Legal Women Summer 2023

Page 1

Sexual Offences and Justice

 The Jury’s Out?


 Lady Dorrian

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August 2023 © Legal Women Magazine, Benham Publishing Ltd.


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Legal Women Magazine welcomes all persons eligible to join our community regardless of sex, race, religion, age or sexual orientation. All views expressed in this publication are the views of the individual writers and not those of Legal Women unless specifically stated to be otherwise. All statements as to the law are for discussion and should not be relied upon as an accurate statement of the law, are of a general nature and do not constitute advice in any particular case or circumstance. Members of the public should not seek to rely on anything published in this magazine in court but seek qualified legal advice.


Image courtesy of Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC) who provide specialist services for adults and children who have been impacted directly or indirectly by sexual violence or abuse at any time in their lives.

Copy Deadline


Editor-in-Chief: Coral Hill. Features

Editor: Molly Bellamy. Sub-editors: Gillian Fielden, Tilly Rubens, Joanne Skolnick.

Editorial Team: Enya Hood, Ramsha Khan, Charity Mafuba, Serena Reynell, Elizabeth Shimmell, Agnes Swiecka and Emma Webb. Researcher: David Smith.

LegalWomen | 3 Contents 5 Foreword 8 What are YOU really communicating 9 The Jury’s Out? 10 Dr Molly Bellamy hears from Baroness H Kennedy 13 Sexual History Evidence in the UK 14 Weaponising Legal Instruments To Protect The Guilty 16 Girls Human Rights Hub 17 Only Yes is Yes for crimes against ‘Libertad Sexual’ 18 Lady Dorrian 22 Lived Experience 24 London Legal Walk 2023 28 Events 33 Clerking in Chambers Find us online at:
the November 2023 edition
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Iam delighted by the news of Dame Sue Carr accepting the role of Lord Chief Justice, leader of the judiciary, from October this year. As the first woman to hold this role, dating back to the thirteenth century, it is recognised as a momentous appointment and rightly welcomed. I’m struck that constitutionally the role title currently only allows for ‘Lord’, and it has been indicated that there may be a change in the title depending on the wishes of Dame Carr. It raises the issue of the importance of language. In the past and currently, there are some women who are comfortable with ‘Chairman’ or other traditional male titles for roles, seeing the masculine form as denoting either a male or female appointee. Even if initially, it sounds unusual for traditionalists, my view is that the title should clearly reflect all genders or, if that is not possible, it adapts to the occupier of the role. For me, the use of ‘Lord’ suggests it is primarily appropriate for a man to hold the role, which may limit some people’s ambitions.

The appointment is a further step in increasing the gender diversity of the judiciary. Women account for 35% of judges in our courts, although many of these judges sit in the lower courts. In the senior courts there is still a marked discrepancy in the numbers of women and men holding roles as judges and in the Supreme Court of the UK and Northern Ireland, there is only one female Supreme Court Judge (Lady Justice Rose). It is estimated that it will be another decade before half of the judiciary are female, which would reflect their number in society. We will keep an eye on any developments for future editions.

Foreword SUMMER 2023

This summer issue tackles the incredibly difficult topic of sexual offences and justice. Whilst everyone wants a fair process and outcome, there are absolutely no easy answers. Dr Molly Bellamy has explored this with leading lawyers, academics and those who have been victims of sexual offences. These in-depth interviews will be spread over three issues to capture what is at stake: is it true that juries are too biased in rape trials? Does it make it less or more likely that bias is avoided if a single judge hears the case? What would be the impact for criminal trials in general?

#Me Too has highlighted the prevalence and multifariousness of sexual abuse which has resulted in many heated discussions. As well as the criminal process being examined, it’s put under the spotlight the inappropriate use of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) to cover up sexual attacks. We have an insight to the campaign of Can’t Buy My Silence (www.

We are extremely grateful to the amazing support groups who have permitted us to reproduce artwork and poems in this edition. including the Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC) who have provided the cover and banners taken from their 40th anniversary exhibition of survior's artwork. Using creativity to process these experiences is one way of moving forward for some. For anyone needing support, we have listed some websites on page 23 which might assist ■

Many thanks to our Supporters

LW magazine is for everyone; lawyers, solicitors, barristers, advocates, judges, legal executives and those working as paralegals, legal secretaries, advisers or recruiters, the list is endless. We welcome the many male champions as readers and contributors.

Our mission is to:

■ Provide clear information on gender parity

■ Inspire practical initiatives to create real change

■ Promote innovation in leadership and practice

LegalWomen | 5 Introduction
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Editorial Board

We are delighted to receive advice from the distinguished members of our Editorial Board. Full biographies are available on our website.


Christina Blacklaws

Past Presdient of The Law Society of England and Wales. Christina is a multi-award winning published author, speaker and frequent media commentator on innovation and diversity and inclusion.

Millicent Grant QC (Hon) FCILEx

Millicent is a former President of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (2017/18) and currently a member of the Institute’s Appointments and Scrutiny Committee. Millicent has worked to tackle diversity and inclusion on the legal profession and judiciary, contributing to the Preapplication Judicial Education (PAJE) Programme. She is the only Chartered Legal Executive to be appointed an Honorary Queens Counsel. She is chair of the Knights Youth Centre, an independent youth work charity.

Janem Jones practised for many years as a partner and senior partner in a West Wales firm where she specialised in Family Law, Education Law and Criminal Law. She now works as a consultant for Williams and Bourne as an experienced advocate.

Sally Penni MBE is a barrister at Kenworthy’s Chambers, Manchester, whose practice encompasses Criminal (including Cyber Crime) and Employment Law. Sally is a Bencher at the Honorable Society of Gray’s Inn, Founder of Women in the Law UK and regular broadcaster of the highly acclaimed podcast.


Karen O’Leary leads Caldwell & Robinson’s Family Law practice. Qualified to practice in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, England, and Wales, Karen is regularly consulted by government and state agencies on legal matters from other jurisdictions. She is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL).


Alison Atack

Past President of The Law Society of Scotland. Formerly, Alison was a member of the Regulatory Committee and convener of the Client Protection Sub-Committee. She was a partner at Lindsays.

Volunteer positions at Legal Women

Currently, all of us are volunteers to get this publication going. If you would like to be involved in:

■ sourcing and checking copyright on images ■ working on events and following up funding opportunities ■ writing content for social media, blogs and magazine features

Feel free to email with brief details about yourself. ■

LegalWomen | 7 Introduction

What are YOU really communicating?

Working life and patterns have changed a great deal over the last few years. A lot more communication doesn’t involve us seeing people in person.

Whichever method you use to interact with others at work, you always need to remember that other than email, how someone interprets what you communicate is about far more than the words you use.

Let’s first consider when there is a visual element. Body language is responsible for up to 60-70% of what you communicate when you are interacting with someone in person. That is staggering. It means that if your body language is saying something different to your words, then it is more likely to be believed. The plus side of this is understanding that body language helps you to interpret what others are really thinking.

The two most likely body language give aways:

• Posture and movement – these set the tone. Have in mind that these elements are visible even from a distance, so can communicate to others how you are feeling on a particular day. More hunched posture and slower movement can, for example, communicate a less than positive outlook. Non-definite fidgety movements can also communicate nervousness or impatience, depending on the other body language elements. Ultimately, they also distract people from what you or others are saying.

• Expressions – if you are anything like me then there is a big danger that your facial expressions give away what you really think. The issue with this is that it may steer others away from saying what they intended as they are put off by your quizzical or disparaging look. There may be times when you want this to be the case – it’s about ensuring it is intentional!

There are many other body language elements to consider. At a macro level, these include eye contact, gestures and mannerisms.

A lot of interactions now take place over video call, whilst body language is limited in this setting, it still has a big role to play. My top three tips for this situation in terms of body language:

• Make sure you physically take up around 50% of the view people see.

• ‘Take up space’ in your chair.

• Try to have your hands in view so some gesturing can be seen.

To think more about how well you master these elements, download my ‘Body language elements sheet’ here which accompanies my book Getting On: Making work work.

Another critical impact and communication influencer

How you say words has an enormous impact on their interpretation and naturally this applies to a broader set of

circumstances – in person, video calls and not forgetting the phone, when it is your key way to communicate, as there are no visual cues.

Here are my top tips for what to consider:

• Adopt an appropriate pace – many people speak too fast which depending on other factors, communicates arrogance or nervousness. If others can’t follow, then you won’t have the impact you intend. They will only ask you to repeat once in all likelihood. Pausing is a much-undervalued habit! People need time to take in new information.

• Tonality. Avoid speaking in a monotone way, this is the number one way to disengage people. Also, take care over what your tone implies, sounding doubting or unsure can be ok but be sure that’s what you want to communicate at that point.

• Volume – this will need to vary by situation. You need to start by being aware of whether your voice is typically louder, quieter or in-between and how you might adapt.

• Enunciation – word clarity is lacking in many situations but can cause real issues. Particularly with people whose first language is another and/or those who may not be legally minded, so need language to be clearly articulated.

To think more about how well you master these elements, download my ‘Voice elements sheet’ here which accompanies my book Getting On: Making work work.

The starting point with any development is to consider where you are now. By building your self-awareness, you can think about what you need to work on. I’d always suggest working on a couple of things at once until they become more natural and then work on the next elements on your list. Be sure to practice your new skills in real life plenty of times, to get comfortable with them and so they become new habits. I recommend people allocate ‘career time’ in their diary to enhance the chance that some weeks they work on their career development; life is busy and without allocated time, it is unlikely to happen. ■

Joanna Gaudoin helps bright, knowledgeable lawyers with great technical skills and experience improve their non-technical skills. She helps clients to navigate working life effectively and progress their careers. She has run Inside Out Image www. for 12 years and worked with thousands of people, individually and in group settings. She is the author of the Amazon bestseller Getting On: Making work work. Image by fauxels on

8 | LegalWomen
Smart Working

Part one of a three-part series

The Jury’s Out?

Dr Molly Bellamy speaks to four leading professionals about the pilot scheme in Scotland to hold judge-only trials for rape cases. Everyone wants justice in these cases but there are widely different views on how we might achieve it. This complex topic will be explored over three editions of Legal Women.

Baroness Helena Kennedy KC Grazia Robertson Criminal Defence Lawyer Shiela Webster, President of the Law Society Scotland Fiona Leverick, Professor of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, University of Glasgow
LegalWomen | 9 Sexual Offences and Justice

Baroness Helena Kennedy has spent her professional life giving voice to those who have least power within the system, championing civil liberties and promoting human rights. She has published a number of books including two on how the justice system is failing women, the notable 'Eve was Framed' and its 2018 follow-up 'Eve was Shamed'. She directs the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute's work upholding the rule of law and human rights globally.

Dr Molly Bellamy hears from Baroness H Kennedy

A pilot for single-judge rape trials in Scotland has been proposed by Lady Dorrian with the declared intention of improving low conviction rates (51%) in cases of rape. The proposal, which would see cases entered into the pilot tried without a jury and the verdict placed in the hands of a Judge, has proved to be contentious; sparking spirited debate surrounding the issue of jury bias in cases of rape or sexual assault, and threats of boycotts from lawyers. Given the nuanced and sensitive nature of this topic, the necessity to consider multiple perspectives is paramount.

