Growing role for women in courts

WOMEN have continued to play a greater role in the law since Lady Cosgrove’s trailblazing appointment as a judge in 1996.

Lady (Ann) Paton was elevated to the bench in 2000, and Lady (Anne) Smith joined the growing band the following year.

It means women account for almost a tenth of Scotland’s judicial complement of 32, still on the low side but a big change in a short time.

The number of female sheriffs has also increased over the same six year period, from eight to 21.

Lynda Clark, QC, was the first woman to become a law officer on her appointment in 1999 as Advocate-General for Scotland, who advises the Westminster government on Scots law.

She has been followed by Elish Angiolini, QC, who was the first woman and the first solicitor to hold the post of Solicitor-General for Scotland, second in command to the Lord Advocate in the prosecution service.

The Law Society of Scotland has seen its roll of female solicitors rise from 3,469 to 4,443 between 1996 and 2002, while the male roll has gone from 6,500 to 6,633.

Carly Nield, who works for a firm in Aberdeen, holds the distinction of being the youngest person to start as a trainee solicitor, at age 20.

The Faculty of Advocates has 97 female members to 339 males, a ratio thought impossible a decade ago when, as one woman said: "You could have virtually counted our numbers on the fingers of one hand."

Interestingly, half of those admitted to the bar last year were women, and nine of the 25 currently "devilling" (serving an apprenticeship) are female.

Nine women now hold the rank of Queen’s Counsel, the title given to senior advocates. It may not seem a remarkable figure, but when Lynda Clark took silk in 1989, she was the first woman in 25 years to do so, and only the third in Scotland. Dame Margaret Kidd was the first, in 1948, and Isabel Sinclair the second, in 1964.

Leeona Dorrian QC was the first woman to be appointed a High Court prosecutor, in 1988.