In the lead-up to the centenary of women’s entry into the legal profession, in the current political climate, and light of the #metoo movement, analytical and forthright discussions about diversity are as vital and important as they have ever been. ELSA members had the opportunity to learn more about this pertinent topic on Wednesday at ELSA QMUL’s event on Diversity and the Law. With an incredible panel including academics, solicitors, and barristers, the attendees were treated to a critical discussion of the issues facing the legal world, how they affect different groups and potential solutions. Topics covered included the debate around quotas, unconscious bias, and how to usher in change.
The evening began with Queen Mary PhD candidates Camille Joly and Deborah Lawunmi presented their findings on the overrepresentation of men at the top of city law firms and on the experience of black lawyers at city law firms, respectively. This was followed by a compelling speech by Dr Charlotte Proudman of Goldsmith Chambers discussing the gendered nature of the law and the institutional sexism that exists in the legal world. Professor Felicity Gerry QC then shared her experience as a woman working at the Bar for over twenty years, describing the challenges she faced throughout her (very successful) career, followed by Amit Popat, Head of Equality and Justice at the Bar Standards Board, describing how to check unconscious bias and bring around meaningful change.
In the limited time remaining, ELSA members posed some fascinating questions that incited thought-provoking discussion amongst our panellists. The combination of academic research and anecdotal evidence underpinning our panellists’ presentations made them especially forceful. Members left the event not only with a deeper understanding of the many complexities surrounding this important area but also with a sense of empowerment and drive to make a change. In the words of one attendee, Shoshana Leibovici (Treasurer of ELSA Queen Mary), the event “made you want to be extraordinary and really made clear that we are the generation that needs to implement change and improvement in terms of diversity.”
ELSA Queen Mary is incredibly grateful to our speakers for taking the time to share their research and experience, to our members for attending the event, and to our many partners for their assistance with marketing this event. We are now looking forward to our Human Rights Focus Week beginning the 19th of November which will have workshops, training sessions and lectures on human rights related topics including the Windrush Scandal, violence against women, and effective lobbying.
Rachel Yafet is a final year law student at Queen Mary University of London. She is serving her second term as ELSA QMUL’s Vice President for Seminars & Conferences.