I have sought insight on the polarising subject from four esteemed women in the legal profession, with a diverse range of opinions. Over the coming issues of Legal Women I will present their perspectives on this complex developing story.

MB: You are, perhaps, or have become, more than any other lawyer in the UK, the advocate for women who have experienced gender-based violence, women whom, as you’ve said often, have been failed by the criminal justice system. You’ve spoken out and written extensively about them. How did this undertaking come about?

HK: Well, in the early eighties when I was beginning to write articles about the way in which women experienced the legal system, I was broadcasting a little bit about it and being asked to come on radio or television, just to discuss the growing concern about this… you've got to remember at this time, the seventies was the period when the women's movement got off the ground and a lot of questions were being asked about why it was that women were still facing inequality in our society, and all of the institutions were coming under scrutiny? And the institution that I was involved in, of course, was the legal system, and I did become very conscious of the ways in which the system failed women and the way in which women were judged somewhat differently. There were double sexual standards. What might be perfectly acceptable in male behavior was certainly not acceptable when it came to women. And to, in some way, denigrate a woman in the eyes of a jury and to reduce her and turn her into a ‘harlot’ always damaged her. And it made it very difficult for her to secure justice if she had been the victim of rape, or of domestic violence, or a 'bad mother' somehow.

MB: You wrote a programme note recently, for a play called Dixon and Daughters1 by Deborah Bruce about gender violence today, and it was put on at the National Theatre in association with a prison theatre group called Clean Break. That programme note lent a lot of background insight to the themes of the play to do with male violence and you talked there about a ‘culture of masculinity that is so deeply ingrained in our lives that women also buy into it’.

Well the Dixon and Daughters play was very interesting to me because it really did cover that that complex set of loyalties that there are. And as well as the business of predatory behaviour by a father, you'll remember that the play starts with the exiting from prison of the mother of the family. She had gone to prison because she had basically lied to protect her husband. It was that business of women having so much invested in men for their own survival. You know, the head of a household, the breadwinner, so on, that the idea of an existence without the man was just not an option.

MB: Yes. In that programme note you talked about the problem of misogyny…

HK: One of the things that has become clear to me about misogyny is that it's a way of thinking. I don't think it's about hatred. It's about a way of thinking, which is about male entitlement, that the people who should be running the world are male. And so women breathe that in from a very early age. They're sort of, socialized to accept the idea that the way to happiness is to find yourself a good man who's got to be able provide for you well and for your children and so on. And even if you're a career woman that's still sort of seeded into your expectations of what a fulfilled life looks like. So for many of the women that I acted for over the years, they felt - I mean, it was that thing that they felt, that in order to please a man they had to accept his criticisms of them, their sense of failure either sexually or as a mother or as a homemaker or in whatever capacity. And so often it leads to a total lack of self-worth. In the early years, when I was doing these cases, acting for women who had been abused, there was a question that was always asked by lawyers, by judges who were mainly men at that time, which was but if someone were doing that to you, why would you want to stay? And what happens of course, is that the sapping of a person's sense of worth and their sense of self leaves them imagining it's their fault. And women really also feel the same thing. I must have done something that made him do this to me. Why does he do it to me? I must have somehow failed in the behaviours that are expected of women. Either in intimacy or in relationship or whatever. And so there were patterns that I started to see in the cases that I was doing; where there was that self-blaming and women staying in relationships, partly because of course, they often had children, and they felt that there would be social stigma of being a woman who's without a man.

MB: Stigma yes, for not being able to hold it together.

HK: Absolutely. I mean, the women I acted for, always felt that somehow they were responsible for what happened. And then, during that period in the eighties, I did a whole set of cases, and by the late eighties I was becoming very interested in this as a subject.

There were women in academia in the United States, who were writing a bit about a ‘learned helplessness’; meaning that somehow women are encouraged to stay in these relationships. And there's a way in which they feel that there are no steps they can take without there being consequences, fearing the level of violence that might meet them if they were to take that step. And so, through the eighties I was learning about this combination of emotions experienced by women.

MB: So that’s when you decided to write Eve Was Framed?

HK: I only wrote my book, Eve was Framed in 1992. And I did that because in 1991, I became a Queens Counsel.

10 | LegalWomen Sexual Offences and Justice
Baroness H Kennedy KC
1Dixon and Daughters Written
April 2023 – 10 June 2023 A Clean Break and National Theatre production
by Deborah Bruce BruceDirected by Róisín McBrinn15

MB: I see.

HK: I felt that it gave me the authority to be able to speak out… if I had been some young lawyer who’d been seeing these things, I would've been dismissed. But once I was a Queens Counsel and I was recognized as being an advocate of some substance,then I was able to say, there are things wrong with this system.

MB: Of course.

HK: So that was one of the things I often did through the eighties, speak out about judges making ridiculous decisions and deciding that, for example, women with short skirts deserved what came to them. We forget those terrible times…

MB: So what about bias amongst women?

HK: Oh, I absolutely think that sometimes the people who are toughest on women are other women. And it's why when I was writing my first volume of Eve was Framed, or another rather different book more recently, I spoke about how my own grandmother used to sort of say there'd be no bad men if there were no bad women. And I remember seeing, on an occasion when I was a small child going through Glasgow Central Station, a woman who was very, very drunk and heard my own mother saying, There's nothing worse than a drunk woman

...And those sort of judgements on women, I mean, that's the problem, women who enter into the courtroom are judged by these other standards. And so it's not a simple thing of applying the law. The whole business of judging, is cultural.

And the interesting thing was, somehow a link was being made between, believing a woman and her sexual behavior or her lack of control. Somebody might be sexually promiscuous, but they know when they've been raped and that they weren't consensually involved. But truths seemed to get mixed up in ideas about what makes an appropriate woman.

MB: So is the question of cultural bias in the jury population a valid argument for having single judges?

HK: I was on a platform quite recently with Brenda Hale, Lady Hale, of course the President, and a judge from the Old Bailey, Wendy Joseph who has written a book about sitting as a judge. We were on a panel where one of the questions asked was, 'in sexual offences against women, would you get rid of the jury and have the verdict in the hands of a judge?’ and it was very interesting! All three of us felt that the jury should absolutely be retained. Now that's partly about believing in the role of the public in our legal system, and it being a way to bring community sensibilities into the courtroom.

But of course, it also brings the bad along with the good. I'm a firm believer in having three magistrates taking part. I think it's important that you have the community involved in the legal system, but there is no doubt in my mind that there is a lot of bias amongst certain people who sit on juries. And some still have the old fashioned idea that if a woman is drunk then she has made herself available to men. Or, if she's dressed with inappropriate clothing, or, if she is exposing too much of herself - that she's somehow inviting sexual assault. And that notion lives to this day and it's going to take a long time to remove it from men and women, and from the culture.

MB: Yes it’s interesting how pervasive those ideas still are.

HK: And it is so interesting when you have children, I've got two boys and a girl - they're all grown up now, and I'm a grandmother - but I still did the thing that most mothers do with regard to their daughters, which was that I warned her about being out too late, about being in any place which was going to make her vulnerable. And the importance of, you know, being with friends and not separating from the group.

MB: Putting the responsibility on her…

HK: Yes and that's what we all do! We do it with girls now from a very young age, we're saying to girls who are still in primary school, little girls, that you've got to be careful and what is it we're asking them to be careful about? We're saying, you've got to be careful because there are certain men out there who will prey upon you, may do things to you, and the way that you can avoid all of that, is by self-protecting, selfsafeguarding. It's that business of expecting the victim to safeguard themselves rather than dealing with the perpetrator. So, the dial is almost always pointed towards the person who is the complainant. And as women we breathe it in, this sense that if something goes wrong, we think I must have done something that allowed this to happen to me

MB: Yes, we can internalise that misogyny, and it leads to women being silenced.

HK: You'll remember that in 2017, we had the whole business of Harvey Weinstein, and women coming out saying that he had sexually violated them, and that they hadn't felt able to speak out because their careers would be ruined. And we know that that's one of the reasons why women in so many circumstances don't make the complaint against someone. There's hardly a woman who hasn't had to deal with unwanted physical contact, with having things said things to her, with predatory behaviour. I experienced it myself when I was a young barrister and I had to avoid certain people. I was a young barrister. Or, you know, you had to avoid certain people.

MB: Do you think that increased awareness has changed attitudes?

HK: I'm big believer that the way in which you change attitudes and the way in which we will end up dealing with misogyny in our society (because I'm afraid, we see it everywhere) is to understand that: the more you have women in every area of life, in the world of advertising, education, politics, and the courts - then you're more likely to have shifts and changes in attitudes.

And it's important to carry our male colleagues with us on all of this. There are good men who denounce this kind of behaviour too. I mean, not all men behave like this, but unfortunately, most women have experienced it.

So we have to address it in the schools, but law also has a role to play. I do believe that although you shift cultures largely through education, the exchange of ideas and people empathising, and understanding what it feels like to be at the receiving end of misogyny - I still think that the law operates as a structure, as a framework, which reminds people of the seriousness of something and it creates the boundaries. What I thought was interesting in the play Dixon and Daughters was the experience of the young girl as a student, who felt that her teacher was not behaving appropriately sexually, but that that was somehow her fault. The play was also showing that those minor transgressions accumulate, and affect women's choices; the character in the play for instance, was about to withdraw from being a student

MB: And is this awareness of how women are affected by misogyny at the personal level, in terms of their sense of self, their subjectivity – is that awareness that language filtering down into the criminal justice system?

HK: Absolutely. I mean, that whole thing of ‘lived experience’ yes! The language has changed… it’s about listening to those who have had these experiences. It's a big thing because if you think about it for so long, women were not listened to. When the Jimmy Savile scandal hit the headlines (in 2012), it was pointed out that it wasn't that women hadn't complained, women had complained, but nobody had done anything about it! They chose to protect the institution, it was the BBC then, and the establishment. And you see it happening too in Parliament, in the church, this protecting the institution, protecting the Oxbridge College, where the institutional reputation is placed ahead of the experience of the individual. So that, I think, has been challenged.

MB: Yes.

HK: I think our society has become much more willing to learn from the psychotherapeutic world, from psychiatrists, psychologists, from those who counsel people who've experienced things which have left them with trauma. And I remember when I started at the bar, there was a real resistance to having psychologists or psychiatrists come and

LegalWomen | 11 Sexual Offences and Justice

give evidence in court, judges were not inclined to be - they didn't see it as real medical science, and we've had to travel a long journey to have that accepted. But we now know, that people who experience rape or abuse as a child, experience effects that are long lasting. So we've got much greater understanding…

MB: So something is shifting ?

HK: There's definitely a different think! And young women are not going to be as accepting. I frequently have these conversations with older women of my generation, who say, oh, for heaven's sake, we all had these experiences, and we just had to sort of, you know slap somebody's hand, and say, don't do that to me. And we all survived, and we haven't been traumatised. This was a ‘robust’ view of how you can deal with male misbehaviour. Whereas a younger generation is saying, Why should we have to do that? Why should it be on our shoulders to deal with male misbehaviour?

went through back in the seventies, and they're basically talking about trying to get domestic violence law through, and there’s opposition from male parliamentarians, and they've been trying for years in some jurisdictions to get proper acknowledgement that domestic violence is a crime.

