Interview with Scottish Feminist Judgments Project
Last academic year we, at the GCU Law Clinic, ran a ‘women in law’ project. You can see last years project here. This year, we are expanding our project to look at five different groups who have, and continue to, face barriers in the legal profession.
To start this new project, we are kicking off again with celebrating women in law. We were very grateful that the academic coordinators of the Scottish Feminist Judgments Project, Vanessa, Sharon and Chloë, answered these questions for us and gave such thoughtful, interesting answers. They talk about how they got started in SFJP, their personal career journeys and what it means to them to be a woman in law. If you would like to learn more about SFJP, please see the links at the end of the interview.
Firstly, could you tell us what the Scottish Feminist Judgments project involves, how you got started in it and why you think it is important to women in law?
We were inspired to do this project by the Feminist Judgments Projects that have happened in other jurisdictions. The first one was in Canada in 2006, and since then the idea has blossomed, with projects now completed in England and Wales, Northern/Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and the US, and with ongoing projects in India and Africa. In that sense we are standing on the shoulders of our amazing sisters who have come before us!
Like the others, the SFJP is a collaborative project which has brought together legal academics and practitioners, feminist campaigners, and artists, in an enterprise to re-write existing court judgments and show the difference that gender difference might have made. Ours forms part of a global conversation with these other FJPs but we hope to have created something that speaks in a distinctly Scottish register. Across the project, there are 16 judgments, spanning a range of areas of law, that have been re-written. In some cases, the outcome of the case remains unchanged but the approach or tone of the reasoning is different; in other cases, the outcome for the parties involved has been changed. Feminist judges are bound by the same legal authorities as the original judges and cannot rely on a level of expert knowledge that would not have been common at the time of the original case, but within those parameters, the judgments show how the judge could have taken a different approach, which may have produced more progressive outcomes. Alongside the judgments, we have commentaries that reflect on the significance of the original case and the feminist re-imagining, as well as a series of contributions from artists who responded to individual judgments or to the project as a whole, offering a range of alternative tools for critical engagement and challenge. That artwork has been exhibited across Scotland.
We think the project is important to women in law because it shows, rather than simply claims, that perspective matters to legal adjudication and argumentation. What we have found through engagement with people during our artistic exhibitions (which you can see here: https://www.sfjp.law.ed.ac.uk/virtual-exhibition/) is that people have generally been surprised to realise the significance that a feminist perspective holds for law. Excitingly, they have also reported in feedback to us feeling energised and empowered to go on to work for progressive legal change. This feeling of activism and desire for change has been especially powerful in our engagements with students. We travelled around Scotland by bicycle – a symbol of women’s emancipation) doing FJP workshops with students in Scottish law Schools and raising funds for Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid and Scottish Trans Alliance (detailed further here https://www.sfjp.law.ed.ac.uk/updates/), and later also travelled to talk with students in Leeds and Coventry. By showing students the value of seeing things from different perspectives, we empower them to improve their legal analysis skills, capacity for compassion, and ability to work in reflective, collaborative, and consensus-building ways.
What have your career journeys consisted of so far?
Vanessa: I did both my LLB and PhD at Glasgow University, with a short stint at the Australian National University during the final year of my PhD. My PhD looked at approaches to consent in relation to rape and enforced caesarean section operations, and was mostly a theoretical study of understandings of women’s agency in those contexts. Since then, I’ve taught at a number of Universities, and have held Professor posts at Nottingham, Leicester and Warwick. My research has continued to use a feminist and theory-informed lens to look at issues around women’s agency and embodiment, but it has become increasingly empirical as it has progressed, and I have done a lot of more applied work exploring decision-makers’ assessments of credibility, for example, in asylum and criminal justice contexts.
