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Pregnant law firm partner calls out top QC for ‘every day sexism’

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DWF’s Naomi Pryde says unnamed silk contacted a male junior lawyer about her case, assuming she’d be ‘indisposed’

Naomi Pryde (Credit: DWF)

A top Scottish solicitor has called out the behaviour of a QC who avoided consulting her about her own case because she’s pregnant.

Naomi Pryde, a partner at DWF, says that a reputably “eminent” silk contacted a male subordinate about an upcoming hearing, assuming that she was “indisposed” by her “condition”.

Pryde, the firm’s head of Scottish commercial litigation, has lodged a complaint with the chambers of the unnamed QC but declined to name him.

The incident occurred in the run-up to a virtual hearing that took place today. According to Pryde, the QC for the other side contacted her male colleague, a newly qualified solicitor, to discuss the hearing rather than her as the partner in charge of the matter. “When I asked why”, Pryde tweeted, “he referenced my ‘condition’ (pregnancy)”.

There was more of what Pryde described as “every day sexism” to come during the hearing itself:

“In OPEN COURT today, when fixing the next date, he was dismissive of my availability saying I should be on “maternity leave.”

“Women are entitled to take as much or as little maternity leave as they like”, Pryde pointed out.

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This is not the first time that the 35-year-old partner has encountered “unconscious bias” in the course of her work. In a recent article, Pryde wrote that “when I walk into a room with a — younger — male colleague, nine times out of 10 people will assume that he is the partner, and I’m the associate”.

She also said that “people have point-blank asked me whether I got my job because of a quota or positive discrimination, or because of what I look like”.

But Pryde was at pains to point out that the latest incident was not representative of most Scottish advocates. Replying to supportive comments, she noted that the Faculty of Advocates “doing a lot of really great work” on diversity and inclusion and “this QC is in the minority”.

Others were less sure. One Scottish lawyer told Legal Cheek that “many aspects of the Scottish bar are extremely archaic and old-fashioned”.

A spokesperson for the Faculty of Advocates referred Legal Cheek to Pryde’s positive comments about the organisation’s diversity and inclusion work, adding that a representative has been in touch. They continued:

“She has confirmed that she is content for the stable involved to deal with this matter internally. She suggests this is a matter best dealt with by education, and our Equality and Diversity Committee continues to make great strides in this regard. Those include our introduction of a fair instructions policy, and an anti-bullying and harassment policy.”

The statement concludes: “In the meantime, we deeply regret that anyone, through dealings with Faculty or any of its members, should feel let down in any way”.

A spokesperson for the Law Society of Scotland said:

“It is very disappointing to hear about the sexism experienced by one of our Council members. There is no place for such language and behaviour in a modern and diverse legal profession, and we commend Naomi for speaking so openly about it. It is only through calling out and bringing attention to such experiences that we can build a profession that treats everyone with the respect they deserve.”

They added: “We would urge everyone in the legal professions to be aware of the language that they use and the impact that their words can have, whether intentional or not. We can all learn from experiences such as Naomi’s.”

Pryde is also qualified in England & Wales and the Republic of Ireland, and according to the DWF website “splits her time between our Scottish and London offices”. She has been approached for comment.

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