We were very fortunate indeed to have Baroness Hale, President of the Supreme Court, as our guest speaker for the 30th Anniversary Jean Denton Lecture on Monday 4 November. Lady Hale delivered an engaging and thought-provoking lecture to a packed room of IWF UK members and guests at Adelaide House, the London offices of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.
The evening opened with a warm welcome from Carol Osborne and Marty Rolle of BCLP, and an introduction by Julie Goldstein, IWF UK Chair, to the annual lecture held in memory of Jean Denton, our organisation's first Chair. Julie then recounted the many 'firsts' that Lady Hale (pictured, centre) has achieved in her distinguished career and how she has championed women’s causes and advocated for diversity in the judicial system.
The audience was enthralled by Lady Hale’s account of her life and career from her upbringing in Yorkshire to the Supreme Court, where she was appointed the first woman President in 2017.
Lady Hale, wearing one of her signature brooches in the form of a bee, spoke eloquently of her journey from Cambridge University – the first girl from her school to win a place – to teaching law at Manchester University and qualifying as a barrister, to the Law Commission, the High Court, the House of Lords, and the Supreme Court.
A pioneer and reformer in the fields of mental health law and family law, and author of a casebook on “The Family, Law and Society”, she shared some of the stereotypes and prejudices she had to break through to be recognised as an equal in the legal system.
Combining warmth and matter-of-factness, she also told us about some of the most intriguing and debateable cases she has dealt with, and the steps the court has taken to increase its openness to the public and awareness of its proceedings.
Many audience questions followed her speech, on topics from advice to young women aspiring leaders, to her ‘Spider Woman’ nomenclature, to constitutional reform and what one needs when encountering ‘defining moments’. Lady Hale responded with a quote from the American Judge Learned Hand that ‘The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.’
Lady Hale received rapturous applause and a standing ovation.
Here is some of the feedback from members and guests:
‘What a lovely evening - Probably the best speaker I have ever heard.’
‘It was such a special occasion - one to treasure for life!’
‘The Jean Denton Lecture was an exceptional evening and truly memorable.’
‘It was simply a fantastic evening with such a brilliant but modest guest speaker.’
‘The ease and humility with which Lady Hale carries her formidable success – and how she makes everything sounds so easy when in reality she deals with some of the most complex cases imaginable – were not only incredibly admirable, but a lesson for life.’