A criminal barrister has told fellow members of the bar to stop acting like they are on a stag do if they want to retain women in the profession.
Joanna Hardy, a barrister at Red Lion Chambers, wrote a nine point plan on Twitter setting out how she feels the profession should reform. Among the points, Hardy said that in a "male-heavy case" men should not "make repetitive jokes about breasts or skirts". She also stated that the comment "you’re worse than my wife” could never be "an acceptable way to conclude a debate about complex legal provisions".
It's a ticking off for some of the bar's throwbacks to the 18th century who have dodged the modern world and the teachings of feminism.
Hardy's nine points were:
"1) Abolish 09:30 listings. This helps with childcare and the care of elderly relatives. It’s (something) predictable in a chaotic job. (This helps male primary caregivers, too).
2) Abolish warned lists. No other profession prepares a piece of work (for free) on the off-chance they might be able to complete it and be paid. Let’s fix trials. That requires funding judicial sitting hours and recorders. It requires the utilisation of empty courtrooms.
3) Be kind to each other. Female advocates can have a rough time of it. Not all the time. And they aren’t the only ones. But just don’t do it. And if you see it, don’t tolerate it.
4) Think about your chambers’ policies for supporting female members. Do you have a mentoring scheme? A maternity policy? Support for returning to work? Fair allocation of cases? If you don’t - write one.
5) Help each other. If you’re a senior female member of the bar or female judge - encourage those behind you. Talk about how you managed families / relatives / stress / career breaks / bravado at the bar. Lend a hand. Or an ear. Speak on a panel. Write an article. Mentor. Help.
6) Don’t behave like you’re on a stag-do. If you’re a male in a male-heavy case, don’t ask the female counsel to fetch the coffee / pour your water. Try to remember their names. Don’t make repetitive jokes about breasts or skirts. Don’t communicate solely in innuendo.
7) “You’re worse than my wife” is not an acceptable way to conclude a debate about complex legal provisions.
8) No. I don’t want to organise the case dinner.
9) Don’t read Monday Messages from @TheCriminalBar or emails from @WellbeingCBA or books by @BarristerSecret and nod along without engaging*. Do some small things to help."
The tweets were well received on Twitter with a fellow barrister at Red Lion Chambers, David Malone, tweeting that Hardy was "right to speak out against sexism" adding that "every woman should feel able to speak out without fear. Every male who witnesses sexism must call it out".
Opposing barristers dictate a protesting tweet.
Hardy's call follows a message this week published by the Criminal Bar Association Chair, Chris Henley QC, who said that he is getting "irritated" by all the talk about diversity with "nothing discernible" happening. He lambasted the "monstrous" behaviour from some senior barristers who are holding back progress on diversity and wellbeing at the bar.
Henley noted that many of the senior barristers who were out of touch with the realities of family life had "never changed a nappy" or "had years of interrupted sleep" or had to deal with "the daily admin of kids". Instead they had had the luxury of practising at a time "when the work was plenty" and the fees were "wow"’.
It is not just barristers who could do with a lesson, as sightings of the Bantersaurus often pop up at law firms too.
* Plug for @RollOnFridayWeb next time please