What it’s like to be a woman of the bar

Olivia Ford-Ross - Law Alumni.jpg

Olivia Ford-Ross is a self-employed Barrister in London, and an alumnus of the University, who studied law. Olivia talks about what it’s like to be a woman of the bar.

“The bar has been dominated by white, middle-class, Oxbridge educated men, historically. It's taking steps to become a more diverse profession, but it still has a long way to go. I've seen gender-based favouritism during my time as a barrister. So, it's important to be a woman at the bar, to try and break the glass ceiling, and to become a role model for future female barristers.

Without my Law degree, I wouldn’t be a barrister. I graduated with First Class Honours, at the University, and it’s been invaluable to get me to where I am today. Becoming a barrister is competitive, and it involves applying for a pupillage which is akin to a one-year apprenticeship/job interview at a barristers’ chambers. Having a First degree definitely helped me to stand out against other applicants.

I'm a self-employed barrister at a chamber in London and what I enjoy about my job is there's no typical working day. I practise in housing and property law. So, I'm usually in court once or twice a week for a short interim hearing, like a possession or directions hearing, or a trial.

There is an active encouragement to retain women at the bar, especially after having children. I’ve spoken at university talks to encourage women to come to the bar. Also, I've assisted an event encouraging 16 and 17-year-olds (with an emphasis on girls).

Barristers can be disparaging about the bar, as it can be a stressful occupation. It can feel like an uphill struggle to get there. So, women wanting to become a barrister need to be resilient, able to manage their workload and finances, and willing to make sacrifices.

Your passion should get you to where you want to be! So, my advice to women would be to keep persevering. There are also different ways to get to the bar so, don’t feel you have to do a law degree or come to the bar straight away. It's currently fashionable to go to the bar as a second career.”