Liz Truss speech: Women in the legal industry

Liz Truss is the Secretary of State for Justice, and Lord Chancellor. From her Wikipedia profile:

On 14 July 2016, Truss was appointed as Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor in Theresa May’s first ministry. Truss is the first woman to hold either position. The decision to appoint her was criticised by the then Minister of State for Justice Edward Faulks, Baron Faulks who resigned from the government saying “I have nothing against Ms Truss personally, but is she going to have the clout to be able to stand up to the prime minister when necessary, on behalf of the judges? Is she going to be able to stand up, come the moment, to the prime minister, for the rule of law and for the judiciary … without fear of damaging her career? It is a big ask.”

Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor, expressed similar views and dealt with suggestions that the objections were merely misogynistic. Writing in The Guardian he welcomed the appointment of a woman but pointed out that like Chris Grayling and Michael Gove, she lacked the essential legal expertise that the constitution requires of position holders.

Truss was heavily criticised, including by former Attorney-General Dominic Grieve and the Criminal Bar Association, for failing to support more robustly the judiciary and the principle of judicial independence, after three judges of the Divisional Court came under ferocious attack from politicians and sections of the press for ruling against the government in the article 50 Brexit case. As Lord Chancellor, Truss is legally required to uphold the independence of the judiciary.

So, what is this poorly-qualified woman, who is failing even to meet her legal requirement to uphold the independence of the judiciary, focusing on? Predictably, increasing the number of poorly-qualified women in the upper reaches of the legal profession. From a recent speech, Women in the legal industry:

We need more firms like Obelisk Support, which was set up by former Linklaters lawyer Dana Denis-Smith to match the highly-qualified pool we have of largely female ex-City legal talent with clients looking for part-time and flexible legal advice.

Obelisk is successfully challenging the old-fashioned culture of ‘jacket-left-on-chair’ presenteeism. Dana’s approach of flexible outsourcing means that success is measured by results, not hours spent grafting in the office. [Hmm… might there be a link between ‘hours spent grafting in the office’ and ‘results’?] A real boost for all working parents. [Translation – a real boost for working women]

I want to see more women and ethnic minorities taking silk and I am working with the Bar Council to take action. Currently only 13% of our QCs are women and 5% are BME; both rates have been stagnant for 5 years.

I want to see more women and ethnic minorities in senior levels of law firms.

I’ve had positive meetings with the Magic Circle, the Silver Circle and the Law Society on how we can widen the talent pool to people from all walks of life.

But most of all I want to see more women and ethnic minorities [Translation – fewer men and white people] in the judiciary…

I want also to talk about potential. I have already explained that we will always select our judges on the basis of merit. However, I feel – and I know the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Kakkar – agree, that the assessment of merit needs to include an assessment of potential. [Judgements of potential will be more subjective than judgements on merit, enabling positive discrimination for women and ethic minorities i.e. negative discrimination against men and white people.]

I think that future recruitment campaigns should make clear to all candidates that their potential counts. You should not be put off just because your career so far hasn’t taken you into a courtroom [my emphasis] because we will offer training and support where that is necessary. [Funded by male taxpayers in the main, who pay almost 75% of income tax collected in this country]

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About Mike Buchanan

I'm a men's human rights advocate, writer, and publisher. My primary focus is leading the political party I launched in 2013, Justice for Men & Boys (and the women who love them). I still work actively on two campaigns I launched in early 2012, Campaign for Merit in Business and the Anti-Feminism League. In 2014 I launched The Alternative Sexism Project, aiming to raise public understanding that the sexism faced by men and boys has far more grievous consequences than the sexism faced by women and girls.
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  • William Gruff

    ‘ … clients looking for part-time and flexible legal advice.

    Yes, I agree. I’m often only in need of legal advice between 10:00 and 15:00, Tuesdays to Thursdays, 10:30 ’til 14:00 Fridays, never at weekends or on Mondays and I don’t mind if my counsel does her shopping before seeing me, needs time off because she’s menstruating or going through the menopause, or has to postpone because her childcare arrangement has called in sick. It really is too much to expect woman to focus on the job when they have so many other pressing commitments, like shopping and coffee mornings, to occupy their time.

    We men really need to be more understanding.

  • ‘negative discrimination against men and white people’ – well said