News

Lady Hale ‘not easy to deal with’, says ex-colleague

By on

Others suggest she was treated ‘more harshly’ than the men and held back from court president role

Lady Hale and Lord Hope

The diaries of a former Supreme Court judge have offered an insight into what it was like working with Lady Hale — famously nicknamed the ‘Beyonce of the law’ by Legal Cheek readers

The personal records kept by former Supreme Court deputy president Lord Hope, brought to wider attention this week by legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg, reveal that when Hale first went for Supreme Court president in 2012 she faced off against Lords Neuberger and Mance.

Hope reportedly wrote that while eventual winner Neuberger would be “a real pleasure to work with”, Hale’s strong views on feminism seemed to put her on the “defensive for much of the time” — something, Hope claims, which counted against her when she first applied for promotion.

The revelations have sparked criticism from top Blackstone Chambers barrister Dinah Rose QC. Writing on Twitter she described Rozenberg’s column, published in the Law Society Gazette, in which he quotes from the latest volume of Lord Hope’s diaries, as a “pretty clear illustration of the way the senior judges held [Hale] back.”

Rose added that Hale “was much more harshly judged” than male colleagues.

Hope’s words are notably strong. In another extract from his diary, about when Hale applied to be deputy president in 2013, he claimed that “Brenda is not easy to deal with, frightens some people and is so relentless in her pursuit of her agenda about women”.

Hale got the deputy job all the same, outshining Mance at interview. Hope also records her as saying: “I am world famous”. She became president in 2017 (the first woman to hold the role) and served for just over two years before hitting compulsory retirement age.

LAWYER EVENT: How to follow your dreams outside law while still working as a lawyer — with A&O Peerpoint: Find out more

Hope does go on to acknowledge that these “tense moments” were not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, writing:

“One of the great merits of the court is the trust in and respect for each other which we enjoy. There are some tense moments with Brenda, of course, but she is not at all untrustworthy or unreliable. She is just confrontational and sharp when she senses an inefficiency or a gender issue which the rest of us do not understand. Those brief moments take nothing away from the immense contribution which she makes to the work of the court.”

Also fighting Hale’s corner on Twitter, lawyer Cenric Clement-Evans described Hale as one of the “outstanding judges of her time”, while another commenter claimed “the only person who comes out badly from this is Hope”.

Hale, who said while on the bench that “I have never hesitated to call myself a feminist”, has spoken for many years about the importance of including female perspectives in the law. She also gave speeches on things like the gender pay gap and recruiting more women judges.

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter

Related Stories