A Woman Walks Into The Bar



As a woman about to sit final-year law exams, I read the Bar of Ireland’s research into barriers facing women barristers with great interest and much hope that it signalled change.

Of all my classmates, I am the only woman considering a career at the bar. Women who do not plan to go to the bar cite the same reasons women have been citing in similar research down through the years – discrimination, childcare issues, and so on.

Friends of mine have told me they cannot speak up on these matters, for fear of being branded “difficult” and receiving even less work.

The Bar of Ireland’s research is welcome, but far from ground-breaking, and is almost unnecessary in that it reveals little new.

I hope, as I imagine do most women studying law, that it signals the beginning of a huge cultural change at the bar, because nothing else will suffice.

The time has passed for research, and the time has long since come for action.

Ciara Ní Ghabhann,
Co Galway.

Discrimination at the bar (Irish Times letters page)

Related: Two in three women barristers face discrimination, study finds (Irish Times)

Pic: Telegraph

46 thoughts on “A Woman Walks Into The Bar

  1. 15 cents

    i heard that women have a mutated lobe in their brain that stops them being as Lawyery as men. It effects their justice gene. anyone else hear this?

    1. pedeyw

      Most professions are flooded with mediocrity, that’s what the word means; of average quality.

  2. Harry Molloy

    the bar requires you writing off a large part of your life before making any money and so is incredibly difficult, but not impossible, unless you come from a privileged background.

    tbh, the profession is not really compatible with being a primary carer of children.

    it’s an archaic institution, Shatter tried to modernise but was defeated

    1. classter

      ‘the profession is not really compatible with being a primary carer of children’

      Is it not more compatible than almost any other? The courts have short hours, you are your own boss, you can do much of your work from home, there isn’t the same need for presenteeism as there is in most corporate jobs, etc.

      Your first point is more relevant imo – it is a very to build a career as a barrister without already being relatively wealthy.

      1. Harry Molloy

        I was under the impression that before being established you would need to spend long nights in the law library but can be corrected on that

      2. Rob_G

        I have a family member that works as a barrister; she tells me that most of her female colleagues need to resign from the bar in order to start a family, and I would well believe her; the hours she works are brutal.

        1. realPolithicks

          Do men ever take care of their children in Ireland? I never hear that childcare is an issue for men looking to advance their careers.

          1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            A current source of much “debate” in the Pídgéόní household…. It’s certainly something they very very rarely even consider in relation to their working lives.

          2. realPolithicks

            It’s amazing to me that in 2016 it’s even a question as to whether fathers should take as much responsibility as mothers for childcare. It’s time to step up to the plate dads!

          3. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            I guess it’s changing but men still don’t have the same “well you have to think of your career and your aging shriveled ovaries and everything else at the same time and can you really have it all” like women do. Lucky really!

            They introduce paid paternity leave in the UK – not a roaring success for a range of reasons – mothers won’t give it up (come on ladies), it doesn’t cover enough of their earnings and their employer hadn’t bothered to tell them about it.

            BUT… it can be done! My BIL did it for a year and loved being at home with the kids and it was a really special time for him. Like you say, men need to step up and ask for it.

      3. Not a lawyer

        The actual hours the courts sit are largely irrelevant.
        You are not really your own boss. Your work is mediated through solicitors. The expectations of solicitors with regard to your working situation have a huge effect on the work culture at the bar.
        Being physically present is a major part of how you pick up work in the first years.
        Self-employment means you don’t get to do job-shares, go part time etc. No, the bar is not entirely unique in this regard but it is a problem for the women at the bar and they are entitled to seek to do something about it.

  3. Frilly Keane

    Yeah Ciara

    Two words
    Three syllables

    Boarding School

    ( I’ve used 6 words insteada 2 as a courtesy to your intended profession. And sum’ting else…. Your new stilettos can never be too high or too sharp or too loud. G’luck in the exams)

  4. classter

    ‘The time has passed for research’

    I do despair for the future of this country.

    The time has come for better research & evidence-based policies.

    The Bar’s reports says that repondents ‘were not asked to specify or elaborate on the type of discrimination encountered’. Why not?

    1. Not a lawyer

      0-1: Mild to no discrimination
      2-3: Bants
      4-5: Bit dodge
      6-7: Asked to sit with senior colleague because “he likes you”
      8-9: Tipsy grope
      10: Oh he’s just coming right out and saying it, that’s refreshing

    2. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      “The time has come for better research & evidence-based policies.”


  5. Not a lawyer

    Change will come. Remember, never ask for better conditions for women at the bar, always frame change in the context of “reducing lawyers’ fees”, “modernising the system”, “opening it up for those from other backgrounds” blah blah. The net effect will almost always be the same, but the usual horses don’t get frightened. Formally allowing the establishment of partnerships received the most resistance last time out [some criticism justified]. I’d be finding another way to push that door. Top of the list would be join Bar Council, destroy them from within.

  6. Sinead

    Women ( and men) with kids skip out the door at 5pm in my workplace.Those without are expected to stay and pick up the pieces. Where is the justice?

    1. Caroline

      There is none. You just get more and more bitter and resentful until you slump over your desk, dead of a heart attack. At your funeral everyone agrees you worked the hardest.

    2. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      Maybe a roster for cleaning up the mess the door makes every day would help?

    3. Nigel

      Better to leave the kids standing in the rain for a few hours until the arbitrary extra hours you’re being forced to work run out. They’ll be fine.

    4. Rob_G

      Pretend that you have kids. Or live far away, so that you have to leave the office at a very specific time in order to catch your bus/train. Or claim to do evening courses…

    5. Spagnolia von Hoop

      How do you quantify this in terms of productivity? 9-5ers can pack a lot of efficiency into a day and still prepare for the next day’s meetings that evening. Well, the private sector anyway.

  7. D2dweller

    Welcome to equality Ciara. You never mentioned men with kids, instead your argument is only that women have problems due to childcare.

    Your looking to be given special dispensation, that’s not equality.

      1. Caroline

        You forgot to say Simon Says men and women have to put up with sexism. Ha ha, you lose, welcome to silly gotcha arguments.

    1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      Let’s be honest here about who is doing most of the childcare. It’s rare you find a family where this is split evenly between both parents – one always takes the lead and generally, it is still the ladyzzz

  8. Jake38

    Lady Lawyer: Hi.

    St Peter.. Hi.

    St Peter….So which did you pick…raising X healthy well adjusted kids who in their turn raised healthy adjusted kids? Or did you spend your days trawling among the bottom feeders of the law library for personal injury cases all of which were settled on the steps of the courts just in time for you to get paid your outrageous daily retainer?

    1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      *Lady Lawyer raises a class action against the misogynistic, sexist nature of admissions to heaven, wins control, burns it to the ground, world rejoices*

  9. Toni The Exotic Dancer

    The cause of 99% of this countrys problems. Our inbred justice system. Every time a change is proposed it is watered down. We need reform from the outside.

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