MB: Yes, so these concerns we are talking about are felt by a vast number of women not just in the UK but around the world, women who have experienced overwhelming trauma, as you say.

HK: A lot of my work now is international. What is happening to women in Afghanistan now that the Taliban has returned, is a form of apartheid, which of course is an international crime. Women have been denied their citizenship, their civic value. They’re not allowed to participate, to have a voice. Freedom of expression is not available to them. They can't be lawyers and judges or teachers, or get an education or healthcare! And it was pretty cruel, I thought recently, that they closed down all the beauty parlour places that people go to in order to have their nails painted or their hair done, places where women can gather and where they can tell each other, so and so is a teacher and she's in her basement giving lessons to girls, get your daughters to go. Places where they would share knowledge and information – have just been closed down.

MB: Ominous! I was just thinking how the play Dixon and Daughters captured that sense of coercion you are talking about, the silencing, the isolation, with its empty set, and its doors bursting open suddenly and closing, giving off a sense of ominous presence – theatre can do that!

MB: Different times.

HK: We were entering the male world then, I mean, in the world of work I knew that I could not arrive in court saying I'm sorry I'm late, because my child minder or my nanny didn't turn up.


You had to basically bluff it and pretend that your car you know, was the problem. And if you said something was wrong with your car, everybody in the court nodded because that was what the men all said. And so you learned very quickly that you had to play it by the male rules. And I think that young women now, which is great, have decided I'm not going to play it by the rules and deny the fact that I've had a child and deny the fact that I'm still experiencing the consequences.

I do think that we as older women have to support young women who are basically not prepared to put up with some of the things that we put up with.

MB: There's been a lot of strong male voice reaction in relation to the Lady Dorrian proposal… what's at stake there do you think?

HK: Well, there are two things: Lady Dorrian is suggesting the possibility of judge only trials. My concern about that is that some of the judges haven't quite got it right yet either. And so, I don't know that that's necessarily going to be the solution. One of the other problems in Scotland, and it's been challenged now by the Lord Advocate, who's also a woman, is that Scotland is very committed to the corroboration rule. And we did away with the need for corroboration in rape cases. Whereas, in Scotland it is absolutely one of the ground rules of the Scottish system. And what does it mean? It means that you have two sources of evidence. And so well you don't ever have a witness. I mean almost invariably you don't have a witness, and that’s what would constitute corroboration. So for example the Lord Advocate is saying that a woman's distress after, should be used as corroboration. Whereas there's case law in Scotland, says that someone being distressed is not corroboration. The expression of an emotion is not enough.

So the Lord Advocate is trying to have that shifted and there's quite a lot of opposition from male advocates there, and you know, changing the system is very hard. I've been involved in a project just recently with women parliamentarians in the Middle East and you hear from them that they've been through so many of those struggles that I

HK: Theatre… and now television, and radio - the whole business of coercive control got played out on the radio in the Archers, when it had a theme where one of the women was experiencing gaslighting…. So there are great ways, you know, of shining a light on what these experiences are. And that's because, of course, there are more and more women involved in their creation.

Dr. Molly Bellamy

Molly holds a PhD in Sociolinguistics and Education and an LLM in Dispute Resolution. She has held university posts for many years as a Senior and Principal lecturer. She has worked in the legal sector as a case worker for Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) and currently teaches at the University of Law and is engaged in independent research.

In the next issue of Legal Women Molly will be talking to academics about the cross fertilisation between the University and the professional legal sector.

12 | LegalWomen Sexual Offences and Justice
Pic: We're Sew Done'Textile art responses to the harassment and threats of violence that women face every day'

Sexual History Evidence in the UK

Cases concerning sexual assault are complex; they ask strenuous questions of judicial procedure and legislation, and often prove challenging and traumatising for the victims. Renowned as one of the more controversial and contentious elements of such trials, is the admission of evidence related to the complainant’s sexual history. Although the relevant legislation across the UK stipulates that sexual history evidence may only be admitted in the most exceptional of circumstances, a number of legal critics take issue with the courts’ allowance of such evidence to be introduced at all.

Sexual history evidence refers to any evidence submitted to trial that refers to the complainant’s previous sexual history or conduct. Within the legislation, this encompasses previous sexual relationships and sexual encounters, but case law has gone further in defining the scope of what ‘sexual history evidence’ can include; previous cases have seen sexual history evidence to have encompassed the completion of online quizzes that are sexual in nature,1 engaging in communications of a sexual essence on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, 2 the viewing of pornographic material,3 engaging in text messages that are sexual in nature,4 and secondary evidence that demonstrates previous sexual behaviour.5

The relevant legal framework for governing this type of legislation in Northern Ireland and England and Wales is set out in Section 28 of the Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1999, Section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 respectively.

The legislation in Northern Ireland, England and Wales sets out the same legal framework – that there is a general prohibition to the admission of previous sexual history evidence of the complainant, unless the Court gives express leave that allows otherwise. Moreover, the Court may only grant leave to an accused’s application to adduce such evidence at trial if the Court is satisfied that one of the ‘four gateways’ applies. The first of these gateways is satisfied if the evidence relates to an issue which is not one of consent. Lord Hope has previously given four examples of such issues; the evidence shows a defence of reasonable belief in consent; the evidence shows that the complainant had motive to fabricate evidence or had bias against the accused; the evidence provides an alternative explanation for a physical condition of the complainant which the Court relies on to establish that the sexual activity in question took place; or the evidence is required to provide explanation for the complainant’s account of the sexual activity.6

The second gateway is where the evidence is associated with consent, and it is alleged to have occurred at a similar time to the sexual activity in question. It is worthy of note that there are no specific limits as to what is considered to be ‘the same time’, though Lord Slynn and others have favoured restrictive approaches to this.2

The third gateway is where the evidence is associated with consent, and it rebuts evidence presented by the prosecution related to the complainant’s sexual behaviour; the similarity here must be so similar that it cannot be reasonably explained to be mere coincidence.

And the fourth and final gateway is if the evidence relates to any evidence already adduced by the prosecution and the Court is of the opinion that it would go no further than what is necessary to rebut or explain that evidence of the prosecution.

If the evidence in question is considered to fall into any of these categories, then it can be legally admitted as evidence at trial. Moreover, there are two additional restrictions that apply, regardless of whether or not the evidence in consideration fits within one of the aforementioned gateways; no evidence shall be allowed if the sole purpose is to call into question the complainant’s general reputation, but evidence must be allowed if the refusal to allow it might render an unsafe conclusion from the court or the jury on a relevant issue.

There are worries surrounding the admission of sexual history evidence, in that cross-examination in sexual offence trials where sexual history evidence has been introduced risk becoming interrogations into the victim’s sex life and their previous sexual encounters; this is where the idea of ‘twin myths’ come into play, where the stereotypical idea is enforced into the mind of the jury that if the victim has taken part in sexual activities previously, whether this be with the accused or any other third-party, it is more plausible that they consented to the sexual situation in question at trial. However, this legislation is intended to execute a balance between the right to a fair trial on behalf of the defendant, and the protection of the complainant. ■

Aoifé is a Trainee Solicitor at Caldwell & Robinson, currently working in their litigation department. She previously studied English Literature and Film Studies at Trinity College Dublin, before completing the MLaw at Queen’s University Belfast.

1 R v Ben-Rajeb and Baccar [2012] 1 Cr App R4.

2 R v D [2011] EWCA Crim 2305.

3 R v Ben-Rajab and Baccar [2012] 1 Cr App R4.

4 R v Ben-Rajeb and Baccar [2012] 1 Cr App R4.

5 R v P(R) [2013] EWCA Crim 2331.

6 R v A (no 2) [2002] 1 A.C. 45.

7 R v A (no.2) [2002] 1 A.C. 45.

Sexual Offences and Justice
LegalWomen | 13
Aoife McColgan

Weaponising Legal Instruments To Protect The Guilty

Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) have been used for many years as a legal tool to ensure that confidential information shared between parties remains confidential and is not disclosed to unauthorised individuals or competitors.

They gained prominence in the 20th century, particularly in the business and legal realm due to the increasing complexity of business transactions, the growth of technology, and the need for companies to safeguard trade secrets and proprietary information.

However, their use in recent years has expanded beyond what they were originally intended for and has now made them a means of safeguarding the guilty.

NDAs in relation to sexual harassment cases has become a subject of public debate and scrutiny in recent years particularly with the rise of the #MeToo movement in 2017.

The #MeToo movement shed light on the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in various industries and prompted a wider discussion on power dynamics, accountability, and workplace culture. The movement brought attention to the potential negative consequences of NDAs, as they can contribute to a culture of silence and allow perpetrators to evade accountability. NDAs can enable a cycle of harassment by preventing victims from speaking out and exposing systemic issues.

Zelda Perkins was Harvey Weinstein’s PA for five years, working in the UK office of Miramax. Every time Weinstein was in London, Zelda had to deal with his continual sexual harassment of her. This became part

and parcel of her daily work and she dealt with it, warning other female colleagues but, in essence, accepting the abuse as a norm. It was only when Weinstein sexually assaulted Zelda’s assistant during a film festival in Venice that Zelda had enough. She confronted Weinstein and reported him to a senior colleague. She was simply told to get a lawyer, which she did. But this was when her real nightmare began. “Back then, in 1998, I was naive and I believed completely in the fairness of the legal system. I was, therefore, shocked, devastated and totally broken when I realised I had no access to justice, even as a white, privileged, middle class, well connected woman. The issue was how the lawyers behaved and presented the situation to myself. Whilst in the ‘damages agreement’ as it was described, rather than an NDA, we managed to put in clauses restricting Weinstein’s future behaviour, in essence it was not worth the paper it was written on. He simply carried on.

The agreement said: we should use our best endeavours not to aid the police; that we had to get any therapist we chose to talk to, to sign a separate confidentiality agreement; that the HMRC had to consult with Weinstein’s lawyers to discuss the settlement monies; and that I could not even have a copy of the agreement. All of this is clearly unethical legal behaviour yet it is not contravening SRA guidance per se”.

After her gruelling experience where Zelda says she was treated as though she were the guilty party - interviews went on through the night, she was not allowed pen or paper, she could not go to the loo unaccompanied.

Zelda is clear that her eventual decision two decades later, to break her NDA and speak up was not just about speaking up against Weinstein, but about highlighting the broader issue and trying to change a system which enables people with power and money to behave wrongly with impunity.

“Lawyers need help to understand the ethical guidelines and the fact they should not be allowing perfectly legal tools like NDAs to be weaponised and used in an unethical manner”.

Simultaneously, with Zelda finding her voice, the #MeToo movement was rapidly gaining momentum and she found herself to be an accidental campaigner. She approached MP Maria Miller who, in turn, brought this to the attention of Theresa May, who promised to stamp out the issue. Zelda gave evidence to two Select Committee Enquiries; one looking at sexual harassment in the workplace and another on the misuse of NDAs. This triggered a BEIS consultation on NDAs. It seemed for a moment as though everything might change. Then there was a change of leader and, unsurprisingly, this fell to the bottom of the pile.

