Bar Council releases statement on men-only clubs

updated on 02 April 2024

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The Bar Council has commented on the existence of men-only clubs in a statement released last week. This comes after recent headlines about several leading judges who are members at the Garrick Club in London, alongside 150 barristers.

In the statement, the representative body doesn’t explicitly condemn the gentlemen’s club, but it does reference the Bar Council’s “commitment to fairness, equality and diversity”. According to the statement, it is currently down to individual practitioners to decide whether or not to join exclusionary clubs such as the Garrick Club. Although the Bar Council warns that this stance may change to “retain the trust and confidence of the public”.

For many in the profession, this doesn’t go far enough to combat issues of sexism and inequality. The Law Gazette reports that more than 60 lawyers have called for all judges to resign their memberships in an open letter.

Sam Townend KC, chair of the Bar Council, states that: “Closed doors and exclusionary spaces do not foster support or collaboration between colleagues […] Where progression from the legal profession into the judiciary relies on references, they create the potential for unfair advantage.”

He points to evidence that women working in the legal profession at all levels face discrimination in the workplace and comments that “women barristers have not yet secured equal representation or remuneration in our profession and are underrepresented in the judiciary”.

Last week the Guardian reported that, as of 25 March, four senior judges have resigned from the Garrick Club, including Lord Justice of Appeal Sir Keith Lindblom and High Court judges Nicholas Cusworth, Nicholas Lavender and Ian Dove.