Chloë: I received my LLB (hons) from the University of Glasgow and spent one semester of this at the University of Sydney, where I was fortunate to be taught ‘Gender and Law’ by Prof Reg Graycar. Both my postgraduate degrees (LLM and PhD) are from the University of Edinburgh, where I am now Senior Lecturer in Criminal Law. My broad research interests are criminal law, legal theory, legal history, and the relationships between these areas. My work has also focussed on law and gender and law and religion. Across all these areas I have been especially interested in trying to work out how prevailing intellectual and cultural forces have shaped the law’s development and continue to inform our contemporary assumptions. I have just begun a two year research fellowship during which I will write a critical history of identity deception, focussing primarily on deceptively induced intimacy. The project aims to construct a genealogy of the challenges that currently exist in debates about whether and how the law ought to respond to deceptively induced intimacy, including whether it is appropriate for the state to intervene, what kind of legal response is fitting, which kinds of deceptions ought to trigger a response and what kind of conduct should be considered ‘deceptive’.
Sharon: I did my LLB at Strathclyde University almost 100 years ago now, followed by an MPhil in Criminology at the University of Cambridge. I was then a researcher at the LSE for a couple of years before starting my PhD at the University of Brunel. I was then a temporary lecturer at Warwick for 3 years before joining the law school in Edinburgh in 2004, where I am now the Professor of Feminist and Queer Legal Studies. I have been thinking and writing about issues of gender, sex and sexuality since my LLB, and my teaching and research in criminal law (particularly sexual offences), asylum law, and legal theory is informed by feminist and queer perspectives. My current work – apart from the Scottish Feminist Judgments Project and its legacies – focuses on the impact of law on trans people, and the use of sexual history evidence and other private data in sexual offences trials.
Have there ever been points in your degree or career where you have felt that being a woman has disadvantaged you? On the other hand, has there been any times that you have felt being a woman has motivated you further?
Vanessa: There have certainly been points in my career when I have been made to feel very aware of my gender, and while overt discrimination has been rare, there have been many occasions when I have seen how behavioural traits often associated more with men than women have been privileged. Since becoming a mum, I think it is fair to say that I have had a ‘renewed appreciation’ of structural barriers that apply disproportionately to women.
Chloë: During my time in academia, I have been affected by a number of the general issues that afflict academics, including poor mental health, a culture of overwork, and ever-decreasing time for research. I’ve also been affected by some of the issues that are inherently gendered, such as sexual harassment, disproportionately onerous student demands, and imposter phenomenon (I purposefully avoid the term ‘imposter syndrome’). Perhaps perversely, these have simultaneously disadvantaged me and motivated me.
Sharon: This is an interesting question. Speaking as a white, cis, able-bodied and middle-class queer woman with no parental or other care-taking responsibilities, I’d say I am now relatively privileged in life generally, as well as in academia. That doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced discrimination or sexual harassment, or been overlooked or overworked because of gender as well as other issues, just that I know that issues of precarity and inequality are particularly real and destabilising for those who are just starting out on this career path. My relative privilege, and now my relative seniority, gives me a certain amount of authority and power in the workplace that I did not have when I joined the overwhelmingly male, white environment that was Edinburgh Law School in 2004 – which, to be honest, I struggled to cope with, but in the long run, was motivated by, to try to change that environment.
What do you see as your greatest achievements in your career journey so far?
Vanessa: That’s a tricky question. There are a lot of things I am proud of having achieved, including influencing courtroom practice in relation to judicial directions in rape cases and the use of special measures for vulnerable witnesses. I am also pretty proud, to be honest, of managing – on most days, albeit not as seamlessly as I might like – the constant juggle required between work and family life. But maybe – if I can slightly change the question! – the thing I most hope to have been able to do in my career so far is illustrate the power of collaborative working within academia, and I hope that I’ve been able to do a decent job as part of that, of supporting my female colleagues in the places in which I have worked.