14 | LegalWomen Sexual Offences and Justice
Few would disagree that our legal system is considered to be the very finest. All over the globe, the fairness of our profession and our judiciary is lauded. Yet there is one aspect where the law not only fails to protect victims but is actually used to protect the protagonist and to prevent crimes from being exposed.
Maroulla Paul Zelda Perkins

But Zelda did not give up! Having had her life turned upside down, and having lost her anonymity as a result of what happened to her, she remains determined that her struggles will not be for nothing and that she will continue fighting to make change.

In September 2021, Zelda co-founded with Professor Julie Macfarlane, another victim of the harmful use of NDAs. Their primary aim is to reform legislation, regulation and…. “... to outlaw NDAs when used to ‘buy’ the silence of victims in order to protect sexual predators, bullies, racists and abusers”.

They have already had success with new legislation passed into Law in Canada, shortly to pass in Ireland and a successful amendment passed in England and Wales to the Freedom of Speech (Higher Education) Bill, which now bans the use of NDAs in cases of harassment, bullying and discrimination in Higher Education. The Bill received Royal Assent from the King on May 11th 2023, so is now an Act of Parliament.

criminal behaviour feeling alone and isolated with no one to turn to for fear of legal repercussions. This misuse of NDAs has led to a ban on covering up sexual harassment in universities. The legal change I have previously proposed would ban the misuse of NDAs (for anything other than protecting trade secrets or intellectual property) in all workplaces. It would prove to be better for victims, and better for business.

I have tabled an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill which would recognise people as victims if they have signed an NDA, which purports to cover up behaviour which could be deemed criminal misconduct. This doesn’t go all the way to a ban yet, but would be a solid first step to highlight, that signing an NDA causes a person to be re-victimised after the initial event”.

This is a cause that women can align with, Labour MP, Jess Phillips, is in total agreement with Maria. As she says;

"NDAs in cases of sexual misconduct, damage the victims and induce silence, which is so often used to control people in abusive situations. What is more, it allows companies to sweep problems in their organisations under the carpet…”.

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran is another woman who is passionately working to stop the misuse of NDAs;

“NDAs and gagging clauses are endemic across all walks of life and sectors of the economy. They are used, often unthinkingly or even unknowingly, to silence victims.

I was first approached by young women at Oxford University who had been effectively silenced by their colleges following incidents of sexual harassment. They were asked to sign gagging clauses by their colleges. The effects were indescribable, and in one case even stopped a young woman talking to her GP.

While there is much work to do to tackle violence against women and girls in the UK, and in particular access to support services, clamping down on these gagging clauses is a vital first step.

See (11) and (12) referring to subsection (2)a,b,c,d https://www.l See insert box below.

Their movement to create cultural change is rooted in their voluntary pledge which has now moved from universities to the business world. It is asking employers to sign the pledge and to commit to no longer using NDAs to hide misconduct. Zelda is also still working alongside Maria Miller, Jess Phillips, and Layla Moran to lobby for legislative and regulatory change.

Maria says;

“Experiencing sexual harassment can be traumatic, particularly at work, and especially when speaking out could result in you losing your job. Being told to keep silent can compound the trauma. Some employees in this position are asked to sign agreements that include clauses that prevent them from speaking about their experiences to even friends or family, and some people are made to believe they can’t even speak to their GP or a mental health professional. This culture of silencing victims of criminal offences is completely unacceptable; it covers up workplace wrongdoing and leaves people who are victims of

The use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment and bullying is immoral and unnecessary, and I want to see Government action taken to bring this practice to an end for good”.

Each and every one of us can play our part in making sure this abuse of legal tools comes to an end. As women, we can write to our MPs and sign petitions to change legislation. As employers, partners or employees, we can sign a pledge not to use NDAs to cover up misconduct within our firms and our profession. And, as lawyers, we can commit to using NDAs only for good and not as a cover up. Abuse is never acceptable. Together, we can stop it. ■

Maroulla Paul

Maroulla Paul is a writer of short stories, a food and wine critic as well as a legal journalist.

pic: We're Sew Done - 'Textile art responses to the harassment and threats of violence that women face every day'

In order to achieve the objective in subsection (2), the governing body of a registered higher education provider must secure that the provider does not enter into a non-disclosure agreement with a person referred to in that subsection in relation to a relevant complaint made to the provider by the person (and if such a non-disclosure agreement is entered into it is void).

(12)In subsection (11)—

• “non-disclosure agreement” means an agreement which purports to any extent to preclude the person from—

(a) publishing information about the relevant complaint, or

(b) disclosing information about the relevant complaint to any one or more other persons;

• “relevant complaint” means a complaint relating to misconduct or alleged misconduct by any person;

• “misconduct” means—

(a) sexual abuse, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, and

(b) bullying or harassment not falling within paragraph (a).

LegalWomen | 15 Sexual Offences and Justice

Ahuman rights and criminal KC barrister and her 11-year-old daughter have launched a new international not-for-profit organisation to inform and empower girls across the world to further their rights locally, nationally and globally.

The Girls Human Rights Hub – co-founded by Sultana Tafadar KC of No5 Barristers’ Chambers and her daughter Safiyah – provides resources and training for girls from ages 11 to 24 to use advocacy, leadership and litigation to make positive change for rights. The organisation aims to progress the advancement of gender equity and the eradication of gender-based violence, driven by the power of girls themselves. The crucial issues focused on by the Hub include the right to education, right to climate justice, menstrual equity, and ending domestic and sexual violence.

Sultana, who was the first hijab-wearing criminal barrister to be appointed King’s Counsel last March, has been working in human rights law since she was called to the Bar in 2005 and has been with No5 Barristers’ Chamber since 2016. With experience fighting for justice and against inequity in the international law arena, bringing her daughter’s ambition to life was a key inspiration for starting the organisation.

KC Barrister and Daughter Launch Women’s Rights International Organisation

Sultana said: “The idea to create this hub came from my 11-yearold daughter Safiyah. She has always been driven by the desire to become a human rights lawyer and she came up with the idea to create a hub where girls could learn more about their rights and how to claim them.

“As an experienced human rights, international law and criminal barrister, I have seen first-hand the injustices faced by women and girls across the world. Wanting to continue to make a positive change across the world, I thought this was a great idea and rallied a team together to make this vision a reality. We now have a hub where girls can join and learn from experts about how to advocate for rights, develop leadership and communication skills and even become part of the new generation of lawyers advancing girls’ human rights worldwide.”

Safiyah said: “I am so excited to be founding an organisation that will help so many girls across the world advocate for their rights. I want to become a human rights lawyer when I am older, but I wanted to start work to help other girls fight for their human rights now. The Girls Human Rights Hub will help so many people learn about the rights they deserve, give them the skills they need to lobby for them and inspire them to change the world. I am so excited to see what we can achieve with this organisation. I’m excited to be changing the world!”

The organisation provides expertise though four hubs that focus on different priority areas. The Knowledge Hub provides key information about the issues affecting girls’ human rights and what international laws say about them. At grassroots, local, national and local scales, the advocacy hub equips girls with practical tools to make effective action and have their voices heard in the fight for rights.

The leadership hub aims to support girls with the skills to articulate ideas, persuade others and advocate for change in their communities and beyond as leaders for an equitable future. Aimed at inspiring and creating the next generation of human rights lawyers, the young lawyers hub provides training, fellowships, mentoring and strategic litigation to help girls advocate for rights. Sultana said: “We hold the belief that every girl is entitled to a life free from oppression, discrimination, and violence, and that girls' rights are fundamental human rights. Our organisation supports girls in being the essential stakeholders and architects of their own futures, advocating their inclusion and participation at all levels of decision-making. We are deeply committed to promoting gender equality, challenging harmful social norms and practices, and working towards a world where every girl can achieve her full potential.” ■

For more information about the Girls Human Rights Hub, visit

For more information about No5 Barristers Chamber, visit

16 | LegalWomen Girls' Human Rights Hub
Sultana Tafadar KC and her daughter Safiyah

Only Yes is Yes for crimes against ‘Libertad Sexual’

Spain’s new law, also called the "ONLY YES IS YES" law, has been introduced in respect of crimes against ‘Libertad sexual’ (literally this translates as sexual freedom but a closer meaning in English is sexual safety). This regulation* came into force in October last year and is causing controversy.

In general terms, the new law punishes crimes against ‘Libertad sexual’ with more severe penalties. However, without a clause addressing the transition period, some Appeal Courts in Spain interpreted that it should reduce some conviction sentences imposed in application of the previous law. This led to the release of many rapists and other sexual offenders from prison. As a result, there has been considerable criticism against the Minister of Equality for Spain. This has resulted in attacks on the entire law itself despite its positive and revolutionary perspective.

To alleviate this defect, the Spanish Parliament approved a further law** However, this has also caused strong debate, since it reincorporates the elements of violence or intimidation as requirements to prosecute the crimes against ‘Libertad sexual’. This is a concept that the previous norm considered superseded, following the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, where the concepts of violence or intimidation are included as an inseparable part, of sexual violence. In other words, any non-consensual sexual act is violent.

The aspect of this law attracting most comment, is known as the

“Only Yes Is Yes Law”. It modifies article 178 of the Penal Code. It will be interpreted that there is consent to have sexual relations only when it has been "freely manifested through acts that, in the circumstances of the case, clearly express the will of the person." That means that there are no more possible interpretations in favour of the accused person, about the existence of the victim’s consent in the cases of silence of the victim.

Another very important innovation is that the crime of sexual “abuse” disappears, and any attack on ‘Libertad sexual’ is now considered sexual “assault”. On the other hand, the crime of discovery and disclosure of secrets is modified by incorporating a new paragraph into article 197.7 of the Penal Code. This punishes anyone who shares intimate images or recordings of another individual (disseminates, reveals, or transfers, to third parties), without the consent of the affected person.

Corporate Responsibility and changes for workplaces

In respect of the responsibility of companies, the crime of workplace harassment and the crime of sexual harassment are incorporated, as two new crimes within the list for which legal entities can be criminally responsible. The modification of article 194 of the Criminal Code is also relevant from the perspective of the criminal liability of legal persons. It provides that if the commission of any of the crimes of exhibitionism, sexual provocation, crimes related to prostitution, corruption of children, establishments or premises were used, open

or not to the public, its final closure will be mandatorily ordered in the conviction sentence. The closure may also be adopted on a precautionary basis, during the criminal process.

In the labour field, the new law also states that the victims of sexual violence, victims of gender violence, or victims of terrorism, have the right to request flexible working hours, change their geographical position within the company if there is the possibility of that change, suspend the employment relationship, or even terminate the employment relationship with a compensation for termination of contract of 20 salary days per each year of service, up to a maximum of 1 year of wages.

The new Law also states that city halls and companies will have to redesign their physical spaces, in the cities and inside the companies, to make them safe spaces to prevent any attack on sexual freedom.

