Written by Ebony Ezekwesili, future trainee solicitor at Burges Salmon LLP.
Though a very distinguished and highly respected profession in society, the legal profession in the UK, has long struggled with the perception that it is only for old, white, rich men. The ratio of male to female lawyers at the early stages of their careers is roughly the same; however, as a lawyer rises through the ranks, the number of partners at law firms and judges within the courts who are white males increases dramatically. Though many law firms and the judiciary have established diversity schemes to help address this imbalance, progress across the profession has been painfully and notoriously slow.
It is with great pleasure therefore, that Facilitate4Me can recognise a woman who is bucking the trend, setting a tremendous example for any woman with aspirations to reach the top of the legal profession. As a result, the Faciliatate4Me Change Practitioner of the Month for July goes to…Baroness Hale, for becoming the first female president of the UK’s Supreme Court!
Baroness Hale replaced her predecessor, Lord Neuberger, on 2nd October. He described her appointment as ‘a fitting pinnacle to a truly ground-breaking career’. It is a career that has seen her also become the UK’s first woman Law Lord in 2004, and the first woman Justice of the Supreme Court in 2009. During her time as deputy president of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale ruled on many landmark cases, including the government’s Brexit appeal.
Andrew Langdon QC, chairman of the Bar, said she ‘has long been at the forefront in the task of arguing for a properly diverse judiciary. Her appointment will serve as an encouragement to all in showing how important this is’.
Joe Egan, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, highlighted that there are ‘still far fewer women than men in the judiciary but, thanks in large part to role models like Lady Hale, the number is growing steadily’. He went on to say, ‘with Lady Hale as their inspiration, I hope more women – and others from diverse backgrounds – will feel that the legal profession is one in which they can realise their ambitions’.
Speaking of diversity, the Judicial Diversity Statistics 2017, which covers the period from 1st April 2014 – 1st April 2017, showed a modest increase in the number of female judges, rising from 18% to 24% in the Court of Appeal and 18% to 22% in the High Court. More disappointing however, is the population of BAME (Black And Minority Ethnic) judges, which, in 3 years has only increased from 6% to 7%. This almost flat trend is one which many, including the Senior President of Tribunals and the Lord Chief Justice, ‘remain very concerned about’ as it is unrepresentative of diverse modern Britain.
Increased diversity, particularly in the highest echelons of the legal profession, continues to be a pressing issue that just refuses to go away. In the background of the various initiatives seeking to improve diversity in the legal profession, Baroness Hale’s appointment represents a welcome beacon of light. Hopefully she won’t be the last! Congrats Baroness Hale!