Can you represent equality for employees and female rights in coporate law ?

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Cheesecake04
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... as a barrister ?
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Cheesecake04
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This is only because you're obviously focusing on the businesses during this but can you also focus on the female employees within this ?
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Crazy Jamie
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The answer may vary here depending on what exactly you mean, but generally speaking, not really, no.

A couple of basics to begin with. First, you're not talking about corporate law. You're talking about employment law, and specifically discrimination, equal pay (which is not discrimination) and potentially other areas such as flexible working (which is a distinct employment right). A lot of different areas of law overlap within the general field of equality law. Not all discrimination relates to sex (in fact, in terms of litigation only a minority does) and not all discrimination cases are in employment law (most are, but discrimination cases can also be brought in the First Tier Tribunal in education cases and the County Court or High Court in other areas).

Second, you need to be aware of the cab rank rule. If you don't know what it is, you should look it up. It's a really important part of being a barrister. Essentially you must take cases that you are instructed on or which are assigned to you providing you are competent to undertake them. There are a few other exceptions, but what you cannot do is reject an instruction representing a disabled employee because you only want to represent women in sex discrimination claims, or reject an instruction representing a company defending a sex discrimination claim. So that makes it very difficult to form the sort of practice that you're describing.

Third, I don't want to be pedantic but you do not represent 'equality' as a barrister. You're not campaigning for rights and you're not seeking to change the law. You may argue on many occasions as to what the law is, but fundamentally your role is to represent your clients. Very often you'll be representing clients who you think shouldn't win, but that is the nature of the role. The part you play in an adversarial litigation system is that you represent one of the parties to the best of your ability. Your own personal opinions as to the strength of their case, whether they should win, or the broader principles at play are almost if not entirely irrelevant.

What that means in practice is that if you decide to become, say, an employment barrister, you are highly likely to represent both claimants (employees) and respondents (businesses/employers) in a range of disputes including, but not limited to, discrimination. Whilst you can certainly specialise in certain areas of employment law, and can also develop a practice where you represent claimants more than respondents, it is very unlikely that you will be able to develop a practice where you solely (or even mainly) represent women in sex discrimination or other similar equality cases. That's not to say that you wouldn't be a highly skilled and effective advocate for your clients, and that's not to say that you wouldn't get immense satisfaction from the job. You just have to understand what the job actually is.

However, all of that said there are some limited ways that you may be able to get close to what you're looking for. There are a very small number of barristers' chambers that specialise in equality/human rights cases and only represent claimants. Securing pupillage at one of those sets would allow you at least to practise on one side of the line in terms of equality issues. Even then you would do a lot more than sex discrimination cases, but you would at least be consistently doing the sort of cases that you may have your eye on. So it's possible in a fashion, but I would strongly advise against becoming a barrister with the sole aim of securing pupillage at one of those sets. Pupillage is incredibly competitive, and only aiming for a handful of specific sets really reduces your chances of becoming a barrister at all. So whilst you could ideally aim for one of those sets, in my view you must be willing to broaden your horizons and secure pupillage elsewhere. As I say, that may not actually be a bad thing because you can develop a practice elsewhere where you mostly represent claimants in equality and discrimination cases. You just need to understand the limitations of that.

As a final point, you can seek to represent vulnerable people more broadly in other areas. You may have your heart set on equality issues involving women, and there is nothing wrong with that, but if you can carry that into other areas it gives you more chance of developing a practice that satisfies you. To give one example (of very many), you could develop an education law practice alongside an employment/discrimination one in which you predominantly represent parents of children with special educational needs. So there are certainly options there depending on what you actually want. It's just a matter of understanding the role and establishing whether that does or could fit what you're aiming for.
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Cheesecake04
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(Original post by Crazy Jamie)
The answer may vary here depending on what exactly you mean, but generally speaking, not really, no.

A couple of basics to begin with. First, you're not talking about corporate law. You're talking about employment law, and specifically discrimination, equal pay (which is not discrimination) and potentially other areas such as flexible working (which is a distinct employment right). A lot of different areas of law overlap within the general field of equality law. Not all discrimination relates to sex (in fact, in terms of litigation only a minority does) and not all discrimination cases are in employment law (most are, but discrimination cases can also be brought in the First Tier Tribunal in education cases and the County Court or High Court in other areas).

Second, you need to be aware of the cab rank rule. If you don't know what it is, you should look it up. It's a really important part of being a barrister. Essentially you must take cases that you are instructed on or which are assigned to you providing you are competent to undertake them. There are a few other exceptions, but what you cannot do is reject an instruction representing a disabled employee because you only want to represent women in sex discrimination claims, or reject an instruction representing a company defending a sex discrimination claim. So that makes it very difficult to form the sort of practice that you're describing.

Third, I don't want to be pedantic but you do not represent 'equality' as a barrister. You're not campaigning for rights and you're not seeking to change the law. You may argue on many occasions as to what the law is, but fundamentally your role is to represent your clients. Very often you'll be representing clients who you think shouldn't win, but that is the nature of the role. The part you play in an adversarial litigation system is that you represent one of the parties to the best of your ability. Your own personal opinions as to the strength of their case, whether they should win, or the broader principles at play are almost if not entirely irrelevant.

What that means in practice is that if you decide to become, say, an employment barrister, you are highly likely to represent both claimants (employees) and respondents (businesses/employers) in a range of disputes including, but not limited to, discrimination. Whilst you can certainly specialise in certain areas of employment law, and can also develop a practice where you represent claimants more than respondents, it is very unlikely that you will be able to develop a practice where you solely (or even mainly) represent women in sex discrimination or other similar equality cases. That's not to say that you wouldn't be a highly skilled and effective advocate for your clients, and that's not to say that you wouldn't get immense satisfaction from the job. You just have to understand what the job actually is.

However, all of that said there are some limited ways that you may be able to get close to what you're looking for. There are a very small number of barristers' chambers that specialise in equality/human rights cases and only represent claimants. Securing pupillage at one of those sets would allow you at least to practise on one side of the line in terms of equality issues. Even then you would do a lot more than sex discrimination cases, but you would at least be consistently doing the sort of cases that you may have your eye on. So it's possible in a fashion, but I would strongly advise against becoming a barrister with the sole aim of securing pupillage at one of those sets. Pupillage is incredibly competitive, and only aiming for a handful of specific sets really reduces your chances of becoming a barrister at all. So whilst you could ideally aim for one of those sets, in my view you must be willing to broaden your horizons and secure pupillage elsewhere. As I say, that may not actually be a bad thing because you can develop a practice elsewhere where you mostly represent claimants in equality and discrimination cases. You just need to understand the limitations of that.

As a final point, you can seek to represent vulnerable people more broadly in other areas. You may have your heart set on equality issues involving women, and there is nothing wrong with that, but if you can carry that into other areas it gives you more chance of developing a practice that satisfies you. To give one example (of very many), you could develop an education law practice alongside an employment/discrimination one in which you predominantly represent parents of children with special educational needs. So there are certainly options there depending on what you actually want. It's just a matter of understanding the role and establishing whether that does or could fit what you're aiming for.
Thank you so much for taking the time to explain that , that's really helped my understanding in employment law and the limitations of being a barrister. Thank you !!! Also, that is similar to what I meant by my question as I'm looking at going into coporate law but didn't know the specifics of the representation.
Last edited by Cheesecake04; 3 weeks ago
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