International Women’s Day 2021: Baroness Hale

International Women's Day 2021

International Women’s Day 2021: Baroness Hale

Today is International Women’s Day and in the second of our blogs celebrating this, paralegal Nina Rawlings explains why Baroness Hale of Richmond (pictured below) is a woman for whom the equality of women in the eyes of the law is a fundamental principle of the law itself.

 

Baroness Hale of Richmond

Baroness Hale of Richmond is the first woman to serve on the Law Commission, the first woman to serve on the UK’s new Supreme Court and the first female president of the UK’s Supreme Court – yet she is perhaps most well known for that spider brooch.

In Baroness Hale of Richmond, I celebrate someone for whom the equality of women in the eyes of the law is an absolutely fundamental principle of the law itself. So much so that her appointment as a Law Lord bore with it the self-imposed motto, Omnia Feminae Aequissimae – Women are Equal to Everything.

She is particularly relevant to the work we do every day at McAlister Family Law. Not only did she spend close to 20 years teaching law as a Professor at Manchester University, she was influential – indeed she has been called the principal architect – in leading the work which brought about the very creation of the Children Act 1989. She was also instrumental in the creation of the ground-breaking Family Law Act 1996 and Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Whilst she is recently most well-known for ruling on Boris Johnson’s invocation of the prerogative power to suspend parliament, which she deemed to be ‘unlawful, void and of no effect’ (R (on the application of Miller) v The Prime Minister, Cherry and others, v Advocate General for Scotland – [2019] UKSC 41) – she also famously ruled in 2011 on domestic violence in relation to homelessness in which she explored the definition of such violence and held that violence extends beyond that which is purely physical (Yemshaw v London Borough of Hounslow – [2011] UKSC 3). Herein she cites Lord Scarman; violence is ‘conduct which makes it impossible or intolerable…for the other partner, or the children to remain at home’. This re-defined the very notion of violence against women in the eyes of the law and enabled by virtue of legal precedent further future protection of women’s rights.

At present there still remains a significant gender imbalance within the law. The Government’s official 2020 diversity statistics revealed that of the UK’s Queen’s Counsel, only 17% are female with female judges being at 32%. This number is lower when looking at the senior courts: 26% female judges in the High court and above. There is still much to be done in terms of achieving equal representation. The flip side of this is that in 2019-2020, of the 20,905 UK students accepted onto university law courses, a staggering 14,520 of these were female. In the year ending July 2019, of 6,344 new traineeships, 4,148 of these went to females. (statistics taken from the Law Society Annual Statistics Report, 2019). There can be no denying that trailblazing women such as Baroness Hale, and their visibility in the law, have paved for the way younger generations of women to shatter the historically masculine hegemony.

Baroness Hale remains to this day a fierce advocate for child welfare, equality law and diversity in the legal profession. British Vogue labelled her ‘a heroine for our times’, although I prefer her nickname ‘the Beyoncé of the legal profession”.

She is truly a woman who is equal to everything.

International Women’s Day 2021: Amal Clooney

International Women's Day 2021

International Women’s Day 2021: Amal Clooney

Today is International Women’s Day and in celebration of this, senior associate Nicola McDaid explains why Amal Clooney (pictured below) is a woman of global importance.

A woman I hold great admiration for and one not afraid to challenge even the most corrupt in society is Amal Clooney,  a human rights lawyer who has served as a senior advisor to Kofi Annan when he was the UN’s Envoy on Syria. She also served as Counsel to the UN Inquiry on the use of armed drones led by the Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights. She is a member of the UK’s team of experts on preventing sexual violence in conflict zones. And she was recently appointed to the UK Attorney General’s expert panel set up to advise and represent the UK government in cases involving public international law.

Amal is ranked in the leading legal directories Chambers and Partners and Legal 500 as one of the top lawyers in the UK in the fields of international human rights and international criminal law.

In addition to Amal’s work in the field of law, she is the co-founder and President of the Clooney Foundation for Justice that advocates for justice through accountability for human rights abuses around the world.

There is no doubt that Amal has faced a multitude of challenges in her life; her personal history is rooted in turbulence, with her own family fleeing their country to Europe during the war of 1982. She is a long-standing champion and advocate for women’s rights worldwide and has, quite rightly in my view, been described as the ‘consummate feminist superhero’.

The final words go to her:

As women, we may not be a minority, but there is a bond that we all share. It is not a bond of geography. Or religion. Or culture. It is a bond of shared experience – experiences that only women go through and struggles that only women face.”

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