Chloë: I am proud of the research successes I have achieved, including recently securing a large research grant, but I am also very proud of the recognition my teaching has received and I’m proud of the work I did as Senior Tutor in my School (head of pastoral care). For various reasons, good teaching and conscientious administration tends to be sidelined in Universities, at least in comparison to good research, but I see these as important parts of our job and feel that they can be very rewarding. I have also been really proud of the way some of the work I (we) have done, often as part of the Scottish Feminist Judgments Project, has been picked up outside academia. Doing something that has encouraged people who might have little knowledge or experience of the law to ask questions about who it serves and who it marginalises is something I consider a great achievement.
Sharon: The parts I most enjoy and I hope make the most difference are the mentoring roles I have had – particularly supervising PhD students – and where I get to work with people who allow me to see things differently, and work in a more activist way. For example, working with trans people for nearly ten years has taught me a huge amount about the anticipated and unanticipated impacts of law in practice on marginalised and vulnerable people, and how to work within and outwith the law at the same time to try to achieve change. And I should also say I love being the professor of feminist and queer legal studies – as far as I know I am the only person with either of those two descriptors in their title at Edinburgh. I am really proud of this and hope it would inspire others to push have their perspectives taken seriously, even where those perspectives seem peripheral.
Finally, what does being a woman in law mean to you?
Vanessa: Being a woman in law means, to me, an act of resistance by being present. 100 years after women were allowed to act as solicitors, that really should not be the case, but I still think it is. It means refusing to uncritically accept claims to law’s neutrality and objectivity, asking from whose perspective are we assessing truth and justice, and attending to the voices and perspectives that are silenced or marginalized in that process. It also means working with rather than competing against colleagues, finding solidarity in shared narratives and goals, and always having a feminist slogan on my coffee cup in the office.
Chloë: For me, being a woman in law means being part of an important minority (this is especially the case in some areas of legal academia, e.g. legal philosophy and legal history). I hope this has taught me something about the importance of listening to and valuing other (of course, different in many ways) minority voices. For me, it also means trying to work, where I can, to make the experience of being a woman in law (or anywhere else) better, while remembering that what it means to make this happen is deeply context-specific.
Sharon: I’d say law needs to be challenged from a range of different perspectives, and part of being a woman in law for me means trying to make space for especially marginalised perspectives in conversations about how law affects our lives, and the best way to create communities of change.
SFJP Website: https://www.sfjp.law.ed.ac.uk/
SFJP Podcast: https://www.sfjp.law.ed.ac.uk/podcast/
SFJP Twitter: @ScottishFemJP
Dr. Karla Perez Portilla
This week’s ‘Women in Law Wednesday’ is Dr. Karla Perez Portilla, who has been a lecturer here at GCU Law since October 2018. We were keen to talk to her not only because of how her career relates to law, but because of how her legal work intersects with social justice. In fact, we approached her for the project after she delivered an extremely interesting lecture on ‘Feminism and Jurisprudence’ to LLB3 last semester. Karla has given some brilliant and insightful answers about her career progression and what it means to be a woman in law.
Karla explains that her ‘career started in Mexico researching and teaching Constitutional Law, Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’. She has also ‘been a guest lecturer at the University of Strathclyde and Teaching Fellow at University College London, Faculty of Law’ which is where she completed her PhD. When asked about her career journey, Karla explained once she had graduated it was not easy to find a job in the UK. On top of this, she was also a new mum. She ‘therefore started volunteering, and little by little, I built my reputation in Glasgow, combining my academic experience with ‘hands-on’ work for the third sector’. Her work in the third sector consisted of prejudice reduction programmes, delivering training and implementing and evaluating interventions. She was a community practitioner which, she explains, ‘was a role that has enriched and informed my teaching methods and approaches’. She has brought this experience she speaks of into her role at GCU Law.
We asked Karla what she believes her greatest achievements were in her career journey so far. She explains that as she likes thinking and developing ideas and theories with practical application that a highlight in her career has been to have published two different single author books with renowned publishing house – one in English and one in Spanish. She explains, ‘it is unusual to publish a book based on an LLB dissertation in Mexico and having published a revised version of my PhD thesis with Routledge, is equally joyful.’ Further to this Karla explains that the revised version allowed her to ‘expand the linguistic extent of her contributions to legal knowledge’ and demonstrate her ‘commitment to social justice and academic rigour’.
