Women barristers

Baroness Deech

I was glad to hear that the government is making £300m available to help parents on low incomes who work for less than 16 hours a week. Not nearly enough of course, and arguably those who work for a few hours are less in need of it than those who work full time.  This is what occurred to me when I attended the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Association of Women Barristers, held in the Lords a few days ago,  just after the official opening of the legal year. It was hosted by Baroness Hale, the first and so far the only woman judge of the Supreme Court.  It was also attended by Baroness (Elizabeth) Butler-Sloss, former President of the Family Division; Baroness (Patricia) Scotland QC, former Attorney-General; Lady Justice Arden of the Court of Appeal and many other women judges.  This represents a tremendous advance for women lawyers over 20 years. (There is also an Association of Women Judges.)  The Solicitor General and the Chairman of the Bar Council came back from the party conference in Manchester to attend the dinner.  There was much reminiscence about how it used to be for women lawyers – their voices were regarded as too soft to enable them to become barristers and therefore they should only practise as solicitors; they should stick to family law; they should not wear boots and trousers, and so on.  All very quaint it seems now, especially since more than half the new entrants to the profession are women. 

The problem lies in retention.  After some years in this demanding career, for some the dilemma of balancing very long working hours and a young family is too great.  The need for childcare provision in the Courts and Temple area of London is documented and overwhelming.  The Foreign Office has a nursery – why can’t the Inns? 64% of the lawyers in the government legal service are women, perhaps because the hours are more manageable.  Time for a tax break on childcare too.  When a man takes up a senior job he is provided with a secretary. Childcare is as essential to a working mother as secretarial help to a man. P.S. I am ready for a deluge of comments from full time mothers, to whom I say: 1. Women must use their hard-earned education. 2. Many families cannot afford to have one parent stay at home as a non-earner. 3. Don’t undermine those women who want to or have to work. 4. Divorced women and single parents need help.

20 comments for “Women barristers

  1. Lord Blagger
    08/10/2011 at 10:19 pm

    So lets drive up the already astronomical costs of legal representation.

    All very good if you’re very rich or very poor, but bugger all good for the people in the middle who pay for it all.

    Haven’t you noticed that the country is bankrupt? Probably not, your still supping at the teat of the taxpayer.

  2. Twm O'r Nant
    09/10/2011 at 8:50 am

    There are times my good lady when I think that NO woman should go out to work whilst having a family, which is what mainly prevailed until the mid 1930s.

    I think it, when I see a single woman, with a higher profession and fashion accessory called a child; in which she is not in the least bit interested.

    There was a case of a solicitor, who took her own life. She had 3.

    • maude elwes
      09/10/2011 at 8:15 pm

      I agree with TWM. A woman’s first duty is to her child. Should she decide to have a family she should be well aware that it requires a certain amount of commitment to the welfare of her child.

      Why would a well educated woman want to have someone her intellectual inferior raise her child? That is the strangest of all actions.

      Don’t breed if you don’t want kids and don’t like being with them, because they do like parents and do like being with them. Not stuffed off to some stranger who will leave them at the drop of a hat and only pay them attention when Mummy comes in the door.

      Otherwise in truth they have the environment of orphans.

      Women only have to wait until the children are eight and then the best thing, if you don’t want their company, is boarding school, a good one. That way they can at least be with their peers having fun and education. Not left in limbo, grieving.

      • K
        27/05/2012 at 6:04 pm

        That’s just absurd, sorry. Life just isn’t as black and white as you assert it to be. I believe that a child can gain a lot from watching his mother make an effort to build a professional life, and dare to do well, especially where the building of a career can give a mother some confidence and self-esteem. Building a professional career does not rule out love and relationship between a mother and her child. That attitude is just evidence of unwillingness to make an attempt at flexibility. Strive for both sides I say – without feeling guilty about it and instead forcing yourself to be a ‘good, devoted mother’ whose child will eventually turn around and say “Mum, get a life”.