Mandatory training

Finally, the law has a whole chapter dedicated to mandatory training for judges, prosecutors, lawyers, as well as for political parties and other professional sectors directly linked to work with victims. It also makes mandatory the training in equality and awareness with a gender perspective at all educational levels, from primary education to university.

New procedures and policy

It is significant that the Public Prosecution can proceed with a complaint in court of its own motion. Before the new Law, sexual offences against an adult could only be prosecuted if there was a complaint from the adult victim.

In addition, Article 18 point 4 orders all Public Administrations and Government Branches to act with "due diligence" to guarantee the protection of sexual freedom in the public filed.

The new law means there must be a reconsideration of the approach of all the policies and of all the internal regulations of workplaces. They must review and adapt their internal regulation, as many workplaces will not have taken the gender and sexual security perspective into consideration in the original design of their Compliance Programs, for example, evaluation of risks and drafting of workplace policies. In short, it represents a new and forceful step forward in a cultural shift towards gender equality. ■


** Organic Law 4/2023, of April 27, (for the modification of Organic Law 10/1995, of November 23, of the Criminal Code, in crimes against sexual freedom, the Criminal Procedure Law and Organic Law 5/2000, of January 12, regulating the criminal responsibility of minors)

LegalWomen | 17 International

The Right Honorable

Lady Dorrian

Career of Lady Justice Dorrian: Lord Justice Clerk and President of the Second Division of the Court of Session

1981 admitted as an Advocate

1988 appointed as an Advocate Depute

1994 appointed as Queen’s Counsel

2002 appointed as Temporary Judge in the High Court

2005 appointed full-time Judge to the Supreme Court of Scotland

2016 appointed Lord Justice Clerk

Lady Dorrian talks to Tilly Rubens about her career from being called to the Bar to becoming one of the most senior judges in Scotland. She is the first woman to be appointed as Lord Justice Clerk and President of the Second Division of the Inner House of the Court of Sessions.

to their English cousins. They will do a period of training with a solicitor’s firm before undertaking their devilling training for the bar. Devilling involves shadowing a practising advocate and helping them prepare briefs and cases for court by carrying out research and looking at legal precedents.

As Lady Dorrian was still quite young when she finished her legal studies at university, she decided to qualify first as a solicitor by doing a two year apprenticeship (the equivalent of a training contract) followed by a post-qualifying year as a solicitor. Her advocate’s legal training was completed by undertaking ten months of devilling and she was admitted in 1981, aged just 24, to the Faculty of Advocates.

“I was called with two other women which brought the total number of women at the Bar to 11 out of 150 at the time,” she recalls. Although Lady Dorrian says she was lucky not to experience much sexism herself, it certainly existed. She says: “Women experienced it badly and I think a lot of it was implicit. The court clerk, the advocate’s clerk, the advocate depute and the judge were all men and so there was this assumption that all advocates would be men!”

Acareer in law was entirely unchartered territory for the young Leeona Dorrian as nobody in her family had any previous connection with the legal profession. Her father had started life at sea before working in the docks and becoming a sales executive. Her mother, with a background in bookkeeping, managed a casino in Edinburgh. Although she was educated at “quite an academic” private girl’s school in Edinburgh, Lady Dorrian says there was no dedicated careers teacher and the girls were only given fairly rudimentary information about possible career choices.

Fortunately, Lady Dorrian read in her teenage years that law involved skills of logic and articulacy and “as I was good at maths”, she says she liked the idea of becoming a lawyer!

The Law School at Aberdeen University had a good reputation and so she decided to apply and was accepted. She very much enjoyed her time at Aberdeen but had no idea about what area of law she wanted to enter when she left university except that “I wanted to go to the bar”.

Qualification as advocate

Advocates in Scotland perform similar roles as barristers in England and Wales but undergo a different training process

There was an incident she remembers in 1985 when a complaint was made about the standard of dress of the female advocates by one of the older judges. He complained that a female advocate had appeared in court showing too much décolletage. When all the women advocates received a letter from the Dean referencing this isolated complaint, Lady Dorrian said she and her colleagues were so furious that they decided to march on the Dean’s officer en masse!

The Dean fortunately saw the funny side of it and also apologised, particularly as all the women advocates that day were impeccably dressed in the most demure outfits with high neck shirts, scarfs and long skirts. In fact, the Dean was so amused by the incident that he said it was a shame that no one had a camera. Fortunately one of the women present did and “took a photograph to show how well dressed we were.’’

The majority of criminal and civil cases in Scotland are heard in the Sheriff Courts although the most serious criminal offences, such as murder and rape, are dealt with by the High Court. When she was first admitted as an advocate, Lady Dorrian had a mixed civil and criminal practise.

18 | LegalWomen Profile
‘there was this assumption that all advocates would be men’
Lady Justice Dorrian

Advocate Depute

Just over seven years later, she was appointed by the Lord Advocate to become an advocate depute. As one of only 12 advocates, and the first woman appointed, this was a “significant commission” for her.

An advocate depute plays a key role in Scotland’s public prosecution service and decides what cases are marked for prosecution at a high level. If the case is serious enough to be tried in the High Court, then the depute will prosecute the case themselves. Lady Dorrian says she recalls one case where she was prosecuting the murder of a woman who had fallen on hard times. She had become an alcoholic and left her family to live with another man who had then killed her and mutilated her body.

When Lady Dorrian came out of court, after the trial, she was stopped by two people who were the ex-husband and another family member of the woman who had been killed. She says: “Despite the horror of the case, they had still come to court to see what had happened and despite all this suffering, expressed their gratitude as to the care I had taken over conducting the case. It is a memory that sticks.”

Queen’s Counsel

Lady Dorrian was then appointed Queen’s Counsel, one of only five women QCs in Scotland in 1994. This was followed in 2002 by being appointed as a temporary judge in the High Court and Court of Session, a role which she sometimes found frustrating. She says: “You are only a resource and not part of the judiciary. There was no input as to how things operated or could be changed.”

Full-time Judge to the Supreme court

Lady Dorrian was then appointed Queen’s Counsel, one of only However in 2005, she was appointed as a full-time judge to the Supreme Court which meant she now could have a say in reforming and improving the judicial system. She says: “I think a lot of the modernisation of the system has come from the judiciary and reforms have been pushed through and driven by the judiciary, particularly in the last ten years.”

One area in particular has been in relation to improving how criminal cases involving vulnerable witnesses are dealt with and complainants treated in court. Lady Dorrian says that she and her judicial colleagues looked carefully at what was happening

in the criminal justice system and realised that complainants (mostly women and children) were giving live evidence in court a long time after the alleged offence took place.

“We reviewed the procedure and realised the benefit of capturing the evidence on film by recording testimony as early as possible after the alleged crime had taken place which had a lot of benefits. The complainant’s recollection was more accurate and stronger and significantly they would be done with the trial at a much earlier stage because their evidence would be captured and then used at the trial.”

She says that Scottish judges are fortunate in being able to introduce changes in the vast number of cases without legislation and so they can react quite quickly when needed. This resulted in changes to encourage the advance recording of evidence, which eventually led to a change in the legislation by the Scottish parliament which meant that all cases involving children must have their evidence captured in advance. Now recording testimony will be the default position for all vulnerable witnesses.

Lord Justice Clerk

In 2016, Lady Dorrian was appointed as the Lord Justice Clerk which is the second most senior judicial post in Scotland and she is the first woman ever to be appointed to this role. She has delegated responsibility for running the criminal courts and sits in both the civil and criminal courts. She chairs the Criminal Court Rules Council and has been instrumental in bringing forward proposed reforms of how cases involving sexual offences are dealt with. This includes a wide ranging review called Improving the Management of Sexual offences (final report published in March 2021) and a proposal for a time-limited pilot of judge only trials for rape cases in a specialist court.

The Review Group acknowledged the option of withdrawing sexual offences from the consideration of juries would be controversial and unpopular with many people. However they also felt there were equally compelling arguments to consider trial by judge alone which needed to be examined in much greater depth with research and a pilot scheme. The review looked at the growth in volume and complexity of sexual offending cases, evidence that victims were severely re-traumatised by their experience in the Scottish criminal justice system and the low conviction rates.

Gender parity for female lawyers in Scotland

In terms of whether she thinks things are better now for women lawyers in Scotland, Lady Dorrian says: “I think yes in the sense that the normalising of role models and increasing number of women at the bar has an impact on thoughts of attainability. At the same time, listening to what female members of the Bar say now, there are still a number of serious issues that need to be addressed. Scotland has never had a woman appointed to the UK Supreme Court and never had a woman as Lord President”.

The Faculty of Advocates, the professional body to which advocates in Scotland belong, are taking steps to address some of these issues. They have a new scholarship scheme aimed at women and those from disadvantaged backgrounds and a Fair Instruction policy in place. Lady Dorrian says she would still encourage women to enter the profession: “It is a fantastic career and is so wide ranging in the things you can do. You can make a huge impact on people’s lives. There are still challenges to improve the lot of women and you should be a part of that.” ■

LegalWomen | 19 Profile
one of only five women QCs in Scotland in 1994

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You can hear an audio version of the book


BBC Radio 4 - Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

There’s an excellent analysis of the book in a YouTube video from Professor Elaine Showalter. It uses images from the streets of London including around the British Library and Bloomsbury area where Virginia Wollf lived for part of her life.

Melvyn Bragg guests discuss Woolf’s essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’ in the In Our Time series (March 2023). They consider the two lectures she gave at Cambridge University in 1928 and it was on the basis of these two talks that she published her influential book.

In Our Time - A Room of One's Own - BBC Sounds


Finally, if you want to know more about her life you can stream the 2018 film Vita and Virginia, starring Gemma Arterton, Elizabeth Debicki and Isabella Rosselini . It concerns the love affair between the socialite Vita Sackville-West and Woolf.

Vita & Virginia (2018) - IMDb


Mrs Dalloway

Virginia Woolf’s celebrated novel, Mrs Dalloway, takes place a 100 years ago, in one single day in June 1923. It’s an insight to a society struggling to adapt after the First World War. Much of the stream of consciousness concerns Mrs Dalloway herself, preparing for a society party but there are myriad anxieties emerging both from her day and some of the parallel lives captured. It gives insights not only to the characters but to how cultural change is occurring.


Not interested in Virginia Woolf? Then try this podcast discussing the pros and cons of hybrid work.

Is hybrid work a trap for women? | Financial Times (

LegalWomen | 21 LW Recommends
Pic by George Charles Beresford - Virginia Woolf in 1902 from Wikipedia

Abigail Bobb-Semple BA (Hons) Reg. MBACP is a qualified psychotherapist, who has just completed an MA in Counselling and Psychotherapy. In addition to working in private practice in Essex, she provides professional services to a local counselling agency, and a London-based organisation working with young people and their families.