There are various reasons, Karla says, for why these publications were a highlight in her career but she notes two specific reasons. Firstly, ‘the crave for and the difficulties in achieving recognition as a woman of colour’ and secondly because it has given her the opportunity to use her books ‘in academic settings and within the wider community in international and local conferences, specialised courses, training programmes, academic modules and diplomas both in Mexico and in the UK.’
In response to a question about gender balance in the LLB, Karla explains that there is not much difference between the students at GCU Law and the students where she completed her degree in Mexico, ‘there are still many women at the beginning of a law degree and very few making it to the top, in virtually all sectors.’ An interesting insight into the universality of the issue.
We next wanted to ask Karla about whether she has ever felt disadvantaged as a woman in law, ‘as a woman generally and as a woman from an ethnic minority background in the UK, I have always felt that I have to work harder, stay longer, excel, etc… I have felt this pressure both in Mexico and in the UK.’
On the other hand, she feels that:
‘Being a woman from an ethnic minority background with experience of migration has helped me make meaningful contributions to academia and in practice. Lived experience coupled with rigorous research and practical work allows us to provide valuable insights in order to bring about positive exchange.’
She finishes her answer with an interesting insight; ‘I think it is fair to say that, to a large extent, lived experience is a basic ingredient for bringing about social justice.’
Finally, as we ask all our interviewees, we asked Karla what being a woman in law meant to her:
‘It means the need to recognise that being a woman is a range of experiences shaped by skin colour, ethnic origin, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic background, religion, etc.
For me, being a woman in law means a desire and the possibility to make the understanding and use of such terms, one that actually includes the diversity, roles and identities of women. I believe that we have to make a conscious effort to identify, seek to portray and celebrate the experiences of those overlooked or marginalised. It would be useful to make the most of the concept of intersectionality, as coined by Kimberle Crenshaw, in order to include and make visible a range of real lived experiences, histories, challenges and achievements.’
We thank Karla for her valuable contribution to the project. We hope that her inspired words have provoked thought about how the law can be used for social justice.
By Lucy Mackay LLB3
For this week’s ‘Women in Law Wednesday’ we have chosen Seonaid Stevenson-McCabe, who we had the pleasure of talking to. We found out all about her journey in the legal profession so far, discussed inequality in law and some inspiring advice was shared.
In her relatively short career Seonaid has achieved an incredible amount. In 2012 she graduated with a 1st class degree in Law and English Literature from the University of Glasgow before studying for an LLM in International Law, which was funded by the Carnegie Cameron Scholarship. She then worked at the International Criminal Court in The Hague before returning to Glasgow to study for the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice (graduating first in her year). Seonaid then trained at Maclay, Murray and Spens (now Dentons) and is now a human rights lawyer with The Ethnic Minorities Law Centre in Glasgow. She also works part time as a Research Assistant with the University of Glasgow on their project celebrating the centenary of women in law (https://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/law/100years/).
Seonaid is the co-founder of RebLaw Scotland, something that we were especially interested in talking to her about. Throughout the interview, the clear theme was Seonaid’s passion for social justice and using law as a tool to achieve that. Which is exactly what the ‘rebellious lawyering’ project is about. ‘Rebellious lawyering’ is a movement founded by the UCLA academic, Professor Gerald López, which has resulted in the annual Yale RebLaw conference. Seonaid attended the first RebLaw conference in the UK in London during her traineeship and brought the idea of a similar Scottish conference back up to Glasgow. She co-founded RebLaw Scotland with Mairi McAllan and Katy MacAskill, women who she trained with at Maclay Murray Spens. The friendship between the three, Seonaid notes, was one of the highlights of her traineeship.