  3. DanFilson
    09/10/2011 at 7:27 pm

    1. Graduates must use their hard-earned education. Not just one those of particular gender.
    2. Many families cannot afford to have one parent stay at home as a non-earner, but for those that do, should it necessarily be the female?
    3. Don’t undermine those spouses who want to or have to work.
    4. Divorced parents with children and single parents need help.

    Making what you said gender-neutral was not difficult.

    Now to the issue. The government is making £300m available to help parents on low incomes who work for less than 16 hours a week. I don’t know how far that will go, and whether it is enough, and what can be bought with it. We cannot afford probably to extend this to all parents, who work for less than 16 hours a week, regardlesss of income. So I expect it will not, for the most part, be barristers who will benefit from government measures. This does not mean that employers should not make provision for employees they value. But for the self-employed – such as barristers – it obviously presents problems. No easy answers. Whilst we have over two and a half million unemployed, I expect – and hope – government priorities should be first to reduce unemployment to a much lower level, as without fuller employment growth will be painfully slow. Politics is about priorities. This may sound harsh, possibly sexist; if so, so be it; but there we are.

    • maude elwes
      10/10/2011 at 2:16 pm

      @Dan Filson:

      1) The graduate can use their hard earned education at home. I know quite a few who do. And very successful they are at it. However, more importantly, is if the adults don’t want to take the time to raise their child themselves, they should take special precautionary measures not to produce one. Don’t pretend you are unaware of the dreadful results of ‘nannies’ care, because you must have friends who suffered under that total abandonment of responsibility. A child has the ‘human right’ to expect and receive, via their mother, in their infancy and childhood, her personal care. A good example for all to see, is, Sebastian Flight, of Brideshead fame. Loads a dough, but no hands on sense of real affection. And that message was loud and clear as it encompassed all the individuals of the household and they even had had a ‘caring’ nanny.

      Moreover, those who have obtained this brilliant education you write of, know more than most the dreadful outcome of childhood neglect. And neglect by a mother is more significant than any other. Which leads to the point that the neglect that affects children most, is, withdrawal of their mother. Not their father, their mother. And to leave your child with a minder, who rarely speaks to it, unless you are within ear reach, is abandonment. And this is covered with all kinds of ‘intellectual chattering’ dinner guests, but no one is fooled by that. It is a plain as the nose on your face.

      2) ‘Many families can’t afford to have one parent stay at home as the earnings will drop’ you tell us. Funny that isn’t it? It was only a short while ago a man on the smallest wage managed to take care of a family of four, pay a mortgage and still afford some luxuries. Whilst having to look after Granny in the household at the same time.

      That put to one side however, now we are so well off with this ‘new market economy’ and ‘low level of real employment,’ even those poor bastards with two jobs are unable to afford the basics. Do you ever wonder why that is? And, if it has anything to do with politics being ‘out of touch’ with the country as well as obsessed with their social experiments?

      Except, of course, when those social experiments go drastically wrong and create a nation of people only interested in material gain. Then they wonder why there are riots in order to grab the nearest thing that means ‘success’ to them. The large screen TV the i-phone or whatever piece of unimportant kitch they manage to grab. That couldn’t be because family and connection to their well being, by those most important to them, ditched them for these, ‘mustn’t be without items,’ could it? No. of course not. Far more important than a healthy mind and contented child, is that TV in every room or the third car in the garage. And perhaps the holiday home you are all so ‘committed’ to.

      3) It’s not people ‘like me’ who undermine those who want to work or have to work. It is people like you who undermine the role of mother and wife. You belittle the family unit and the importance of the commitment to the task of being a mother or parent who cares enough to stay home and ‘sacrifice’ those ‘things’ that make businessmen rich. You downgrade women who decide they want to be mothers and nurture those that mean more to them than these ‘goods’ that will never fulfill their sense of self esteem, no matter how much of it they have. Could that be because you have another agenda that is more important?

