In conjunction with the First 100 Years Project, LexisNexis invited professionals from across the legal industry to attend an evening celebrating the first female Supreme Court Judge: Baroness Hale. Instantly oversubscribed, over 160 guests signed up to join us at the Supreme Court to share an evening listening to Baroness Hale’s life and career. As guests piled into the main hall, the atmosphere became increasingly celebratory; women and men of all ages eagerly awaited the interview with Baroness Hale, excited to hear more about the life of the woman who has, more than once, made history.
Softly spoken, decisive and fiercely intelligent, Baroness Hale astutely commands the attention of any room. An expansive presence on the bench, Baroness Hale is the leading light in child and family cases. Her pioneering work at the Law commission led to the creation of some of her more personal victories: the Children Act 1989, the Family Law Act 1996, and the Mental Capacity Act 2005. All of which, she explains, put the interests of the vulnerable at the heart of proceedings.
Baroness Hale’s career has spanned more than 40 years, and in that time, it’s fair to say that she has ruffled more than a few feathers. Upsetting establishment norms has been her unwitting raison d’etre since the beginning; having consistently infiltrated traditionally all male spaces, she herself acknowledges: “I’m used to being the first.” As if to set the tone for the rest of her career, Baroness Hale studied Law at Cambridge as part of the first cohort of women ever to graduate with a diploma.
While Baroness Hale’s legacy is demonstrably her work on the bench, her resonance extends beyond her enviable career. As one of the first women to demand more of her profession, Baroness Hale has steadily unpicked the seams of the bar, making room for more women to come after. Her visibility is undoubtedly vital in ensuring the bench becomes diversified and better represents the people it is designed to serve. As one of the most influential and powerful women in the country, her voice adds volume to growing calls for a more diverse and representative judicial bench. For aspiring judges, ambitious barristers, hungry students and curious young girls, Baroness Hale is an essential figurehead when it comes to visualising what can be achieved.
Inspiration was at the heart of the evening. Throughout the night, we invited guests to share their female role models on post it notes displayed across the venue, and over short Vox Pop videos. We quickly gathered a sense that role models come from all corners; many guests listed women close to them as their inspiration, while others recognised the impact of historic figures such as monarchs, pioneers and suffragettes.
Platforms such as the First 100 Year project are essential in furthering conversations surrounding the realisation of gender equality. As Baroness Hale discussed, diversity at the Bar is an important goal for all of us, to ensure that the pool of talent coming to the bar is as broad as possible and draws upon diverse perspectives and skill sets. Developing diversity at the Bar is an essential component of extending the rule of law. The Rule of Law, in its most basic form, is the principle that no one is above the law. As such there should be equal representation of all people in those that work in the law and support the Rule of Law. At the heart of “equal representation” is an acknowledgement that our society is diverse, and as such those that represent our society should be representative of that diversity.
Advancing the rule of law globally underpins LexisNexis core values. Our commitment to advancing the rule of law unifies our company and the people that work here. Recent examples of how we do this in the UK include our partnership with The First 100 Years charity. The First 100 Years is a ground-breaking history project charting the journey of women in law since 1919. The project’s vision is to ensure a strong and equal future for all women in the legal profession through a deep understanding of the past combined with a celebration of today.
To learn more about our important work with the First 100 Years charity, click here