City bad for your mental health? [The Telegraph]

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

Birmingham lawyer Nazir Afzal vows to mediate for FREE as LGBT lessons row intensifies [Birmingham Live]

Ex-lawyer Cohen reports to prison after taking harsh parting shot at Trump [Reuters]

Geoffrey Rush defamation case: News Corp appeal to claim judge was “biased” [The Guardian]

Why female barristers are leaving the profession [Financial Times]

“[T]rainees are essentially useless until their 3rd seat…” [Legal Cheek Comments]

Two for £500 ticket offer for Future of Legal Education and Training Conference closes at midnight tonight [Legal Cheek Events]

Future lawyers sought for F-LEX’s Commercial Development Scheme [Legal Cheek Noticeboard]

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6 Comments

Anonymous

I hope that the FT article about why female barristers are leaving the profession is balanced.

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Junior

Here’s the article:

Why female barristers are leaving the profession

Difficulty of balancing work and family life forces out growing numbers mid-career

Jane Croft in London MAY 3, 2019

Shortly before criminal barrister Nikki Alderson went on maternity leave with her third child, she was asked to lead the prosecution of a sex abuse criminal trial in England due to start the next day. She refused.

“It was a bit of a tipping point for me,” she said. “The case had not been prepared well at all: there was no prosecution case summary, no indictment, no opening note . . . the trial was out of my local area. I was heavily pregnant, my husband was away, I had two young children at home . . . the case should have taken weeks to prepare let alone a few hours.”

The incident was one reason why Ms Alderson, who spent 19 years as a barrister, decided after her maternity leave ended to establish in her home town of Leeds a coaching business focused on helping female lawyers achieve their potential.

“I had a very successful career at the Bar,” she said. “I had come back full-time after two maternity leaves but thought this is a ‘now or never’ moment. I thought: ‘Do I want to do this?’”

Ms Alderson, 45, is not alone. Increasing numbers of self-employed female barristers, particularly those working in publicly funded criminal and family law, are leaving mid-career.

Since 2000, women have made up half of those qualifying as barristers. However, only 15 per cent of the most senior barristers, known as Queen’s Counsel or silks, are female and just 29 per cent of judges.

The Western Circuit Women’s Forum, which represents barristers in the south and south-west of England, found in a recent study that two-thirds of those who left the profession over a six-year period were women.Almost all the men who left became judges or retired after long careers. By contrast, the vast majority of women dropped out mid-career and many cited the difficulty of balancing work and family life.

The Bar Council, which represents barristers, has highlighted female retention as a concern because the more women who drop out mid-career, the smaller the pool of future judges or QCs.

Ian Burnett, the Lord Chief Justice, said in February that the number of female silks and law firm partners “remains stubbornly low”. Brenda Hale, president of the Supreme Court, where a quarter of the bench is female, has called for women to make up half of the judiciary.

Criminal barristers, who are usually self-employed and are grouped together in offices known as chambers, face a unique set of challenges when they become primary carers.

One factor is the unpredictability of the court listing system where trial dates can switch times or locations at the last minute.

Criminal courts often operate a “warned list” system where cases can be listed to begin at any time during a two-week period so barristers wait around for hours for their case to start. Trials sit daily, making it difficult to work from home or part-time.

A recent Twitter thread by Joanna Hardy, barrister at Red Lion Chambers, went viral after she suggested ways to retain more women including abolishing 9.30am trials “which helps with childcare and the care of elderly relatives” and scrapping warned lists.

Fees are another contentious issue. Criminal barristers have seen their income squeezed since the government cut legal aid funding in 2013, leading to protests by barristers in 2014 and last year. Criminal barristers who prosecute cases recently threatened to walk out of trials unless fees were increased.

Chris Henley QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said prosecution fees had not risen for 20 years. Fees in an all-day sentencing hearing can be as little as £60, about £9 an hour, he added.

In a recent letter to his members, he said talented women were leaving en masse: “The hours are punishing and unpredictable, often late into and sometimes through the night, the personal sacrifices are huge, fees are derisory, not remotely stacking up for the necessary childcare or breaks.”

Self-employed barristers must pay overheads including value added tax, rent and expenses for their chambers as well as travel to court and professional insurance and tax. They must also pay for full-time childcare even when a trial is suddenly adjourned.Kate Brunner QC, 46, one of three female silks on the western circuit, said: “For lots of people it’s like the death of their career by a thousand cuts.”

Well-paid criminal work such as fraud cases can involve spending weeks away from home at a court in a different city.

Ms Brunner, whose two children are mainly looked after by her husband, said: “I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I am not the primary carer as if I get asked to go and do a trial in Birmingham I can go and stay. Often you get ruled out if you are the primary carer.”

The situation is starting to change. The Bar Council has put in place support for women, including training and mentoring schemes, there are more women’s forums at circuit level and some barristers say clerks, who assign cases, are being more supportive.

Women stressed that being a barrister was a rewarding career. Ms Brunner said it was a “great profession”.

“I am really keen that positive things are being done,” she said. “I love my job. The statistics tell us there are more women QCs and more women in the judiciary but change is painfully slow.”

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Anonymous

Thanks for posting the article – so it wasn’t balanced. Hardy was widely criticised for her comments.

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Anonymous

I’m the in-house counsel for the Financial Times. By copying and pasting an article that was behind a paywall, both you and Legal Cheek have infringed upon our copyright. I am giving you and Mr. Aldridge seven days to remove this post, otherwise we will sue.

I have also forwarded a copy of this post to the Hon. Alan Blacker of JAFLAS, our external advisory firm.

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Anonymous

The article might end up unecessarily putting women off going to the bar. It doesn’t even mention that the acceptance rate for women applying to QC is consistently higher than that for men.

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Infatuated of Tunbridge Wells

The FT should write an article on ‘why Katie King can’t leave my mind’. She is a goddess.

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