      4) Should parents be more connected to their family, by, being there for them, staying at home and becoming engaged in the activity of family life, as they used to, in time passed, the less likely they will divorce. Because they will have grown in respect for those they bring into the world, and would never be able to walk away from them, unless the issues were so grave they could do nothing else. People do not abandon those they have cared for, been with and have responsibility for, when the trivial relationship at the office has become more meaningful than those they have produced. Because that is where they have spent twelve hours a day.

      But then again, would you know about that?

      • DanFilson
        10/10/2011 at 7:56 pm

        Calm down, dear!

        First, “a man on the smallest wage managed to take care of a family of four, pay a mortgage and still afford some luxuries” – this is a fantasy image of a non-existent past world. Yes you could buy a house in Worcester Park in the 1930s for £400 but a man on the smallest wage could not afford that, let alone “afford some luxuries”. Do you think people stayed in Bermondsey for fun? Why do you think keys were held on pieces of string behind the letter box? Even in the ‘prosperous’ 1950s or 1960s, it was very hard to get a mortgage and pay it on only one income.

        Second, I neither undermine those who want to work or have to work, nor undermine the role of mother and wife. I find it offensive you suggest so. Nor do I accept that a woman cannot combine being a mother and wife with working. My mother did so, once I started primary school, and both my nieces and their mother did so, in my nieces case drawing on the assistance of my single sister and a rota of other parents, including respective husbands. Nobody is traumatised by this form of upbringing. Just because you cannot envisage it working does not mean it cannot. Nor am I impressed by your use of innuendo.

        What would I know about family responsibility and care, you ask, very impertinently in my view? I don’t propose to get into this kind of tit-for-tat I-was-a-better-carer-than-you type of argument. But it really demeans your case to seriously argue that those who go out to work “abandon those they have cared for, been with and have responsibility for, when the trivial relationship at the office has become more meaningful than those they have produced” Rubbish!!!

        • maude elwes
          11/10/2011 at 12:27 pm

          @Dan Filson:

          I’ll open this with the reference you made to the repugnant Michael Winner’s idiotic insurance commercial, designed to irritate and humiliate women. Whilst at the same time you write, I made impertinent and demeaning remarks to your lack of personal knowledge in the matter of women and their duty toward the children they bring into this life. Let me ask you this ‘dear’ are you a mother? Do you have any hands on experience of motherhood and what it means in real terms? If not, how on earth do you conclude my remarks were unfounded?

          Nevertheless, we will pass that to one side as the mere fact you wrote such a nasty quote shows an honest picture of your attitude to the female sex. So there is no need to press the point, as it reveals your true character, doesn’t it?

          You tell me that from your experience of life, the image of the past I wrote is a fantasy and never existed in this country. Well really! So I suppose members of this family I know, who lived just such a life are, of course, liars and the family albums they show to prove it, are a set up. Those in the frames didn’t really exist at all.

          My friends Grandpa was born in 1900 and served, as a boy, in WW1. He was seriously wounded. Which meant he would have been classified today as disabled because his legs were smashed so badly he was unable to join up to fight in WW2.

          Therefore, after WW1, he had to stay in the UK and work to take care of his mother, who was widowed. He then married her Grandma in 1922, and their first child was born in 1924. He took any old job he could, just to make a shilling because his mother, wife and child were ‘his’ dependents.

          So, he became a jobber for a local bakery. And they, through their necessity, used him as a master baker, when the main man was too drunk to do the job. Which meant he got paid on the side in order to keep his mouth shut. Just penny’s not a fortune.

          Now, her Granny, as a young woman, learned to type and took in letters and the like, from local businessmen who didn’t want to emloy a full time secretary. She didn’t work outside the home as this would have been unacceptable to her husband because he would have been considered unable to keep a family if his wife was seen to be in need of a job. They rented a small three bedroom semi and over time, they managed to furnish it, and had two more children.