RebLaw Scotland hosts an annual conference, where they bring together professionals from the third sector, from academia, and practising lawyers, to talk about tackling social problems through radical lawyering. In recent years they have discussed legal responses to homelessness, refugee rights and tackling forced marriage. Seonaid also talks of other plans, such as visiting law schools around Scotland in the new year. We would strongly encourage anyone reading to keep an eye out for upcoming RebLaw Scotland events!
Another interesting part of Seonaid’s journey so far is that she initially did not want to be a practicing solicitor. When she first went into her undergraduate degree, she wanted to be a journalist but realised that she did really enjoy the law, even the ‘boring’ bits! She still however did not opt to do the diploma after graduation and worked for a small charity as a research and policy officer before completing her LLM. She then started work at the International Criminal Court, which is where she finally decided she wanted to qualify as a lawyer. In The Hague she saw human rights law in practice and decided that she wanted to be able to advocate on behalf of victims of human rights abuses in the judicial system. This is what then pushed her to go back to Glasgow and undertake the diploma and traineeship.
Despite her achievements, Seonaid was keen to explain that it hasn’t been all plain sailing and she points to many incredible women in her life who have helped her along the way. She highlighted in particular the support of her mum, who is also a lawyer, which she notes has undeniably placed her in a privileged position. She said “I think every achievement I have ever made is thanks to her” and that, therefore, “women supporting women is such an important principle for me.”
As an example of this, Seonaid told us about feeling like an imposter when she first moved to The Hague. Helena Kennedy QC, author of ‘Eve Was Framed’ (and more recently ‘Eve Was Shamed’) had long been an inspiration for Seonaid. Helena Kennedy QC was an alumna of Seonaid’s secondary school, one of the largest comprehensive schools in the UK. Seonaid explained that she would regularly read ‘Eve Was Framed’ as a source of inspiration when her confidence was failing. Struggling with her confidence when she first moved to The Hague, Seonaid picked up the book and decided to email Helena Kennedy QC to thank her, never expecting a response. She was stunned to receive a reply, filled with encouragement. This small act of kindness demonstrated to Seonaid how powerful it can be for women to support one another. She goes on to explain that the feeling that she got from the email – that she was not alone – inspires her work with the University of Glasgow ‘100 Voices for 100 Years’ project. “When you read the voices of other women saying isn’t this hard, isn’t this difficult, it makes you realise that it is not just you that feels like that, other women do too.” She explained that the project is a space for talking about gender equality but that there also needs to be wider changes in terms of diversity in the legal profession, particularly in terms of representation of those from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Finally, we asked Seonaid the question we ask all our interviewees – what does being a women in law mean to you?
“It means that I am in a privileged position to use my voice to support vulnerable women. I try to do that in my work with migrant women, and I try to do that to support other women in law to achieve what they want to. Being a lawyer is a massive privilege and I think that we should use that little bit of power for good.”
We are very grateful to Seonaid for sitting down with us and talking about her experiences, and we think she may be on the receiving end of emails such as the one she sent to Helena Kennedy QC in the not too distant future.
By Lucy Mackay and Simona Gesheva, LLB3
Our Women in Law Wednesday this week is Cheryl Liddell. Cheryl studied Law at GCU and was also the Student Director of the Law Clinic in her 4thyear. Now that she has completed her diploma and is embarking on her traineeship, we caught up with her so that we could find out where she is now, get some advice for those following the same path as her and ask her opinion on the ‘women in law’ project..
We started by asking her the – rather generic – question, what inspired you to choose law? Cheryl replied with a rather generic (her words) answer, saying that law had always seemed really interesting on TV programmes. She explained that no one in her family had ever been to University so she didn’t have anyone to talk to who had done law, so she decided to go to college for two years first. She admitted that she enjoyed it so much more than she thought she would, so decided to progress into the LLB at GCU. Due to the two years she spent at college, she felt this gave her a helpful start in 1st year as she had covered a lot of the content already. Third year was where it started to get harder for her (as we all know too well).
