Clodagh Bradley QC and Jessica Elliott reflect on life at the bar from Silk and junior perspectives to honour Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day.
Is there a piece of advice you can pass along? If someone does a good job, tell them. Getting positive feedback might just give them the confidence they need to take the next step in their career or just have a better day. If they do an exceptional job, you could even volunteer to be a referee for them should they ever need one. Someone did this to me and it was the boost I needed to be brave enough to apply for Silk. I owe them a debt of gratitude.
What has surprised you about being a barrister? That I won’t be retiring at the age of 50, as I’d assumed when I was called to the Bar at the tender age of 22!
What made you choose the Bar? The privilege of doing challenging work which is a key event in my clients’ lives, with the potential of making a difference for the better.
What has changed since you were Called to the Bar? Women are now allowed to wear trousers! I was warned not to when I was a pupil, even though female barristers had just been given permission to do so.
On a more serious note, there’s a far greater ambition to achieve equality at the Bar, but there’s still plenty more work to be done. The experience of Covid-19 shows that many women have taken on a greater share than their male counterparts of domestic and caring responsibilities at the expense of their work or their own wellbeing or both. We need to do what we can to support and retain women so that we do not lose out on their experience and talent. It has been a very tough year for very many people, in particular those with caring responsibilities or those trying to embark upon their career. It is essential that the progress we’ve made to improve diversity is not undone by the events of the last year.
Is there a piece of advice you can pass along? It is not so much about making the right decision – there will often be two reasonable choices. The skill is making the best of the path you have chosen.
What has surprised you about being a barrister? How much of a laugh we have in chambers outside of work.
What made you choose the Bar? While there is some luck involved, a career at the Bar is what you make of it.
Finally, a book recommendation? “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom” by Yeonmi Park