The University of Law was privileged to welcome none other than Lady Hale as the latest special guest in its popular ‘Evening With’ series on 6th October 2021.
More than 1,000 alumni signed up to attend the event from 35 countries, making it the most popular Evening with… event to date.
Brenda Marjorie Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond, DBE, PC, FBA, is a British judge who served as President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from 2017 until her retirement in 2020 and serves as a member of the House of Lords as a Lord Temporal. She made the headlines in 2019 after announcing Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted unlawfully when he advised the Queen to suspend Parliament during the UK’s split from the EU.
Lady Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE, PC, FBA, was welcomed by ULaw Pro-Vice-Chancellor: External Peter Crisp. Given Lady Hale’s renown, no introduction was required and Peter Crisp dove straight into his questions. He asked about her early experiences in education and the expectations of her family due to her academic background. When asked about career guidance during the 1950s, she said: “There was a careers advisor from the local authority who came and saw us in 5th form, which is the O-level year. I said to him I was going to go to university, and he said, ‘well, you shouldn’t be so sure about that. It’s quite difficult to go to university’…so I gave him up as a bad job.”
While discussing her aspirations while studying law and the lack of females within the industry at the time, she said: “I was attracted to the idea of going to the bar, as so many young people are. And I was surrounded by law students who took it for granted they were going to the bar. They were that sort of well connected, entitled young men who were around. They weren’t everywhere, they weren’t everyone but there were plenty of them around.”
She discussed her experiences with a pupil master in the 1980s who didn’t approve of women at the bar. “Halfway through my pupillage, I plucked up the courage to confront him and said: ‘Rumour has it, you don’t approve of women at the bar, is this true?’ We’d been getting on like a house on fire; he was a lovely man. And he said, ‘yes, it’s quite true, I don’t approve of women at the bar…the bar is a fighting profession and women shouldn’t fight and can’t fight. They’re either too stubborn or too yielding.’ So, he didn’t think fighting was something women could do. He was right about the bar but completely wrong about women.”
Due to the popularity of the evening, questions were submitted by attendees prior to the event. These included what’s the best part of being a judge, and do you think women bring something different to the art of judging?
When asked about access to legal representation, she said: “Yes, you can have access to justice without lawyers, but it’s much harder and much riskier.” She added: “On all sorts of levels, what’s happened since LASPO is…I was going to say unfortunate, but that’s too weak of a word. But I don’t want to use too strong of a word either. But not a good thing for the justice system.”
Asked about her incredible legal career, Lady Hale concluded the event by saying, “I certainly didn’t set out to become a living legend all those years ago.” No matter her ambitions, she has become a ground-breaking inspiration for many aspiring to or already within the legal sector.
Thank you to Lady Hale and to everyone who joined us for this highly anticipated event.