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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 13:32 GMT
Profile: Lady Justice Hale
Lady Hale
Lady Hale will become the first female Law Lord
Lady Justice Hale is the first female Law Lord in the UK.

BBC News Online profiles the high-flying expert in family law.

Currently an appeal judge, Lady Justice Hale, 58, has attracted newspaper headlines over the years with her outspoken remarks about the male-dominated judiciary.

In an interview in September, she said she had been "deeply affronted" by the way judges' official lodgings are run like gentlemen's clubs, where ladies are expected to retire after dinner to leave the men to talk.

On at least one occasion, she said, she had refused to leave the dining room.

And in 2001, Lady Justice Hale launched an attack on the wearing of legal wigs, saying they "deny women their femininity" and "humanise all of us into men".

I believe that gay and lesbian partners should have available to them some sort of a civil partnership
Lady Hale
In a lecture to the Reform Club, she said the traditional horsehair wigs worn by judges and barristers are "intrinsically male and masculine".

Lady Justice Hale stressed her concerns for equality for all on Thursday when she spoke in support of gay and lesbian "civil partnerships" and gay adoption.

She told BBC News: "Most people welcome a loving committed relationship and recognise that it ought to bring with it certain obligations towards one and other, and perhaps have certain encouragement and recognition from the law.

"And I see no difference between gay and straight couples in that."

She also called for changes in divorce laws, to avoid "painful allegations for people that want a quick divorce".

And she denied ever recommending the abolition of marriage, saying it was "a distinctive legal relationship which brings benefits to both parties and to society, which I wish to see preserved".

Family law

Lady Justice Hale, who will be known as Lady Hale when she takes up her new 175,000-a-year post in January, is most respected for her work in family law.

As far as myself personally am concerned, I'm absolutely terrified
Lady Justice Hale
She has been responsible for a number of key reforms and led work that produced the Children Act 1989, redefining the relationship between parents, children and the state.

She also played a major role in the introduction of domestic violence legislation, forming part of the Family Law Act 1996.

Lady Justice Hale began her career studying law at Cambridge University, establishing herself as an achiever by receiving the year's only exceptional distinction.

In 1966, she became an academic at Manchester University, specialising in social welfare and family law.

After topping the list in the Bar finals of 1968 she became a part-time barrister.

In 1984, in a taste of what was to come in terms of her impact on the judiciary, she became the youngest person and first woman to be appointed to the law commission, and was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1989.

She was appointed a High Court Judge in 1994 and Lady Justice of Appeal in 1999 and became Chancellor of the University of Bristol this year.

'Weight of expectation'

But despite her success, Lady Hale says she is "terrified" about the "weight of expectation" on her shoulders as she looks forward to her new role as Law Lord.

The position broke "the last barrier that there has been within the legal system to the advancement of women," she said, and was good for women generally.

"As far as myself personally am concerned, I'm absolutely terrified. Partly because it will be a great challenge.

"The cases, all of them, are difficult and complicated and I will be working with some of the cleverest people in the country."

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