Lady Hale: A history of legal firsts and breaking down barriers in the judiciary

Even before Tuesday’s ruling, Lady Hale had already guaranteed her place in the history books after becoming the first woman appointed as President of the Supreme Court in October 2017.

The accolade was one of many legal “firsts” achieved by Baroness Hale of Richmond, 74, who has been a long-standing champion of diversity in the judiciary.

Previous career highlights include becoming the first woman Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in January 2004.

New President of the Supreme Court
Lady Hale, the President of the Supreme Court speaks during a media briefing at the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in Westminster, London (Lauren Hurley/PA)

Lady Hale became the first woman justice of the Supreme Court in October 2009, and was appointed deputy president in June 2013.

Yorkshire-born Brenda Hale, whose parents were both head teachers, is described on the Supreme Court’s website as a “home maker as well as a judge”.

She has had a varied career as an academic lawyer, law reformer and judge.

After graduating from Cambridge, she taught law at Manchester University from 1966 to 1984, also qualifying as a barrister and practising for a while at the Manchester Bar.

She specialised in family and social welfare law, was founding editor of the Journal Of Social Welfare And Family Law, and authored a pioneering case book on The Family, Law And Society.

Supreme Court hearings in Scotland
Justice of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale of Richmond (Jane Barlow/PA)

In 1984 she was the first woman to be appointed to the Law Commission, a statutory body which promotes the reform of the law.

She became a High Court judge in 1994 – the first to have made her career as an academic and public servant rather than a practising barrister.

In 1999 she was the second woman to be promoted to the Court of Appeal, before becoming the first woman Law Lord.

During her time as deputy president of the Supreme Court Lady Hale ruled on numerous headline-hitting cases, including the Brexit appeal.

She retains her links with the academic world as Chancellor of the University of Bristol, Visitor of Girton College, Cambridge, and Visiting Professor of King’s College London.

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