A room full of female barristers and solicitors networking over delightful canapés and wine without the men. Not a sight you often see given that women in the legal industry tend to juggle multiple roles balancing work and family life.
Amidst the clink of wine glasses, the female alumni of City Law School were gathered for an evening centered around women’s rights and the law as well as sharing their experiences as women in legal practice.
Charlotte Rachael Proudman (BVC 2010), a barrister at 1 Mitre Court Buildings and author with a commitment to human rights, social justice and equality opened the evening with a powerful address on her experiences in the Democratic Republic of Congo where she established the country’s first free legal advice centre.
Speaking about battered women and victims of domestic violence, one particular topic stood out – that of forced marriages – a social issue affecting women in many parts of the world. It is thought that there are over 8,000 forced marriages every year in Britain alone. A forced marriage is likely to become a criminal offence soon and this will send out a strong message to the public that victims will be better protected and deter perpetrators and their relatives although not all favour criminalisation.
In Pakistan, where Charlotte also visited, it emerged that the battered women were counselled by men and leaders reluctant to change an age-old custom that was ingrained in their society, and thus there was little to help the women. Even the women themselves were afraid of openly defying the traditional custom of forced marriages, fearing that their family members could be jailed or discriminated against within their own community.
On a more positive note, it seems that there are gradual changes to improve the situation. Schools all over the world are now focusing on education and support groups in a more concerted effort to reach out to women. And with time, the public message that forced marriages are socially unacceptable may gradually lead to a change in attitudes.
Charlotte’s address successfully broke the ice among the women and soon almost every female in the room was joining in the discussion. It was an insightful experience to have been able to hear the different views of those present.
As the evening progressed, the women took turns to share their different experiences and anecdotes from diverse aspects of the legal field. They offered much invaluable advice and insight to young trainees and barristers. As Reader in Law Katherine Reece Thomas puts it, “who better to understand the problems and issues faced by women in practice than their peers and their more experienced alumni?”
This feeling of female support and companionship was what drew the female alumni of City Law School together on a cold winter’s evening and made the CLAN event truly memorable. Many thanks to the event organisers and Katherine from City Law School for this enjoyable evening.
Read the Lawbore interview with Charlotte from 2011, where she speaks in depth about her pro bono work as well as her experience of pupillage.
Thanks to Marie Tay (LPC student at The City Law School) for this review of the CLAN event.