Old Boys' Networks, Family Connections and the English Legal Profession

[2012] Public Law, 426

Posted: 20 Apr 2011 Last revised: 11 Aug 2012

See all articles by Michael Blackwell

Michael Blackwell

London School of Economics - Law Department

Date Written: May 22, 2011


A decade and a half on from Lord Taylor’s promise that “there will be more [female judges]… and they will not all be the sisters of the Lord Chancellor!”, this paper assesses the changes to the composition of the higher judiciary over this period, in terms of gender and educational, professional and socio-economic background. Descriptive statistics are presented on how these characteristics have changed over the period, for members of the High Court, Court of Appeal and House of Lords. These show only slight improvement in the representation of women and little change to the proportion educated other than at Oxbridge and public schools. Obituaries and other sources are used to illustrate the high socio-economic class, often with legal connections, into which many judges were born.

To show that this is not solely, at least in respect of educational background, a result of the pool from which such judges are recruited, this paper contrasts these statistics with those of QCs appointed since 1965. It also uses event history analysis to see how these diversity characteristics have affected propensity to be appointed to the High Court and subsequently promoted during this period.

Finally, to assess the potential for future increases in judicial diversity, this paper contrasts the gender and educational background of the solicitors and barristers profession and the speed of change thereto in recent years – showing both a greater diversity and rate of change with solicitors. The significantly lower rate of solicitor applicants appointed in selection exercises to the High Court is noted. The paper concludes by suggesting a reappraisal of the appointment criteria to increase the representation of solicitors and so facilitate improved judicial diversity.

Keywords: judiciary, solicitors, barristers, diversity, appointment, social mobility, gender, sex, education, socio-economic class, event history analysis, Cox model, empirical legal studies

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Blackwell, Michael, Old Boys' Networks, Family Connections and the English Legal Profession (May 22, 2011). [2012] Public Law, 426, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1809876 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1809876

Michael Blackwell (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law Department ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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