Gender approach in the legal profession
Kate Davenport QC speaks about the current gender approach in the legal profession in her recent LawTalk article.
Throughout her comprehensive analysis, Kate refers to the July 2016 United Kingdom Bar Standards Board’s report on Women at the Bar and to the Summary of Josh Pemberton’s report on Experiences in Retention of New Zealand Junior Lawyers.
Both reports reveal the fact that, in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, being a woman has negative effects both on developing a legal career and on the retention prospects of young professionals within the legal world.
It is also apparent that young women lawyers have no real senior female role models to relate to. According to Kate, this is both a consequence of the retention issues which occur because women’s voices are not heard and the misconception that they cannot provide their clients with forceful enough client representation. Additionally, they are sometimes explicitly sexually discriminated against.
In the United Kingdom, the Bar Standards report shows that even today, female lawyers still encounter discrimination and harassment in their work environment. Moreover, as the report explains, “[t]his harassment was not reported because women barristers were concerned about the negative impact on their career“.
When comparing women to men, Kate believes that aggression, dominant attitude and a loud voice are not the hallmarks of an effective barrister. On the contrary, she asserts that “aggression is counterproductive and often leads to more litigation or protracted negotiations“.
Kate suggests that there is a need to combat sexual discrimination and to ensure a gender neutral approach in the profession by leadership from the more senior bar.
For a wider view on what traits a good lawyer needs, the opinions of a number of senior lawyers and judges click here.
Barristers: Kate Davenport QC