Abigail Bobb-Semple

In the following conversation with Dr. Molly Bellamy, Abigail talks from the perspective of ‘lived experience’; as a survivor of sexual abuse; as a psychotherapist working with victims of sexual assault; and as a former long-serving paralegal in the Crown Prosecution Service working with witnesses and complainants. Through these intersecting lenses Abigail evaluates why women resist taking rape claims to court, and so brings a different emphasis to the discussion we are having in The Jury is Out to that which claims jury bias is a principle reason for low rape convictions. over 30 years, or as someone who is also a survivor of sexual violence, or as a woman, as a black person, or as someone who is aware of unconscious bias even,

MB: You are familiar with the process a complainant goes through when bringing a claim of rape against someone from a professional perspective. Can you say something about that?

ABS: It can often be a very scary process, regardless of the allegation. I believe for the majority of complainants it would be an unfamiliar environment and one that they could find pretty daunting.

MB: What sort of thing in particular?

ABS: Emotionally, having to revisit and recount their story in detail and under pressure would be challenging. Physically and psychologically, even if they could not be seen by the defendant, just having awareness of their proximity in the court room, and knowing, okay, the accused is on the other side of the screen, could contribute towards them feeling pretty anxious. So just that whole thing! For the most vulnerable, including children, the CPS would make an application for the complainant to give their evidence from another room or building altogether and there would at least be an usher with them throughout the proceedings. Adults could be concerned about the process itself including the approach of the defence advocate, whose primary concern would be to secure acquittal of their client.

MB: How do complainants manage that level of intensity when they're giving evidence?

ABS: I've seen it vary over the years, complainants from different backgrounds. Some were quite stoic about it, straight-faced, speaking in a matter-of-fact way, and that was their method of coping in that setting. Some were timid, some angry, others were visibly shaken, upset, crying, needing regular breaks, sips of water etc. It was not easy to witness. Some felt as though they were having to defend themselves, as in, I have to prove that I'm telling the truth; is my past sexual history going to come into play? What will defence want to know about me or how will they try to discredit me? these are some of the fears.

MB: So the body language of the complainant may manifest in different ways and be interpreted in different ways by juries, perhaps mistakenly?

ABS: There's absolutely always that possibility, but it varies so greatly with each individual juror. Unconscious bias exists, people have preconceived ideas stemming from their own backgrounds, you know, so with me, for example, it could have taken the form of someone who has worked in the CPS for

MB: Yes, because you've got professional knowhow… ABS: As well as a survivor's knowhow, as well as a perspective of a psychotherapist…

MB: I see your point, there is no such thing as value free experience …we bring our experience and our bias with us to court.

ABS: Yes, I believe so. So, the idea of replacing the jurors so as to avoid bias -I cannot say whether that would be the best option, I mean, could judges not have their own biases? Would 12 views not be fairer than one? Neither is ideal, but what is the solution? I mean, in the UK, generally Judges tend to come from -

MB: A predominantly white middle class background ABS: Yes, not as varied as it could be.

MB: I think that's a good point.

ABS: As a survivor of child sexual abuse, over the years, sitting through Crown Court trials, I often found myself reflecting on how glad I was that I never had to give evidence at court. Honestly, I have never regretted not reporting the allegations and pursuing it within the Criminal Justice System. I can categorically say as a survivor, I had no misgivings in that regard. That may not be everyone’s story, but it is mine.

MB: And as a paralegal?

ABS: As a paralegal, I've attended literally hundreds of crown court cases, and I've observed witnesses and victims in these cases and seen the outcomes, the attrition rate, and I've often walked away with counsel and thought Wow! Did they hear what I heard? You know, when the jury came back with a not guilty verdict. Then, to imagine the witnesses and the complainants in that context, after they've experienced what they've experienced only to be told oh actually you’ve not been believed It’s a rough ride!

MB: Yes. And from a psychotherapist perspective?

ABS: There's such a thing as pre-trial therapy but one would have to be very, very careful indeed when it came to offering therapy to a complainant in a sexual assault case that is still pending. One would need to be mindful that their therapy notes could be asked for by the court, and of course, confidentiality would be key in that regard. The defendant’s representatives

22 | LegalWomen Lived Experience

would wish to know if there was anything in the notes that could undermine the prosecution’s case, or support the defendant’s case, for example, could the therapist have “coached” the complainant in certain areas? Or were there any discrepancies between what was said in the counselling sessions versus what she, he or they said in court? It is hard, because often the thing that's troubling a client the most is the very thing that they can't speak about.

MB: Do you think a jury free trial may be less exposing for complainants?

ABS: Not necessarily. Presumably they would still have to tell their story in open court. Having no jury, though, would it be for the purpose of getting conviction rate figures up, reducing a backlog or supporting complainants better? If I look at it from within the criminal justice system a defendant might say I have not had an opportunity for 12 people who are not connected to this whole system to say whether they think I did or didn't do what is alleged.

MB: Of course. Any shifts you have observed as a professional?

ABS: Maybe the tide is changing slowly in the way of ‘me too’, perhaps, people beginning to speaking out a bit more freely, saying, Yes, I, too experienced that. From my perspective, there is more of a voice now than there used to be. I mean, when I joined the CPS at its inception, for example rape within marriage was not even a criminal offence. Victims had to ‘put up and shut up’, as it were, so when I say the tide is changing, I mean more so in that regard.

MB: So do you feel the ‘Me Too’ movement is a touchstone for change.

ABS: I'd say, I'm hoping more than feeling. It is hard to say. There are still many who will say nothing, and there are a whole host of reasons for that.

MB: What kind of thing?

ABS: Fears that they won’t be believed, and questioning, did it really happen?, and was I complicit in it? Shame, fear of reprisals, cultural influences can also prevent one from speaking about it. Childhood experiences can leave someone impacted emotionally, psychologically, and physiologically even, as if frozen in time. Years later, as an adult now free to speak, they can struggle to do so. For some it is not straightforward to process their traumas. Some clients will come to therapy in search of a safe confidential space to begin to work through and come to terms with their experiences. Some wish to reconcile who they actually are with who they were programmed to believe they were. In my experience, there is more of an openness and willingness to seek therapeutic help now than there used to be.

MB: You mentioned earlier the question of approach, of judges who generally come from a white middle class back ground, as a cultural matter - is that in and of itself a concern?

ABS: I think it is. How do we begin to change that? I mean, is it through recruitment and training, like the strategies going on in universities now?

MB: That’s right, you are referring to the affirmative action strategies that recognize race in admissions procedures in university.1

ABS: Or is it going back to British culture and foundational education? One’s schooling can make all the difference. Attending a British public school for example could stand you in

good stead. You see what I mean? A legal professional coming from a marginalized group could still find forging their career in the UK, in whatever capacity, a burdensome exercise. They could feel as though the system itself were against them, and so could a defendant. A complainant at court could also struggle, thinking, I don't want to tell these people in this courtroom what happened to me, I'm feeling ashamed as it is.

There are so many layers to it…

MB:Of course, that’s difficult to name…

ABS: It is like standing in front of an invisible a wall and if you put your head above the parapet, to say, actually this exists, this is my truth, it's like it can fall on deaf ears, and your truth doesn't exist. You know? It is assumed that you have as much opportunity as anyone and everyone else – but that is not always my understanding. When, for example, someone from a marginalized group finds themselves in a place of prominence, they can face all types of obstacles not easily discerned by the majority. Why am I putting myself through this on a day-to-day basis? The performance in forever having to prove that they have a right to be in the room can be exhausting, and it’s not easy to articulate.

This is the reality for some people.

MB: I can relate to it. You mentioned earlier a sense in which you feel that there are certain cultural and systemic barriers to progress - it sounds as though change is happening at a surface rather than a structural level… does that feel like a kind of tokenism?

ABS: I am aware that some certainly can and do experience it as tokenism as in she ticks the box, she’s in the room now. Job done; our obligation has been fulfilled. We acknowledge that not everyone wishes to truly embrace change, some are happy with the status quo…. still got a long way to go.

MB: So it's slow progress in your experience?

ABS: It’s not easily measured - over the past 30 years, things haven’t developed as progressively as I personally would have like to have seen. For many, it’s still a very rough ride!

Abigail Bobb-Semple

BA (Hons) Dip.Couns Reg.MBACP

Organisations providing support who have contributed to this issue: National Organisations for support:

1 This was at the heart of a debate in the USA recently in a case at the Supreme Court against Harvard University for racial discrimination.

LegalWomen | 23 Lived Experience

More than 16,000 join The Solicitors’ Charity sponsored The London Legal Walk

T he 19th annual London Legal Walk took place on 13 June, with over 16,000 walkers taking to the streets, which makes it the most well-attended Walk in its history. The 10km Walk raises vital funds for advice agencies (in order) to offer access to justice for all, and the legal profession certainly showed their support.

Gathering in teams ranging from a few to hundreds, Carey Street was alive with excited walkers ready to take on the challenge and show their solidarity in the sunshine. There were also a lot of four-legged supporters and fancy dress to accompany walkers!

A solicitor from Hammersmith & Fulham Law Centre said: “What a brilliant event yesterday! So many people were walking it was definitely the biggest and best ever- everyone was saying what a fabulous day it was.”

Also on the Walk were lead walkers, the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls, the Attorney General, the Treasury Solicitor, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the President of the Law Society and the Chair of the Bar Council, the vice President of CILEX, as well as other high-ranking judiciary.

Law Society of England and Wales President, Lubna Shuja, said: “It was wonderful to join so many others taking part in the London Legal Walk to raise funds for free legal advice charities. It’s inspiring to see the legal profession come together in huge numbers to show their support for such a worthy cause. It is important that free legal advice is available to vulnerable people who need it most. The funds raised by the London Legal Walk help to ensure there is provision for access to justice for all.”

The fundraising amount is currently at £825,000 and rising, which has surpassed last year’s total of £720,000. London Legal Support Trust are encouraging teams to keep fundraising, particularly when the need is greater than ever. 700,000 families in London are estimated to be living in poverty (Sustain report, 2023). Yet, while need is increasing, capacity is decreasing. Specialist advice agencies have been hampered by underfunding, as their costs have increased dramatically, and by reducing numbers of social welfare law specialists. This is due to a workforce shortage in the advice sector and challenges of recruiting new people into an underfunded sector.

This is why the funds raised from the London Legal Walk are so fundamental to the sector and have real-life impacts for those in need. The scenes on 13 June were testament to the power of collective action and working in tandem to respond to the changing social landscape.

If you would like to support London Legal Support Trust’s work in supporting access for justice, you can make a donation. You can also spread the word about this vital work and get involved with one of London Legal Support Trust’s upcoming events.

Where do the funds go?

With the rising cost-of-living and funding cuts, the funds raised by the Walk will be even more vital for securing the future of free legal advice agencies and the communities they serve. Many people are facing serious issues and are in desperate need of free specialist legal advice. Debt, homelessness, unemployment and domestic violence are all contributing to the hardship faced by many. We know accessing justice makes a difference to people’s lives – for example, LLST’s 38 Centres of Excellence alone helped 187,101 people last year. ■

24 | LegalWomen Legal Walk 2023
A record number of solicitors joined The Solicitors’ Charity at this year’s London Legal Walk
LegalWomen | 25 Legal Walk 2023

For employees, holidays provide an opportunity to relax and recharge their batteries. But busy periods such as school breaks, Christmas, Easter and other holidays can also increase the workloads of law professionals and their staff.

