Lady Hale has long been revered by law students, particularly female law students, so it was with some delight that I watched her catapulted into the limelight after her typically well-reasoned and clear judgement, in the case of the prorogation of Parliament. I have enjoyed reading numerous articles about lady Hale’s background and watching interviews with her on YouTube where she so effortlessly navigates that treacherous ground between ‘things you definitely cannot say’ and ‘saying nothing of any interest’. Lady Hale’s comments on the benefits of being a woman at Oxford University in a male-dominated environment are particularly tickling.
What I’ve noticed from those interviews, is that despite having made her career as a judge and despite some of the things being said to her being absolutely outrageous, there never seems to be any flicker of disbelief or judgement in her eyes. Just a well-reasoned response and a point of view capable of change. It is this ability to change her mind that makes me think it’s not the right time for retirement for this Lady.
My first encounter
I once attended a talk with Lady Hale, or Baroness Hale, as she was then called at the College of Law. Lady Hale attended with another female judge to talk about feminism and the law. The other female judge, whose name I forget and given what follows, it is probably for the best, recounted a tale, where, as head of Chambers, she recruited a number of bright young female pupils, who later gained tenancy at Chambers and, after several years later, more or less the same time, all left to have children. The female judge stated that the next time she recruited pupils, she would ensure that there was a mix of genders and recruited less able men over their female adversaries. Again, it was without judgement that Lady Hale explained that this is what we were up against, before also saying that of course, this was totally illegal and that as good female lawyers we would be expected to take appropriate action.
The legacy of Hale
Apart from Lady Hale’s immaculate manner, it is her ability to state her opinion and for all around her to say ‘well, yes, obviously’. If you look at the changes that lady Hale has been responsible for throughout her career, not just as a judge, they appear radical. But they are not radical changes; they are obvious changes. Lady Hale has been a driving force behind the Children’s Act, putting children’s interests first and other interests second. In immigration law, lady Hale’s leading judgement in ZH (Tanzania) v SSHD  UKSC 4 was that the European Convention on Human Rights should not be interpreted in a vacuum, but should be interpreted in harmony with general principles of international law, namely the United Nation’s Convention of the Rights of the Child 1989. This is hardly radical when putting like that, but that is Lady Hale’s knack. An ability to state the obvious without anyone having realised it was obvious before it was stated by her. Perhaps this is because Lady Hale is a woman and has been a ‘first’ numerous times throughout her career. Perhaps it is because hers is the first female voice we have heard at many levels. I suspect though, it’s the quality of that voice, rather than just the gender of that voice. I guess we will have to see in the coming month. Please step up Lady Black and Lady Arden!