Talking more about her time at GCU, Cheryl mentioned two of the GCU Law lecturers, Claire McFadzean and Alison Britton. She had worked with Claire through the Law Clinic and found her move from private practice to academia inspiring as a law student, similarly with Alison’s involvement with the Scottish Government, taking seminars and mountain climbing feats.
Moving on to her involvement with the Law Clinic, Cheryl explains that she was involved with the Law Clinic from 1styear. She stressed the importance of this involvement from the start of her degree throughout her interview, and encourages future managers to make sure that they are making 1st year students feel valued and involved. Talking of her achievements in the clinic, Cheryl explains that while she was student director the Law Clinic started to get recognised in the wider community and began to win awards. She attributes this to past managers as well. She also explains that she went to court once when volunteering at the Law Clinic, which as well as being an achievement at the time is also helping her with the litigation side of her traineeship now.
Moving on to where she is now, Cheryl explains that she is doing in house traineeship at Arnold Clark, which she is really enjoying. It is different from traditional traineeships in the sense that you do not get given seats, you are essentially there for any legal need that the company has. Anyone can come round and ask you a question. There is not the same hierarchy that there is in private practice, people from other departments will ask you for the same help whether you are a trainee or not. While she explains this can be a good thing, it can also be challenging as there are not as many people to ask for advice as in private practice. If someone chooses to come to her with her problem, which can be to do with a large range of legal issues, it is her responsibility to handle it.
Discussing her journey into her traineeship, Cheryl explains that she did not specifically choose to go in house. She began at Arnold Clark as a legal advisor, after a couple of months her boss offered her a traineeship. A good point to note for anyone who is feeling stressed about going into the diploma without a traineeship.
We then moved on to chat more about ‘women in law’. We asked her if she had ever felt disadvantaged as a woman in law, or alternatively, motivated. She explains that, although it is not a direct disadvantage to her, it is strange to go from the degree where classes are 80% female, to having 1 female to 10 males in practice. It is a stark difference and she wonders where everyone went. She definitely finds that being a woman motivates her. She wants to support the other women that she knows in the profession, explaining that, for example, if a job came up she would be more likely to send it to her female friends.
Finally, the question we ask every week, what does being a women in law mean to you? ‘It shows the development of how far women have come in law. So this project is obviously to commemorate the first 100 years of women entering the legal profession. The fact that when you look around the classroom that there can be 90% females, when 100 years ago we wouldn’t even be able to enter the profession. Now we have figures like Lady Hale. It shows society’s progression and their support of females in more extensive ways allowing them to do things that were once perceived as strictly ‘male jobs.’
Thank you to Cheryl for meeting us and getting involved with the project!
By Lucy Mackay and Simona Gesheva, LLB3
For this week’s ‘Women in Law Wednesday’, we reached out to former GCU Law student and Operations Manager of the Law Clinic, Patricia Taylor. As part of the project, it is important to us that we are celebrating women at all stages of their journey in the legal profession. It therefore made sense for us to approach Patricia to find out where she is now after leaving GCU and the Law Clinic and ask for her thoughts on Women in Law…
After gaining a First Class Honours in the LLB, Patricia undertook the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Glasgow. She is now over halfway through her traineeship with the international firm DWF, currently sitting in the Commercial Litigation department. Alongside this, Patricia is a committee member of the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association and a mentor under the Law Society of Scotland’s Mentoring Scheme (links to both will be at the end of the blog).