One pivotal role that can leave law firms in such a lurch is the legal cashier. Keeping up with the increased volume of transactions while ensuring accuracy can be a daunting task.

To help you manage this busy period, Quill’s compiled eight essential tips to ensure your legal cashiering runs smoothly during peak holiday periods. From prioritising transactions to streamlining processes, these tips will help you stay on top of your workload and ensure your clients receive the best possible service. Don’t let the holiday rush overwhelm you – follow these tips and make the most of the upcoming summer season.

What is a legal cashier?

A legal cashier is a specialised type of bookkeeper for law firms responsible for the accounting and finance functions of a solicitor’s practice, including client and office accounts.

Legal cashiering plays a critical function within the law firm, ensuring the accurate and compliant handling of financial transactions, safeguarding client funds, and maintaining the financial integrity of the law firm or legal organisation.

What are the risks of losing your legal cashier?

When this skilled employee is on annual leave, sick leave or has left the position, law firms are at risk of service disruptions, accounting errors or delays.

Read on to discover our top tips on how to manage staff holidays during busy periods, avoid stress and anxiety and, importantly, keep your legal practice running without disruption:

1. Plan in advance: Start planning for the holiday season well in advance to avoid the last-minute rush. Assess your staffing needs, estimate your expected volume of postings per month, evaluate workload patterns from previous years and determine the duration for which you’ll need outsourced support.

2. Identify a reliable outsourcing partner: Look for a reputable outsourcing company that specialises in legal cashiering support, like Quill. Evaluate their experience, expertise and track record in providing temporary staffing solutions. Assess how easily they can work with your existing legal accounts system and ask how they keep abreast of the latest financial regulation rules. Consider their ability to handle peak periods and ensure smooth cash management processes.

3. Establish clear communication channels: Effective communication is crucial when working with an outsourced team handling your money. Clearly define your expectations, standard operating procedures, service level agreements (SLAs) and


for managing legal cashiering during peak holiday periods

reporting mechanisms. Provide detailed instructions regarding your electronic chits, reconciliation processes and any specific requirements unique to your business.

4. Handover, training and onboarding: Collaborate with the outsourcing partner to develop a comprehensive handover and plan. Ensure that you’ve communicated key details to your temporary legal cashier and you feel confident that they understand your protocols, security measures and customer service standards. Conduct regular check-ins and provide ongoing support to address any questions or concerns.

5. Data security and confidentiality: Protecting sensitive financial information is vital. Ensure that the outsourcing partner has robust data security measures in place such as secure data transmission protocols, multi-factor authentication (MFA), encryption and access controls. Sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to safeguard your business and customers.

6. Regular performance monitoring: Implement a system to monitor the performance of the outsourced team. Define key performance indicators (KPIs) and establish reporting mechanisms to track their progress. Regularly review the team’s performance, provide feedback and address any issues promptly.

7. Contingency planning: Despite careful planning, unexpected situations can arise at any time of the year. Ensure your outsourcing provider has robust backup plans, redundancy measures and SLAs in place to ensure uninterrupted support, even during peak holiday periods. Better yet, see whether your outsourcing partner can let you purchase extra support days so you have a ‘bank’ of credit available to use when emergencies crop up.

8. Seamless integration: Integrate the outsourced cashiering team seamlessly into your existing operations. Provide them with the necessary access rights, systems and resources required to carry out their duties effectively. Foster a collaborative environment and encourage communication between your in-house and outsourced teams.

Remember, preparation is key to a successful holiday season. By leveraging temporary outsourced legal cashiering support, you can better manage increased demand, provide excellent customer service and ensure smooth operations during peak periods.

Further reading

Want to learn more about outsourced legal cashiering services?

Read Quill’s ‘The ultimate guide to legal cashiering’ at www.quill. As the first legal cashiering provider to be a proud affiliate partner of the Law Society, discover Quill’s service at ■

Image by Kemal Esensoy on

26 | LegalWomen Advertisement Feature

Clio Announces Appointment of New General Manager, EMEA in Support of Regional Growth

Clio, the leading legal technology platform, today announced the appointment of Sarah Murphy as the General Manager of EMEA. In this role, Murphy will spearhead strategic growth initiatives and play a crucial role in empowering legal professionals through transformative technology solutions.

“Sarah has had an enormous impact scaling our high-performing teams across the EMEA region in her role as interim general manager” said Ronnie Gurion, Chief Operating Officer at Clio. “She is a dynamic leader who lives and breathes our brand, and I’m confident she will continue to drive success for our customers, business, and teams. Her legaltech expertise will be critical as we continue to drive more value for legal professionals across the EMEA region.”

Since joining Clio in 2021, Sarah has played an integral part of Clio's regional operations, and go to market strategies. She recently led the launch of Clio Payments to the UK market, offering customers built-in payments functionality for seamless and effortless reconciliation of legal payments. Sarah has also driven the expansion of Clio's customer base in the EMEA region to more than 1,000 customers, which, along with new product updates and enhancements, has propelled growth of Clio's market presence substantially in the UK and Ireland. Today, Clio is used in more than 100 countries globally, including many countries throughout EMEA.

Sarah brings over two decades of sales and marketing leadership experience to her role at Clio. Prior to joining Clio, she held several leadership positions at Sky and served as Head of Marketing for both Scurri and Social Talent, gaining valuable SaaS tech industry experience. As General Manager, she will continue to drive customer-focused strategies and explore new opportunities where Clio can have impact.

“Since entering the UK market in 2013, Clio has shown an unwavering commitment to solicitors across the EMEA region with products specifically built to help them run their practices more effectively and efficiently,” said Murphy. “In my time as Interim General Manager, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to build this team to meet the demands of a flourishing legal market. The opportunity to scale our impact has never been greater. I'm looking forward to this next chapter with the support of our wider global leadership.”

As the new GM of EMEA, Sarah will lead the region from its EMEA headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. ■

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Sarah Murphy will lead Clio’s EMEA organization as growth accelerates in the region

Poetry Corner


Where are you, are you there?

Did your soul get snatched before it had a chance to start over

All new and wiped clean, or has it shattered into a million pieces like my heart?

Sharpened edges cutting into the sky

No place yet to go but gathering in readiness to light up the night.

Where are you, are you there?

Are you an echo in the shadows that grips my hand dragging me through the same story as I fight my way out of the storm?

I look for solace in the clouds as they gather me up in a warm, gentle breeze to guide me forward along the way.

Where are you, are you there?

Can I hear you in the trees, whispering and conspiring to hold me hostage as I stand underneath an umbrella of fading leaves?

Soon winter will come and strip your cover

No longer so powerful or dominating, now naked and bare for the world to see

My body pushes with all its might to set myself free from the entangled branches I continue forward on my journey.

Where are you, are you there?

Are you the mist of the ocean hiding in my salty tears or have you fallen amongst grace against the wrath of perilous cold waves, as they sweep you further away from me?

My feet plant firmly in the sand as I stand bravely in my true form at the water’s edge, looking out onto the gateway of freedom

One day I will join the ocean to meet the waves and say hello when they have forgiven the storm

Until then I leave behind my tired, heavy stones

They no longer need to be carried

As I walk away, a residue of footprints stay imprinted in time as it waits there for my return

The Script

Picked up a script, and started reading, Didn’t put it down for years, Had no clue that it would be leading To binding shame and ferocious fears.

Had no choice; it was thrust upon me, Before I could even tell the time, Didn’t know it would be decades Until the clock of freedom would chime.

I saw, and heard, and felt and tasted, Smelt and read and read some more, ‘Til not one little dot was wasted I’d absorbed the book and learnt the score!

I’d move to the sound of the unbending rhythm, Measured, restricted, no room to reform, No Love or dominion to re-write the lyrics, Or insider’s knowledge to save me from harm

Such was the screenplay mapped out before me, Including instructions on how I should act, Now that I live on the right side of healing , I ask, “What was fiction, and how much was fact?”

28 | LegalWomen Poetry Corner

Inaugural Networking In Northern Ireland

Legal Women welcomed panel members and attendees to its first networking event in Northern Ireland. The successful evening provided an opportunity for women in law to share career stories, network and empower one another.

In recent years, Northern Ireland has witnessed a remarkable transformation in the legal profession, with an increasing number of women rising to prominent positions and making significant contributions to the field. To celebrate and empower female lawyers in Northern Ireland, Legal Women hosted their inaugural networking event at the Law Society Northern Ireland in the centre of Belfast. The sold-out event, sponsored by Caldwell & Robinson and Donaghey & Chance, provided a platform for panel members in the legal profession to share their career stories and welcomed guests to discuss their own experiences in law.

To kick off the event, attendees heard data gathered through surveys carried out by the Law Society of Northern Ireland. Nuala McMahon, Senior Policy Officer at the Law Society of Northern Ireland, shared statistics showing that the solicitor profession in Northern Ireland is relativity well balanced in terms of gender, with the split currently 52% to 48% in favour of women. However, findings of the survey revealed several concerns around gender disparity, such as lack of maternity and returning to work support, lack of flexible working and other support for those with caring responsibilities, preferential treatment of male counterparts, and the under representation of females in senior positions within private practice.

Furthermore, the survey found evidence of mid-career migration of females from private practice into other areas of legal employment or females leaving the legal sector entirely. Reasons cited included lack of flexibility and support from employers as well as too much emphasis being placed on employees who work the longest hours or sacrifice the most, which in turn leads to the need for a better work/life balance.

This information was echoed to a certain degree by other panel

LegalWomen | 29 Events

members. Jade O’Kane, Associate at Caldwell & Robinson stated that when she started her career, an acquaintance had said ‘he would steer towards employing a male because he just couldn’t afford investment in a woman for her to go off on maternity leave’, however Jade’s own experience has been very different, thanks to her supportive firm which allows her to feel valued and recognises when personal and work life may need to be balanced.

Julie Huddleston, Partner at Tughans, recalled that she also raised concerns when being offered partnership, which she initially turned down, as she was apprehensive taking on such a role when she had plans to start a family. Fortunately for Julie, her firm encouraged her to take the position with the intention of supporting her needs when she did decide to have children.

Emma McCloskey, Associate at Mills Selig, revealed that as someone who works in Corporate law, there can be times when she walks into a room or joins a Teams meeting and is the only female in the meeting. However, on a positive note, Emma shared that in her firm she is ‘surrounded by females with children, who are empowered to keep doing what they are doing, which shows that women can be encouraged to continue in law even when they have caring responsibilities.’ Her hope is that law becomes more of a safe space for women who want to have a family.

After hearing from panel members, attendees were encouraged to ask questions and talk about their own experiences.

Throughout the discussion, the significance of networking, mentoring and collaboration emerged as common themes. Attendees recognised that networking provides invaluable opportunities for growth and support whilst fostering an environment for professional development.

Building Connections: it was agreed that events such as this enable women in law to expand their professional circles, connect with peers and forge meaningful connections, all of which are integral to success.

Mentoring and Support: attendees starting out in their career highlighted how networking events serve as a catalyst for mentoring relationships, as experienced legal professionals can provide guidance and offer support to those embarking on their legal careers, whilst also fostering a culture of support and collaboration.

