Women in the Law: Rising to the Top

5th June 2014

News, Student news, Alumni news

Addressing the mismatch between the number of women working in the law at entry level and those that manage rise to the top, was the theme of a panel discussion marking the 40 years of women at Wadham celebrations this year.

  • Panellists Timothy Endicott, Dean of the Faculty of Law and Professor of Legal Philosophy, University of Oxford; Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions; Brenda Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Deputy President, Supreme Court of the United Kingdom; Kathleen Sullivan, Partner, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, Former Dean, Stanford Law School

  • Kathleen Sullivan, Partner, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, Former Dean, Stanford Law School

  • Susan Bright, Regional Managing Partner, UK and Africa, Hogan Lovells

  • Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions

  • Ken Macdonald QC, Warden, Wadham College

  • Brenda Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Deputy President, Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

  • Hogan Lovells office in London

Generously hosted by Hogan Lovells LLP in London, Susan Bright, Regional Managing Partner for UK and Africa introduced the distinguished panel.

Kathleen Sullivan (1976, PPE), partner of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and former Dean of the Stanford Law School chaired the panel. Commenting on the benefits of mentoring schemes and the need to praise women when they are succeeding in the law she said: “The power of example is an important one.”  

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions and the first DPP to be appointed from within the Crown Prosecution Service remarked on the success of the public sector in attracting women. “Over sixty percent of lawyers in the CPS are now women and fifty percent of crown prosecutors are women,” she said. She admitted that the benefits of a defined salary, paid maternity leave and pension made it easier for women with child care responsibilities to opt for public rather than private sector employment.

Baroness Hale of Richmond, the only woman who sits on the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, added that public service has been committed to equal opportunities for longer than the private and it was easier to see bias creeping into smaller private practices.

“In the sixties, most barristers’ chambers had one woman member…it was a challenge to be the second,” she said. She commented that in order to help women get to the top in the law there are things that required attention at every level of the profession, adding that there are a lot of good things happening in judicial appointments.

Alison Saunders noted that one good change is that women are putting themselves forward more. “Do not tone yourself down or limit yourself,” she advised the audience. Saunders believes that more movement across from the public to the private sector and back could also be advantageous to women at different times in their careers.

Professor Timothy Endicott, Dean of the Oxford Law Faculty and Professor of Legal Philosophy Timothy encouraged women to think about an academic career in law, stating that it didn’t compete with the Bar in terms of salary, but among other advantages it offered flexibility and time to focus on particular issues.

Ken Macdonald QC, Warden of Wadham College, ended the discussion inviting the gathering of some 100 Oxford alumni and friends to a drinks reception, followed by a dinner for the panellists and guests.

This event is part of a series of special events over the course of 2014 to celebrate 40 years of co-education at Oxford, commemorating the impact that women have made on college and University life. More information can be found here.

Panel biographies

Alison Saunders
Director of Public Prosecutions
Alison Saunders was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions on 1 November 2013; she is the first DPP to be appointed from within the Crown Prosecution Service. As a barrister, she joined the CPS in 1986, the year it was formed. Prior to that, she worked at Lloyds of London following her pupilage. Alison spent her early CPS career prosecuting in CPS London South. In 1991 she moved to the CPS Policy Directorate where she developed an expertise in issues involving child victims and witnesses. Alison re-joined CPS London in 1997 and was promoted to Assistant Chief Crown Prosecutor in 1999. In 2001, Alison became Chief Crown Prosecutor for Sussex, and in 2003 took up the post of Deputy Legal Advisor to the Attorney General. She then re-joined the CPS a further two years later where she set up and headed the Organised Crime Division. In December 2009, Alison was appointed the Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS London and led the significant restructure of the Area. While at CPS London, Alison was also heavily involved in high profile cases such as the retrial in Stephen Lawrence’s murder case and the London disorder cases. In the 2013 New Year Honours, she was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) "for services to Law and Order especially after the 2011 London Riots".