As part of the ‘Women in Law’ project we hope to inspire young women who are embarking on their journey into the legal profession. We therefore wanted to ask Patricia if there were any moments throughout her studies or current career that particularly inspired her. Responding to this question, Patricia explains, “If you’d have told me seven years ago, when I was but a nervous first year (carrying around ‘Woolman on Contract’ like it was another limb), that I’d now be a year away from becoming a solicitor in a commercial firm, I’d probably have had to thoroughly google what that would even entail.” She goes on however, ‘A second year lecture on corporate law peaked that interest, and was funnily enough delivered by GCU [Law Clinic’s] ‘Woman in Law’ [two weeks ago], Claire McFadzean. Claire’s practical insights, humorous quips, and indeed honesty, as to the realities of the commercial world, meant that this is a career I’ve been pursuing ever since’. Firstly, I believe that there may not be a Law student that cannot relate to the image of being that scared 1st year. Secondly, Patricia gaining inspiration from our Academic Director (a theme we may see recurring) encapsulates the spirit of the project perfectly. Patricia then went on to praise her family, “my Mum and Gran actively placed no limits on what I could become, regardless of my background or gender.” She qualifies this by pointing out another recurring theme within the project that, “ultimately, it is easier said than done, and our sector has some way to go in embodying that message itself, but I do (and must) believe that we will get there”. Something I am sure we can all agree on.
This leads on to the next question that we put to Patricia, ‘Has there ever been a point in your degree or career where you have felt that being a woman has disadvantaged you’. She gave a very profound answer, “At a recent roundtable discussion, we examined the Law Society of Scotland’s publication, ‘Profile of the Profession’. This uncovered statistics relating to the issue (amongst others) of unconscious bias, which continues to pose a prevalent issue within the legal sphere.”
Although I do not feel that being a woman has disadvantaged me in my career so far, this is not cause for complacency, for I am one of the lucky ones. Further, I appreciate that I am a “small fish in a big pond”; aware that the age-old glass-ceiling may very well present itself in the face of my progression.”
She finishes her answer with a hopeful message, “I do believe, however, that the tide is shifting. Encouragingly, conversations on these issues are increasing, as is awareness and activism for change”. The message that Patricia is sending here is a very important one: just because it isn’t directly affecting you presently, does not mean it is not there or does not affect other people. We hope to continue the conversation that she speaks of through this project.
Finally, as we will ask all of our interviewees in this series, we found out what being a Woman in Law means to Patricia. “Being a trainee solicitor is a privilege in its own right, additionally so, when I consider being a woman in law. I recently attended the Law Society’s Annual Conference, where a speaker remarked that we, as women in law in 2019, are “standing on the shoulders of giants.” It reminded me of the following by Rupi Kaur: “I stand on the sacrifices of a million women before me, thinking, what can I do to make this mountain taller, so that the women after me, can see farther?”. And frankly, we, men and women alike, cannot let them down.”
We thank Patricia for her valuable contribution to the project and we hope that reading her insights into the topic and about her career has inspired other LLB students hoping to follow along the same path.
By Lucy Mackay, LLB3
Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association upcoming events: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/scottish-young-lawyers-association-1867524801
Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association website: http://www.syla.co.uk/
Law Society of Scotland Mentoring Scheme: https://www.lawscot.org.uk/members/career-growth/mentoring/
As part of our ongoing ‘Women in Law Wednesday’ series on our social media we chose to put our Academic Director, Claire McFadzean, in the spotlight. As well as being the Academic Director of GCU Law Clinic, Claire is also a Lecturer in Law here at GCU, a Solicitor and a Senior Fellow (HEA). We have chosen Claire this week not only because she is a driving force behind the Women in Law project and the clinic, but also because she provides all of us here at the clinic with guidance and support in pursuing our own careers as women in law. Anyone that has taken a module run by Claire will know how valuable her lessons are. As well as taking you through what you need to pass the module, Claire’s classes always focus on skills that you can take forward into your career. When moving into 3rdand 4thyear and applying for traineeships, it becomes clear how important this is.
When we asked Claire about her career journey so far, she said, ‘I am very proud to have qualified as a solicitor and worked for a number of years within the legal profession as a commercial lawyer. In 2006 I decided to alter the trajectory of my career and moved from practice to academia. I now have the privilege of teaching the next generation of lawyers.’
We also asked her what being a ‘woman in law’ means to her.
‘Throughout my career I have had the pleasure of working with a number of inspirational women who have provided me with both support and opportunity for development through their mentoring. As a woman in law I think it is important to pay this forward for the next generation of women’.