May 3, 2011

British Women On the Bench

Michael Blackwell, London School of Economics & Political Science, has published Old Boys' Networks, Family Connections and the English Legal Profession. Here is the abstract.

A decade and a half on from Lord Taylor’s promise that “there will be more [female judges]… and they will not all be the sisters of the Lord Chancellor!”, this paper assesses the changes to the composition of the higher judiciary over this period, in terms of gender and educational, professional and socio-economic background. Descriptive statistics are presented on how these characteristics have changed over the period, for members of the High Court, Court of Appeal and House of Lords. These show only slight improvement in the representation of women and little change to the proportion educated other than at Oxbridge and public schools. Obituaries and other sources are used to illustrate the high socio-economic class, often with legal connections, into which many judges were born.

To show that this is not solely, at least in respect of educational background, a result of the pool from which such judges are recruited, this paper contrasts these statistics with those of QCs appointed since 1965. It also uses event history analysis to see how these diversity characteristics have affected propensity to be appointed to the High Court and subsequently promoted during this period.

Finally, to assess the potential for future increases in judicial diversity, this paper contrasts the gender and educational background of the solicitors and barristers profession and the speed of change thereto in recent years – showing both a greater diversity and rate of change with solicitors. The significantly lower rate of solicitor applicants appointed in selection exercises to the High Court is noted. The paper concludes by suggesting a reappraisal of the appointment criteria to increase the representation of solicitors and so facilitate improved judicial diversity.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

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