          Now to cut a long story short, WW2 began and by this time my friends Grandpa, ran a bakery himself. His pay was £3.00 to £4.00 per week, plus a four bedroom flat over the business. Her Grandma, by this time, did not work at all. She had to shop, cook, clean the house and take care of the children, as well as educate them, which she loved. Even in those meagre times, they did not go without. You see, they managed to save and after a period of time, they not only had a walnut bedroom suite, and a new fangled thing called a TV, which only had programmes in the afternoon and shut down at around ten pm or sooner. But they were thrilled by this good fortune, as the frugal Grandpa was able to, in 1947, buy a car.

          My friends mother was clothed well as her Grandfathers mother could make clothes and knitted. They went to Scotland to relatives for holidays on Skye and as time went on, he bought a four bedroom semi and was able to buy the Grandma a fur coat. As well as supply a grotesque fox pelt for his mothers neck. These were considered luxuries at the time.

          Later, they gave their girls white weddings, my friends mother being one of them. And they went to college because the Labour government made it possible to have free health care, cod liver oil and orange juice, to keep them from bone complaints after that fight with Hitler.

          So you see, a man on an ordinary wage with three children to keep and his mother, managed to buy a house, furnish it, feed them well and have a TV set, then a car. Along with White weddings and catering.

          This was not unusual, my friends mother tells me, as the Grandpa’s friends had much the same, depending on whether they went to the dogs or not.

          And the latch key kids you write of, were not in infancy, they went to school and Mum was nearly always home at tea time, ready to cook dinner for the family when their Dads got home. They didn’t have this ‘nutrition free’ fast food then. The nearest to that was fish and chips and pie and mash.

          Divorce was virtually non existent. Life was not a panacea I’m sure, and nor was it filled with material junk bunk. They had something far more precious. Fulfillment of their spirit and contentment of a job well done. Hardly prevalent today. And with it was a pride in their family and a deep appreciation for the man who made it possible for them. The Grandpa and father they all loved dearly.

          By the 60’s there was no such thing as being unemployed because of no available work. There was an abundance of it. And women, if they wanted to, could work without a stigma around akin to the kind friends Grandma experienced. But, they stayed home to be with their kids. And could afford to do so. The changes came in the seventies, according to the older people I know, when the destruction of the family began to enable business to exploit women and reduce the pay across the board to all. Which created, over time, the drop in wages to the working classes and now, of course, to the middle classes. So that the greed of the rich could have its rampant way.

          Once women, who were, in the main, from upper class households wanted to bring that wonderful life changing suppository called, career, into the life of working class families, it took over from the males of the household doing the rightful job of supporting the mothers of their children, into a new life of abject drudgery.

          Women were no longer good enough as themselves, they must abandon their children and family to compete with men and their salaries. To the extent where an entire society lost its raison d’etre.

          Career obsessed intellectual women should not have children. Unless they want to take the time out to commit to being a full time mother whilst there offspring needs them. Which is, at least, until eight years old. Just as women on benefit should not have fifteen kids. It’s all a matter of balance.

          Which sadly has been completely lost.

          And if you believe this is not what women want, and that they sign up to this overwhelming guilt, then why don’t you lobby for them to have a debate on the issue? As well as a referendum of the ordinary women out there, to have a say. That way, men, like you, won’t have to be telling us, what is right for our gender and the motherhood that goes with it. Will they?

          • DanFilson
            11/10/2011 at 3:23 pm

            My word, I turned on a tap, didn’t I.

  4. ladytizzy
    09/10/2011 at 7:30 pm

    Baroness Deech, you imply that the costs of childcare provision should be borne solely by the employer of the mother. I would dearly love for someone in Parliament to stop this assumption. It would be a first step towards reducing the 98 year gap in pay parity, and parity in opportunities.

  5. Frank W. Summers III
    10/10/2011 at 3:22 am

    Baroness Deech,
    I favor many reforms starting in the US and then perhaps spreading including family associations with childcare plans, support for cyber and cottage industries with special support for women in them. I support programs empowering families with moms at home as economic units. I do all of this with the an unabashedly right wing agenda.Yet, I fully endorse you idea that childcare, job sharing, and other infrastructure for women should be brought into corporate and professional life. life. For me all these convictions are very consistent but in these thematic areas in many countries our partisan and ideological politics set one group of those struggling for a better future against another much more than these politics seem to broker a better solution.