Empowerment and Inspiration: it was also noted that hearing from panel members who have overcome barriers to succeed in their career, empowers aspiring legal professionals who attend networking events. Being able to celebrate accomplishments and showcase capabilities provides a source of inspiration and motivation, nurturing an environment of gender equality and inclusivity within the legal community.

The first Legal Women networking event celebrating females in law in Northern Ireland was a resounding success. It highlighted the achievements of legal women, illustrating the transformative power of perseverance, dedication, and networking. By amplifying their voices and experiences through further networking events, we hope to inspire future generations and continue to build a more diverse, inclusive, and vibrant legal profession in Northern Ireland.


30 | LegalWomen Events

Legal Women Team

Sally Penni MBE from our Editorial Board and our founder, Coral Hill, were able to meet at the Inns of Court Garden Party.

Sally Penni MBE linked up with Charity Mafuba at an event to celebrate a 100 years of women at Gray’s Inn. Lady Hale was present and LJ Andrews who will be the forthcoming Treasurer of the Inn. ■

Photos Counter Clockwise from Top Left.

First Photo: (top L to R) Sally Penni MBE and Coral Hill at the Garden Party.

Second Photo: Band at the Garden Party,

Third photo: Charity Mafuba and Lady Hale.

Fourth Photo: Sally Penni MBE, Lady Hale and LJ Andrews

LegalWomen | 31 Events

How to build a sustainable law firm

The past few years have provided extra challenges for businesses. Navigating Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and two general elections have created extra uncertainty for business leaders looking to expand and secure company longevity.

In the legal sector, a skills shortage has resulted in the addition of recruitment challenges to this list. Many law firms are reviewing their positioning, processes and culture to ensure that they are not only appealing to great talent for any vacancies, but also competing in their field and delivering the best service to their clients.

Prioritising activity that will build and sustain businesses for the long term is vital. Here are three pointers for legal business leaders to remember in order to grow their law firms to last.

1. Increase your law firm’s visibility

You might be the best law firm in your region, but unless prospective clients know about you, this is meaningless. Increasing your visibility will give you greater chances to secure new business.

Improved search engine optimisation (SEO) helps your site rank higher on the likes of Google and Bing, and comes as a result of changes to your website’s content, structure, keywords and phrases. Allocating a budget for pay per click (PPC) adverts on search engines such as Google Ads will position you in front of more prospective clients when someone clicks on the advert to visit your website.

In addition to this, listing your business information on directory sites such as means that prospective clients looking for the right law firm for their needs can find you. By ensuring your details are featured and accurate, you can be considered for their business.

Raising your profile often has a snowball effect, so the more you do to increase visibility through listings and networking, the more clients you will attract, and the easier this becomes.

2. Optimise your time

The old adage “time is money” has never been truer than in the legal profession. When lawyers spend their days chasing up overdue invoices, tracking each billable unit and scheduling

client meetings, their time is spent on administration rather than chargeable work. This is considerably less profitable and can demotivate valued and talented professionals.

Investing in good practice management software enables simpler tasks like this to be automated, freeing up the lawyers to practice. Automatic timers can track billable minutes, and software can instantly generate invoices. Good practice management software has the capability to manage your staff schedules too, so you can speed up planning by knowing your firm’s availability.

By optimising your time and introducing efficient working practices that can be passed on to new staff, you can become a more profitable firm and create a culture of working smarter.

3. Invest in secure collaboration tools

Technology has revolutionised our private lives, which means prospective customers have a level of expectation from law firms when it comes to technology. By making processes and collaboration with your law firm as seamless and accessible as possible, you are working to keep your clients satisfied.

The right technology available from leading practice management providers enables lawyers to securely collaborate with clients on matters from start to finish. This includes uploading, viewing, commenting on, and sharing large confidential items from any location, reliable version control with live updates, and the ability to sign time critical documents from any device.

By investing in secure collaboration tools, you’re providing clients with confidence and convenience, helping to ensure their overall experience with your law firm is positive. Through recommendations, good experiences like this become free marketing to help you grow your business, and when these are in the form of online reviews, these statements will speak for themselves for years to come.

To learn more about how the right tools can help you grow your law firm, please visit ■

32 | LegalWomen Advertisement Feature
Gareth Walker

Clerking in Chambers

The Dickensian image of clerking in a barristers’ chambers is being transformed. Emily Martin, Senior Clerk at 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square demonstrably does not meet those traditional expectations from the past. She explains why she choose clerking as a career.

At age 18, I had a place to study at university. My plan was to be a PE teacher in a secondary school. At age 33, I’m the Senior Clerk at 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square. I did go to university but later than planned, I studied English whilst working full time.

18-year-old me had an itch that I was doing the wrong thing. At first, I deferred my place. But having started work at 5 King’s Bench Walk, I decided to stick around the Temple and work as a barrister’s clerk. Clerking at the time was different to what it is now, there was a need to know someone on the inside and there were very few women. My cousin persuaded me to try clerking and I have not looked back.

Starting at the bottom

I pushed trolleys full of papers and made cups of tea. I did the things which junior clerks did then to learn the role. The sense of hierarchy was apparent. I got the lunch orders for the more senior clerks (not only at my own chambers) and the barristers with whom I worked were still called, “sir and miss.”

Starting at the bottom, I had no real perception of a career in practice management or even if such a thing were possible for a woman. I knew that I still wanted to go to university and had chosen English for my degree. This was a little unusual, a number of clerks have gone to university ahead of clerking or once their career has started but the focus has tended to be on degrees relating to law or business. To read English was treated with a little suspicion by some on both the clerking and barrister side of my work.

Once I obtained my degree, I was offered other roles and I also did consider other options that were available outside of the law. Ultimately, I decided to stay in clerking and have now started considering post graduate courses that are more linked directly to my role. On the way, I have done my BTEC Advanced Award in Chambers Administration and a variety of other shorter courses. I simply don’t accept that clerking is all learnt on the job or that the work of a barristers’ chambers is so unique that we cannot learn from other businesses.

Moving from a Downton Abbey atmosphere to a collaborative working environment

When I started in clerking it was a little like Downton Abbey, I was very much downstairs and the barristers upstairs. Now, it’s a collaborative effort. The barristers who achieve the most are those who work in synergy with their clerking team. The clerks who achieve the most are those who coach the barristers with whom they work to meet their potential in a sustainable way.

There are senior women in clerking across legal London. In truth, that has only really grown over the last decade. I have a headstrong two-year-old and chambers is flexible to make sure that I can meet my caring responsibilities which I share with my (barrister) husband. Retention for female barristers and female clerks needs to be a focus for chambers.

Flexible working and parental leave feel like they are relatively new things across lots of different chambers. The good news is that they have arrived and a focus on retaining talented women has prevailed. Again, the ugly truth is that in yesteryear, my pregnancy would have been a concern for some and marrying a barrister, at a different set of chambers, would have verged on scandalous.

The recognition that I am my own person with an established and honed set of skills is the real change in my first decade in the job. That has come with experience and education but also with a change of attitude at the Bar.

Working as a modern senior clerk

I have the most senior staff role in chambers. I answer complaints, identify opportunities and work with barristers and our chambers administrator to make policy decisions which support the operation of the business. And, like it or not, chambers are not clubs or collectives they are businesses designed to provide essential services. That change in mindset is reflected in how senior clerks operate. Relationships with clients are increasingly focused on client care as opposed to who you know. You cannot provide the service those clients want unless you know them and you have the talent to deploy, assist with or solve their legal problem.

If you are contemplating a career in clerking based on what you have seen on television, don’t. That’s not how clerking has worked for the last decade. Do you need a degree to be a clerk? No. But you do have to have the drive to learn about your side of business. Were I to return to university tomorrow, I would probably choose business psychology as my undergraduate course. But, any education that teaches you to build relationships, leadership and promote health or wellbeing is important.

Finally, my biggest achievements haven’t been to manage a merger in chambers, land work here and abroad or to recruit great barristers. Rather, they have been to develop relationships with the people I work with so that they trust me. I am so incredibly grateful to the senior women in practice management who opened the door to this career for me and the barristers who have trusted that change.

4-5 Gray’s Inn Square has been transformed on the mantra of, “tradition with modernity.” If you want to work in clerking, look for chambers with that kind of approach. Don’t limit yourself to the idea that you are there to serve the barristers with whom you work but rather to manage and grow the practice. You are there to harness talent, spot it, nurture it and to deploy it to help others. That’s an incredibly unique role which is open to men and women, graduates and non-graduates. ■

LegalWomen | 33 Alternative Careers in Law
4-5 Gray’s
When I started in clerking it was a little like Downton Abbey.
There are senior women in clerking across legal London.
Emily Martin

Poppy’s second chance at love

Poppy’s owner first contacted her local rehoming centre and said she needed to hand Poppy, a four year old Chihuahua cross, over to us as she had sadly recently been given a diagnosis that she had a terminal illness. She was advised to apply for a free Canine Care Card and nominate a Dog Guardian; someone she trusts to sign over the care of Poppy to Dogs Trust should she need it. She’d then be able to spend the most time possible with Poppy and feel reassured that she’d be given the best possible care at Dogs Trust when they could no longer be together.

When Poppy’s Dog Guardian contacted us to advise that her owner was now receiving palliative care and that they needed to activate her Canine Care Card, Poppy was collected by Dogs Trust the very next day. After a vet and behavioural assessment we decided the best place for Poppy would be a loving foster home. We were able to advise the foster carers of all the information we’d been given by Poppy’s owner regarding her life, diet and routine to enable us to make this transitional period as stress-free as possible for Poppy.

Within almost no time, we were able to find very affectionate Poppy a lovely new home for her second chance at love.

Poppy’s story is one of many we come across at Dogs Trust.

Many owners are growing increasingly worried about gradually losing their independence or their health deteriorating. Dogs Trust want to offer owners peace of mind that we will be there at this difficult time to care for and rehome their four legged friends should the worst happen.

Therefore we’re pleased to announce that we have extended our Canine Care Card service. Dogs Trust will care for your dog should you move into a care home, become seriously ill or pass away.

For more information on our Canine Care Card service and how to register your dog please type in this link where you will find our online application form and more information on our free service.

If you have any queries regarding the Canine Care Card please email or call 020 7837 0006 and we will be happy to help. ■

Who’ll keep her happy when

34 | LegalWomen Advertisement Feature We will – as long as your client has a Canine Care Card. It’s a FREE service from Dogs Trust that guarantees their dog a second chance a life. At Dogs Trust, we never put down a healthy dog. We’ll care for them at one of our 21 rehoming centres, located around the UK. One in every four of your clients has a canine companion. Naturally they’ll want to make provision for their faithful friend. And now you can help them at absolutely no cost. So contact us today for your FREE pack of Canine Care Card leaflets – and make a dog-lover happy. E-mail Or call 020 7837 0006 Or write to: FREEPOST DOGSTRUSTL (No stamp required) Please quote “334975”
All information will be treated as strictly confidential. Service only available for residents of the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands & Isle of Man. A dog is for life, not just for Christmas® Registered charity numbers: 227523 & SC037843 © Dogs Trust 2021
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