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Gender bias still an issue at bar, Dean believes

22 May 2017

Women at the Scottish bar still face disadvantages compared with men, and steps have to be taken to address the situation, the Dean of Faculty stated today.

Writing in the Scotsman, Gordon Jackson QC says that despite the fact that for some years now the majority of law graduates have been female, there are fewer practising women advocates than there were 10 years ago (only one of seven new advocates this year is a woman), there is "a very significant disparity in average earnings between male and female advocates at all levels of seniority", and to some extent at least there is a gender bias in favour of men when counsel are being instructed.

In response, he reports, the Faculty of Advocates' Equality & Diversity Committee has made a number of proposals to help create a level playing field, including recognising the principle of taking a career break or working reduced hours to help manage family or other responsibilities. 

Faculty, and its individual stables, will also maintain a "clear, transparent, equitable briefing policy", monitored by a nominated clerk, to help guard against bias – though with clients and solicitors free to instruct who they choose, there is no single solution. The Dean appeals to those who instruct counsel "to be aware of this danger and deal with it appropriately".

A mentoring scheme and anti-bullying policy will also be brought in.

"If there are barriers, real or imagined, that discourage some from a career at the Bar, we will not ignore them but to all we can to remove them", Mr Jackson concludes.

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