Brenda Hale
Baroness Hale of Richmond
Deputy President, Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
Lady Hale was appointed Deputy President of The Supreme Court in June 2013, succeeding Lord Hope of Craighead.
In January 2004, Lady Hale became the United Kingdom’s first woman Lord of Appeal in Ordinary after a varied career as an academic lawyer, law reformer, and judge. In October 2009 she became the first woman Justice of The Supreme Court. After graduating from Cambridge in 1966, she taught law at the University of Manchester, also qualifying as a barrister and practising for a while at the Manchester Bar. She specialised in Family and Social Welfare law, was founding editor of the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, and authored a pioneering case book on ‘The Family, Law and Society’. In 1984 she was the first woman to be appointed to the Law Commission, a statutory body which promotes the reform of the law. Important legislation resulting from the work of her team at the Commission includes the Children Act 1989, the Family Law Act 1996, and the Mental Capacity Act 2005. In 1994 she became a High Court judge, the first to have made her career as an academic and public servant rather than a practising barrister. In 1999 she was the second woman to be promoted to the Court of Appeal, before becoming the first woman Law Lord. Today she retains her links with the academic world as Chancellor of the University of Bristol, and Visiting Professor of Kings College London.

Kathleen Sullivan
Partner, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP
Former Dean of the Stanford Law School
Kathleen Sullivan (PPE, 1976) is a partner in the New York office of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and the chair of its national appellate practice. Widely recognised as a preeminent figure in the US appellate bar, she was named once again in 2013 to The National Law Journal’s occasional list of The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America, which noted her “awesome mastery of the case’s facts and the nuances of the law” in her recent winning Supreme Court arguments in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. She has also been recognised by Benchmark Litigation/Euromoney as one of the Top 10 Women Litigators in the US, ten consecutive times by the Daily Journal as one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in California, and twice by The American Lawyer Litigation Daily as Litigator of the Week, and was featured in the cover story of The American Lawyer in December 2013.
After spending more than two decades in academia as a professor at Harvard Law School and Stanford Law School, including five years as Stanford Law’s Dean, Sullivan joined the upstart Quinn Emanuel in 2005. Today she represents a wide range of clients, including Shell Oil, Samsung, Motorola, Google, Coca-Cola, Cisco, Oracle and AIG. She has argued eight cases before the United States Supreme Court and numerous cases in the US courts of appeals, US district courts, and state high courts. In her years as a law professor, she taught constitutional law to a generation of law students, published numerous articles in leading US law reviews, and edited the leading casebook on US constitutional law, which she continues to publish. She has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and was recently elected an Honorary Fellow of Wadham College.


Ken Macdonald
The Lord Macdonald of River Glaven QC
Warden, Wadham College

Lord Macdonald of River Glaven became Warden of Wadham College in 2012. As Head of College, Ken Macdonald chairs its Governing Body and oversees Wadham’s progress and development. Prior to arriving at Wadham, Ken had practised at the Bar since 1978. A founder member of Matrix Chambers, he was appointed a Recorder of the Crown Court in 2001 and elected Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association in 2003. Later that year he became Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and remained in post for five years. Completing his term as DPP in 2008, he returned to private practice, becoming a trustee of Index on Censorship, the leading free expression advocacy group, and succeeding Lord Bingham of Cornhill as Chair of Reprieve, the anti-death penalty organisation. He became a Deputy High Court Judge in 2010, and he was appointed to the House of Lords in the same year.

Timothy Endicott
Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Legal Philosophy
University of Oxford
Timothy Endicott (Corpus Christi, Comparative Philology, 1983) has been Dean of the Faculty of Law since October 2007. He is a Fellow in Law at Balliol College, and has been a Professor of Legal Philosophy since 2006. Professor Endicott writes on Jurisprudence and Constitutional and Administrative Law, with special interests in law and language and interpretation. He is the author of Vagueness in Law (OUP 2000), and Administrative Law (OUP 2009). After graduating with the AB in Classics and English, summa cum laude, from Harvard, he completed the MPhil in Comparative Philology in Oxford, studied Law at the University of Toronto, and practised as a litigation lawyer in Toronto. He completed the DPhil in legal philosophy in Oxford in 1998.

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