Plans to extend the opening hours would ‘disastrous for diversity’, according to the chair of the Bar. In a new blog, Andrew Langdon QC argues that the proposals for flexible courts sitting in new shifts were ‘on a collision course’ with the aim of parity of representation of women in the legal profession. The silk reckons that ‘many hundreds of women’ have reported that they would be forced to give up their legal ambitions because ‘unsurprisingly, they put the interests of those they care for before the interest of their careers’.
Langdon calls the proposals for court sitting hours ‘seriously disruptive’ to those lawyers that have ‘caring responsibilities for children, the elderly and others in need of care’. The Bar Council has recently drafted a protocol inviting both the judiciary and court service to adopt consistent sitting hours save in exceptional circumstances.
‘But rather than take steps to assist this important policy objective, the court service says they intend to operate shift hours – squeezing in two, or even three shifts a day dealing with different cases,’ Langdon continues. ‘The early shift will involve a very early start given the pre-court work that is always necessary, and the late shift will result in a much later return home at the end of the day. I think this is what is meant by ‘flexible’. I’m sure everyone understands that advocates have to work long hours out of court – before and after court, to ensure we are ready. Our adversarial system depends upon it.’
‘These proposals are, frankly, disastrous for diversity. Many hundreds of women have explained in simple and straightforward language that they will simply have to abandon their careers because, unsurprisingly, they put the interests of those they care for before the interest of their careers. Men who currently have fewer caring responsibilities, will not suffer those consequences and will face less competition from those who do.’
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