In this mini-series of posts, the women of the clinic discuss the theme of ‘Break the Bias’, what this means to them, what International Women’s Day means to them, and experience they have that resonates with this year’s theme.
A very happy International Women’s Day to all our members. Looking back on my career I was very fortunate to have a supportive, encouraging and fun all female launch pad. My traineeship was with a small sole practitioner practice with a woman at the helm who had only recently set up her practice all the while juggling the responsibility and workload of four young children on her own. All the other staff were also women. My first high court experience was with a female advocate who was inspiring. Since then the majority of my bosses have been women who were excellent in their field, eager to share their knowledge and experience and good roles models. But I didn’t have to cast my gaze very wide to notice that it was mostly men in charge. The majority of judges were men, the sheriff court common room was not somewhere I felt I belonged, men were in the majority when looking at partners in the bigger firms. While these figures have improved in the past 40 years much work remains to be done to achieve equality. Only 26% of judges in the supreme court are women and 22% of sheriffs are women. Until the judiciary reflects our population our justice system will not operate as it should and this refers not only to gender but race, disability, class and other identities suffering discrimination.
My first experience of bias in a legal role took place very early in my career. The appointment with this client was the shortest one I ever experienced. He came for advice about his upcoming criminal trial. He was in his seat for less than a minute when he said “I wasn’t expecting to see a lassie”. He then walked out without waiting for a reply – maybe just as well! You can imagine the many retorts I dreamed up if only I’d had the chance! He probably made the right choice as I was very inexperienced at the time, but for the wrong reasons!
I now work with a fantastic team of women and with many fantastic promising students who value equality and will continue to change the legal landscape for the better. So for me International Women’s Day is about celebrating women’s achievements across the globe, thanking those who have worked so hard to break the bias so far and encouraging those who continue their work in breaking the bias for the future benefit of us all.
On International Women’s Day we also have to turn our minds to the women of Ukraine facing the fear and violence that war brings. This affects women protecting themselves, their children and loved ones, those on the front line alongside or as part of the army and those subject to sexual violence as a weapon of war.
Bt Kathleen Laverty, Clinic Director
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