Dame Elizabeth Gloster was called to the Bar, Inner Temple in 1971 and became a Bencher in 1992. She was appointed as a QC in 1989. From 1993-2004 she was a Judge of the Courts of Appeal of Jersey and Guernsey. She was a Recorder from 1995 until 2004. She was appointed as the Judge in charge of the Commercial Court from 2010-2012. She was appointed as a Lady Justice of Appeal on 9 April 2013.
Please tell us about your best day at work?
I’m lucky enough to have had many “best” days as the law is such an exciting job. But I would rate being appointed to the Court of Appeal as one of the very best. I actually heard via the ping of an email at about 5 o’clock in the morning when I was on holiday. Mind you, there have been plenty of “worst” days too. Losing the unlosable case when you’ve confidently advised the client he or she was bound to win was always incredibly grim…..
What do you think is the greatest challenge for women looking to access justice in the UK?
Lack of legal aid for representation and advice both in and out of court in deserving cases. But it’s not just a problem for women – it is equally a problem for men. But barristers and solicitors are doing a wonderful job attempting to fill the gap with their Pro Bono schemes. And judges try and help but often it is too late by the time the time the problem has reached court.
How far do you think the UK has come towards gender parity in the legal profession?
Unlike some commentators, I think that amazing strides have been made towards gender parity in the last 20 years. There is absolutely no gender discrimination whatsoever in the judiciary and, from the early 1980s, I experienced none at the Bar. More women join the legal profession than men. Of course there is further to go until full parity is achieved at all levels of the profession, but the fact that it has not been achieved to date is a reflection of the historic position, not the result of some male conspiracy. There are huge initiatives under way to encourage women to apply to become judges and to return to the profession after having taken a career break to bring up children. The future is rosy and the opportunities for women better than they have ever been. It is now up to women to take them.
Who, or what, inspires you most and why?
I don’t think I really do being “inspired”. It sounds a bit fluffy to me– a muse “inspires” a dress designer or a poet, but hardly a lawyer. But I have role models who have shaped my life. The most important was my grandmother who was a single parent and escaped from an abusive marriage bringing her son with her to this country, only to be sent back to Germany with him at the beginning of the First World War as enemy aliens. She lived with us when I was a child and was determined that I should go to university – which neither of my adoptive parents did. She taught me to read and write and that it was wrong to cheat at cards. She took me to watch the Boat Race in the local department store as we didn’t have a TV at home. She made me promise to try and go to Oxford – but I didn’t, I went to Cambridge instead. But I don’t think she would have minded, if she had been alive.
What have you discovered during your career which you would have benefitted from knowing as a student?
That one should have confidence in oneself and that not everybody who appears so much cleverer and articulate than oneself is actually any better at achieving the best result. I have also discovered that organisation and punctuality are necessities – not simply dull virtues.
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