The barrier to women progressing further in the judiciary has gone, but more needs to be done to remove the glass ceiling at the bar, the lord chief justice said last night.
Speaking at an event organised by the Temple Women’s Forum, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (pictured) said that there was no longer a glass ceiling for women in the judiciary, in part due to the flexibility a judicial career can offer.
But he said that the legal profession ‘might be slightly different’ as, although chambers might have improved in terms of equality, they still have a ‘long way to go’.
Women may benefit from more freedom at the bar as barristers are self-employed, he said, but there are no commitments to improving diversity.
Life has also been made more difficult because of demands from clients, he said, comparing today’s constant connectivity to a time when messages were communicated via telegrams.
His comments came as he stressed the need for women to be represented in the judiciary, which he said was central to having a ‘just and fairer society’ with a judiciary in which ‘everyone has confidence’.
Already the position in the Court of Appeal has changed a little, Thomas said, with the number of women judges rising from four in 2012 to eight now, and from 17 to 21 in the High Court.
But he said diversity at the judiciary needs to be looked at in the context of a changing legal profession, such as cuts to legal aid and changes to the way courts could operate in the future, including the reforms proposed by human rights group Justice last week.
On QC appointments, he said it was becoming increasingly difficult for applicants from outside London. Last year only five people who practise in northern and north-eastern circuits got silk, which he described as a ‘very worrying trend’.