Women raise the bar

At the recent annual conference of the bar, one of the topics under discussion was – predictably – diversity. How can this ultra-traditional profession keep attracting women and ethnic minorities to practice?Last week 7 Bedford Row helped demonstrate one way, by electing one of its two female silks to the position of head of chambers. Kate Thirlwell QC takes over from David Farrar QC – the first woman to hold the role in her set and only the fourth woman in the bar’s top 30 sets to be head of chambers at present.

The others, in case you’re wondering, are Elizabeth Appleby QC at 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, Frances Patterson QC at King’s Chambers and, of course, Matrix Chambers’ Clare Montgomery QC.

The election of Thirlwell and her fellow heads is an encouraging sign for younger female barristers that it is possible to get to the top of the profession. Is the old boys’ network beginning to crumble?