  6. Twm O'r Nant
    10/10/2011 at 9:20 am

    A family which has TWO working parents CAN be well organized, with cook and full time nanny at home, two people on “the Staff” at home full time. One sometimes meets people who do pull the organization of that off successfully.

    Heaven knows that there is little enough for a woman/house husband to do at home except turn on the washing machine and vacuum the carpet, but it is certainly true that the emotional needs of children as they grow up are frequently not met by leaving children in nurseries and kindergartens, and then boarding schools.

    The sliding scale of “situations” between a two staff two working people, family, and a woman who has to chase to the nursery morning and evening , only months after she has given birth, is surely well researched and documented, to avoid such disasters as the
    unexplained disappearance of a child in Portugal.

    • DanFilson
      10/10/2011 at 2:15 pm

      “A family which has TWO working parents CAN be well organized, with cook and full time nanny at home, two people on “the Staff” at home full time.” In what fantasy world do you live?

      Bert drives a van and Trudy stacks shelves. How, pray, will they afford a cook and full time nanny??

  7. MilesJSD
    10/10/2011 at 2:26 pm

    Early on Tuesday last I submitted here that it is essential not only for our over-arching Longest-Term Purpose to be clearly stated and published, but for a long list of whitewashy, woolly, foggy-ised terms to be clarified unambiguously;
    and I submitted some ‘starters’ for such overclouding or underfouling;
    and hinted that without such published clarification the purpose of women-barristers would be co-blurred with the purpose of the Judiciary, of the whole of British Democracy, and indeed of the Whole Human Race’s Governance;

    but Baroness Deech has suppressed it;
    so it appears in full on http://www.lifefresh.co.uk ;

    but for those wishing to see a similar reasoning in shorter form, please see today’s blog by Lord Tyler “Who are the Conservatives now ?”.

    • MilesJSD
      10/10/2011 at 11:17 pm

      Correction: “Early on Sunday last…” (i.e. yesterday 0858AM09Oct2011)

  8. Twm O'r Nant
    10/10/2011 at 7:03 pm

    Bert drives a van and Trudy stacks shelves. How, pray, will they afford a cook and full time nanny??

    I am thinking of the higher professions, of which shelf stackers are obviously members, but all they need is “Nan” to do both jobs, so they are lucky.

    If they are both partners of Waitrose they could clearly afford both a cook and a housekeeper, but of any other supermarket, I doubt it.

    • DanFilson
      11/10/2011 at 3:31 pm

      So “A family which has TWO working parents CAN be well organized, with cook and full time nanny at home, two people on “the Staff” at home full time.” was not about ordinary working people, but higher professions (interesting the use of the word ‘higher’) such as barristers. My niece is a barrister married to a barrister, and no matter how well organised they cannot afford two people on the staff at home full time. I suspect you are referring to senior barristers in at least mid-career. But I cannot see the benefit of discussing the servant problems of the seriously rich here. Nor indeed the child care problems of working barristers. It just shows how remote from realities some discussions can get.

      Here’s a useful reality check. Imagine the national population divided into deciles of level of household income. Let me ask you what you think is the level of household income of those at the cusp between the bottom decile and the next, and those at the cusp between the eighth and ninth decile, and likewise those at the cusp between the ninth and top decile. It’s quite an eye-opener.

  9. Gar Howell
    11/10/2011 at 11:58 am

    The best barristas of all, are to be found obviously enough, behind the barr of Starbuck’s coffee shops, not to mention all the Royal Opera House ballet dancers at the barr for their morning leg exercises.

    I mean, let’s be objective now, shall we about the real meaning of words, and the real value of hard work?

  10. Twm O'r Nant
    13/10/2011 at 11:58 am

    The Foreign Office has a nursery – why can’t the Inns?

    The FO tends to be a family concern; if the Inns are also, then so might they.

Comments are closed.