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Durham University

Gender and Law at Durham

Diversity in the Legal Professions

Diversity in the legal professions, including the judiciary, is a research focus of a number of members of GLAD as well as a topic on the Law, Gender and Society module.

Clare McGlynn's research on women and the legal profession, in particular her book The Woman Lawyer - making the difference? (1998), has helped to inform national debates on the status of women lawyers, being widely discussed in the national press and policy reports. As well as her book, she has contributed to important anthologies on the status of women lawyers, including Women and the World's Legal Professions (2003) and in newspaper articles.  In 2006 she was a member of the Department for Constitutional Affairs' Working Party on Diversity in the Legal Profession during which time she (with Fiona Cownie) produced a report for the working group on the effect of the LNAT on the diversity of law students entering law school Diversity in the Legal Professions - Working Group Report. Her work continues to be discussed in debates around the (under)representation of women in the legal professions and judiciary.

Erika Rackley has written on judicial diversity, particularly in relation to the developing jurisprudence of Baroness Brenda Hale, the first (and only) woman Law Lord. As well as playing a key role in scholarly debates over diversity, her work is also informing policy and practice in the judiciary, being cited in research commissioned by the Commissioner of Judicial Appointments in Northern Ireland  ('Applications by Women for Silk and Judicial Office in Northern Ireland'), as well as being widely discussed by members of the British and International judiciary including by:

GLAD members continue to research and publish in the area of diversity and regularly organise student-focused events in this area.  In reverse chronological order:

November 2012 - Erika Rackley comments on judicial diversity in the Guardian

Erika Rackley challenged Lord Sumption's suggestion that some form of positive discrimination was "the only thing likely accelerate the rate of progress" toward diversity. Rackley argued that we are not limited to the options outlined by Sumption. There is a third way: a judiciary which is diverse may be better positioned to do its job. Hence why those concerned to see that appointments continue to be made on merit – with a view to ensuring that our judiciary is as good as it can be – thereby have reason to favour more diverse appointments. You can read the article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/nov/20/judiciary-uk-supreme-court

June 2012 - Dr Erika Rackley debates judicial diversity in the Guardian

Erika Rackley challenged Lady Butler-Sloss' comments in the House of Lords during a debate on the Crime and Courts Bill that 'It will be very important that women – particularly those from ethnic minorities – who may not be able to bear the strain of the judicial process are not placed in a position where they may find themselves failing because there has been too much enthusiasm for diversity and not enough for merit'. Rackley describes her comments as 'a disappointing and unhelpful contribution to ongoing debates about judicial diversity'.

April 2012 - Erika Rackley discusses on Judicial Appointments on BBC Radio Newcastle 

Dr Erika Rackley joined Jon Harle to discuss the House of Lords Constitution Committee report on Judicial Appointments on the Jon and Anne Drivetime programme on BBC Newcastle.

March 2012 - Erika Rackley comments on the House of Lords Constitution Committee report on Judicial Appointments  

The House of Lords' Constitution Committee's report on Judicial Appointments, published in March 2012, concluded that a more diverse judiciary in England and Wales would improve public trust and confidence in the justice system. The Report referenced oral and written evidence given by Dr Erika Rackley as well as 'The Feminist Judgments Project' lead by Dr Rackley and Professor Clare McGlynn of Durham Law School, Durham University, and Professor Rosemary Hunter of Kent Law School, the University of Kent, and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

University news item on the project 

Feminist Judgments Project

October 2011 - House of Lords Constitutional Committee publishes written evidence in judicial appointments inquiry 

The House of Lords Constitutional Committee has published the written submissions received in relation to the Judicial Appointments inquiry. This includes evidence from Dr Erika Rackley and well as from the Equal Justices Initiative

July 2011 - Dr Erika Rackley gives evidence on judicial appointments system

Dr Erika Rackley has given oral evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee as part of their inquiry into the judicial appointments process. She was one of four experts giving oral evidence in the first evidence session. The inquiry is considering whether the current appointments system is fair, independent, transparent and open and is expected to last until Christmas 2011. The evidence session was reported in the Guardian and Law Society Gazette

May 2011 - Dr Erika Rackley discusses judicial diversity on Woman's Hour 

Dr Erika Rackley joined Jane Garvey and Her Honour Judge Isobel Plumstead to discuss whether does gender really affect the decision-making of our judges and justice in the UK on the BBC Radio 4 programme Woman's Hour. Drawing on the research in her forthcoming book on diversity in the judiciary, Erika argues that targets should be set for increasing the representation of women judges and that gender, as with other factors such as ethnicity, background, religion and age, does make a difference.