AWB puts gender on the agenda

The incoming chair of the Association of Women Barristers (AWB) is launching a campaign to vet all new legislation for its impact on women.

Helene Pines Richman, a tenant at 9 Stone Buildings, was inaugurated as the AWB's chairwoman last week. The first American to chair the association, she now wants to set up a “Gender Health-Check” programme.

Richman says: “Legislative tracking is essential. You must catch problems before the legislation is in place to avoid wasted costs in litigation and the difficulty of changing an act of Parliament.”

She is also launching a research project to look at the way gender, both of client and lawyer, affects the outcome of cases in the civil courts.

“It is a subject about which we know relatively little in this country,” says Richman. “However, there is strong anecdotal evidence that women tend to get a raw deal in the civil courts.”

The final element of her three-point agenda is an enhanced programme of participation by AWB members in the Bar Council's pro bono unit, particularly to support test cases involving women and children's rights.

However, Richman says this agenda will in no way lessen the 500-strong association's bid for a seat on the Bar Council or its campaign for fairness in appointments to the judiciary, silk and the Treasury counsel.

Richman moved to England nine years ago. She has a varied chancery practice which undertakes work on conflict of laws and cross-border disputes.