Future Lawyer Blog

Women in Law Challenging the Legal Norms at the Bar – Support Through Court event review

Women of all different backgrounds are shattering glass ceilings in the legal field, both domestically and internationally. However, much work still needs to be done to make sure there is ‘equal representation’. Last month I was lucky enough to attend the Inspiring Inclusion: Women in Law event, raising money for the group Support Through Court. The charity supports those individuals who face civil and family court alone,  so that they can represent and advocate for themselves to the best of their abilities.

The event was held at the London offices of international law firm of Baker McKenzie (HQ in Chicago) and featured a panel of remarkable speakers, each of them giving different insights into their careers in the law. In the spirit of the occasion (International Women’s Day) there was much focus on successes, but also obstacles that panellists have endured in their legal and personal journeys. Below I’ve given a taster of what each of the formidable speakers covered in their reflections.

Cherie Blair CBE KC is an English barrister and a committed and fierce advocate in promoting women’s rights through her organisation, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, which empowers women to become entrepreneurs in the UK and internationally. Ms. Blair shared her personal experience of wanting to be the Prime Minister as a youngster (but as she jokingly mentioned, instead “I ended up married to the Prime Minister”) to her time at the Bar as a barrister, especially in ‘male dominated’ arena. She was very open, sharing her personal experiences whilst working as barrister and being always referred to as the “prime minister’s wife.” When noting March was Women’s History Month, she was asked about her role models. She responded that her mother was her role model, but also that she looks up to Hilary Clinton (US attorney, writer, and former First Lady of the United States of America).

Sultana Tafadar KC is an English barrister who made history as being the first woman to argue in the court with a hijab, which shows the positive steps being made at the Bar, especially in religious representation. Ms. Tafadar shared the personal struggles of her academic and legal career, especially at the Bar. She explained that it was very difficult for her to get any cases as she first entered the Bar, and she had to learn to network with solicitors: “ I had to learn very quickly to connect with other solicitors and to take initiative on my own, especially in representing cases.” Ms. Tafadar is a founder of the Girls Human Rights Hub (along with her daughter Safiyah), which supports the advancement of gender equality and looks to eliminate gender based violence.  

Dana Denis Smith is a solicitor and founder of the ground-breaking project First Hundred Years which is supported by the Law Society, the Bar Council, and CILEx. She is also the CEO of Obelisk Support. During this celebratory event, she discussed the gender and racial inequality that is still prevalent at the Bar and in the legal profession itself:

“We need representation at the Bar, but also to keep those barristers at the Bar and to ensure that everyone is equally represented in the legal profession.”

Ms. Smith was an excellent moderator for the event and posed interesting questions for the speakers, especially in their academic, professional, and personal lives. She ensured important issues were discussed – those that have social and political relevance, especially for the future generations at the legal profession.

Denise Nurse is a former solicitor, TV Presenter, and Life and Business Coach with years of legal experience. Ms. Nurse uses her platform to promote women to being at their best in their personal and professional lives. Initially, her journey was one that was filled with many challenges because of her race and gender, especially in the legal profession. She shared the inner personal struggles that she had as a young law student with us: “During my second year, I was really questioning whether I really wanted to be a solicitor because I had no training contract and my grades were not that great either, so I felt that the odds were against me.” However, I was impressed that she remained optimistic that chance would eventually turn in her favour. As a result, she secured a training contract towards the end of her third year, and worked incredibly hard to be considered equal.

I was able to have a short interview with Ms. Sultana Tafadar KC at the event, and she shared the social struggles of being both a barrister and a single mother. She explained that during the first four years, she did stop practicing law because she wanted to focus on bonding with her daughter. However, when she re-entered into the legal profession she learned to wear those multiple hats of being a parent and barrister:

“It was hard in the early years of being a single mother, I had to sometimes take my daughter to meet with solicitors because daycare was something that I did not feel comfortable with, but what also helped was how understanding solicitors and other barristers were of my situation and for that I am truly grateful.”  

Reviewer Victoria

Women’s History Month highlights the important contributions that women have made throughout history from a domestic and international context.  It is vital that society continues to highlight women from all backgrounds, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, and/or sexuality. Let us continue forward in progressing women, especially in the legal profession.

Victoria Rivera is an international student. Originally, she is from Los Angeles, California and has moved around quite frequently (living in other countries as well). She is pursuing her LLM in Public International Law and wants to pursue a career in being an IP attorney in the US or a glorious career in legal journalism. She loves to talk and interact with people, and is a big fan of Star Wars, Ted Lasso, and Japanese anime. Fun fact: she loves to write short stories and read romantic novels. 

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