Discrimination against women in the legal profession

Other Names:
Active prejudice towards female lawyers
Prejudicial treatment of female barristers

Women barristers have to contend with widespread sex discrimination at the Bar from the moment of entry and at all stages of their careers according to an independent survey published in 1992 and commissioned by the UK Lord Chancellor's Department and the Bar Council. Women have a harder time getting pupillages (places for articles) and permanent tenancies in chambers, continue to be asked discriminatory questions about marriage and having children at interview, earn less than men, and are less likely than men to be able to work in the field of their first choice. Women felt that chambers clerks were a key source of discrimination is allocating work to junior barristers, allocating less work and lower quality work than to men, which had a knock-on effect throughout their career. Queens Council (QCs) are appointed through a system of patronage, with a need to be known and noticed by senior barristers and judges, mostly men. The closed judicial appointments system is also likely to deny women equal access, since most of the senior judges consulted on appointments are men, the system perpetuates itself.


There is a pattern of men lawyers working in the well-paid area of commercial law, and women in family and criminal law. In 1992 in the UK, only 5.3% of QCs (41 out of 760) were women, although women account for nearly 12% of the selection pool (barristers of 10-22 years standing). Only one out of 27 Court of Appeal (Lord) Justices, three out of 83 High Court judges, and 22 out of 480 circuit judges were women (there were no women among the Law Lords). 60% of UK women barristers reported sex discrimination during their careers.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST