The first female Master Treasurer for any Inn was at Gray’s, in 1985, with Dame Rose Heilbron. She was already used to breaking barriers as the first woman QC and the second woman High Court Judge. Twenty years had to pass before the honour went to Baroness Butler-Sloss at Inner Temple and to Elizabeth Appleby QC in 2009 at Lincoln’s Inn. Arguably Professor Oliver is the first academic to hold the post. Royal Treasurers are almost as rare: Inner’s last was Princess Anne’s father, Prince Philip, 50 years ago.
It has been pointed out that women bring something different to the judiciary. But as Treasurer? The Sub Treasurer of Inner Temple, Patrick Maddams, suggested “I wouldn’t under-estimate” the importance of Lady Justice Hallett as a “role model for aspiring young women members of the Inn”, who as throughout the Bar, now make up a majority of new students. Women may enter the profession in the majority but it does not remain that way. I reminded Lady Justice Hallett that she is still the only woman to be leader of the South Eastern Circuit (1995-97) and the only woman to be Chairman of the Bar (1998). “I can’t bear it”, she replied. She regularly encourages women to stand for office. They do but they have not been successful in their last outings for those influential posts, which are decided not by the members at large but by a committee.
A shared experience
Both of the new Treasurers came to the Bar when the percentage of women was low. After four years of practice, Dawn Oliver worked as a consultant for the Legal Action Group and then joined the law faculty at University College London (UCL), where she became Dean, head of the law department and one of the nation’s leading constitutional law experts. Both women married Middle Temple barristers (respectively, Sir Stephen Oliver and Nigel Wilkinson QC).
When Professor Oliver joined the faculty at UCL she had had three children and reached the conclusion that returning to practice would be too challenging. It was then possible to go straight into academia, and many of her colleagues had been Called to the Bar. Things changed after the Government offered substantial financial incentives to universities to make sure that academics concentrated on research. Nowadays someone wanting to be a lecturer would have to have a PhD and would be unlikely to pay the large fees for doing the BPTC just to be Called.
Professor Oliver is anxious to repair the gulf between the Bar and universities. Over the last year, four academics have been appointed Fellows of Middle Temple. On 28 February there was an Academics Dinner at which 148 academics, judges and practitioners exchanged views and developed contacts between the different sides of the profession. This year’s Guest Lecture programme includes Professor Jeffrey Jowell on “The Rule of Law in Southern Africa”, and Professor Philippe Sands QC on “After Chilcot: War, Law and Legal Advisers”.
Both new Treasurers want to focus on their Inn’s international connections and on the Inn’s educational role. Dawn Oliver hopes to forge stronger links with the United States. This is in the tradition of Middle Temple, which in its library displays a copy of the Declaration of Independence with the signatory members of the Inn starred and which numbers among its Benchers the United States Ambassador and Chief Justice Roberts. Some 20 Inn members will attend the symposium this year at Georgetown organised by the American Inns of Court on the status of the legal profession including the questions of professionalism, civility and ethics.
Members of the American Inns of Court have been invited back to Middle Temple in October when they hope to learn how we cope with European law and the lack of a written constitution, a natural topic for this year’s Master Treasurer. She is aware that the common law tradition in the United States is drifting away from that in the Commonwealth. There is “a really strong common law world out there”, she says and she would like to bring “America back into the common law fold”.
Lady Justice Hallett says that the rule of law and professionalism are fundamental concepts for her. She looks with admiration on the Inn’s conference on democracy last June, “a stimulating thought-provoking weekend where you used all the Inn’s facilities to promote debate on what are incredibly important subjects”. The Inn can have a huge role here, in part by developing its contacts with Asia (many of their students come from Malaysia) and in particular Bhutan where the new, young King is trying to promote the rule of law, democracy and an independent judiciary. Dame Heather wants to develop the Inn’s educational and conference facilities since “our raison d’etre is our education function; I am totally and utterly committed to our education department”.
The Advocacy Training Council, of course, will soon be looking to the Inns to provide some training for examining and cross-examining vulnerable witness and she has already begun to consider how the Inn could do that. She spent much of her time in Silk doing cases involving child abuse and was involved in devising the first Memorandum of Good Practice on Video Recorded Interviews with Child Witnesses for Criminal Proceedings in 1992. On the bench, 18 years later, she still finds that there are “dreadful interviews” which breach the memorandum by assuming that the children have been abused and by asking them leading questions.
As if she did not have enough on her plate, Lady Justice Hallett—who was in the midst of presiding over the “7/7” Inquest when I spoke to her—is also chair of the Judicial Studies Board. This is the body of judges who train other judges and who are likely soon to have to devise the best way of training each other to assess Counsel in the Crown Courts under the Quality Assurance Scheme. Within the Inns themselves, the new practitioners’ course is likely to be the assessment tool for fitness to begin to practise in the Crown Court.
Master Treasurers are, of course, also executive officers, presiding over a commercial enterprise of professional chambers, residential flats and catering. They both have full diaries already of receptions and dinners to preside over and committees to chair. And Council of the Inns of Court (COIC) to attend. Barristers normally have no preparation for doing administration, but at UCL and at the Bar Council, they learned how to deal with extremely articulate colleagues and with a secretariat.
In dealing with her duties, Professor Oliver will be assisted by the first female Under Treasurer of an Inn, a position which is traditionally held by a former member of the Armed Forces. Catherine Quinn took up her role on 3 May after four years as Head of Grant Management at the Wellcome Trust. Before that she worked at Oxford University for 15 years in various management positions including Head of Business Innovation and Consulting and Director of Research Services.
The next woman Treasurer will be Lady Justice Smith, at Lincoln’s Inn. Perhaps someone will remind Gray’s Inn that they have now been resting on their laurels for a quarter of a century?
David Wurtzel is Counsel’s Consultant Editor
Treasurer: The Rt Hon Lady Justice Hallett DBE
- Called to the Bar in 1972, took Silk in 1989 and became a Master of the Bench, Inner Temple in 1993.
- Made a Deputy High Court judge in 1995 and a High Court judge in 1999. Appointed Lady Justice of Appeal in 2005.
- First woman to chair the Bar Council of England and Wales in 1998.
- Chair of the Judicial Studies Board
- Educated at St Hugh’s College Oxford (Hon Fellow, 1999)
The Royal Treasurer: The Princess Royal
As Royal Treasurer, Princess Anne has made it clear that she does not wish to be a merely ceremonial figure. It is hoped that she will come to several Inn events. These certainly include the annual Treasurer’s reception, a reception for members of Hall, and at least one of the Call Days.
The Princess Royal is patron of the Inner Temple Book Prize (which last took place in 2008 and is awarded every three years) in which £10,000 is awarded to a work of outstanding legal authorship. This is aimed at universities but it is open as well to barristers and to judges. The Inn in turn will lend its support to one of the Princess Royal’s charities, Opportunity International, which helps people in developing countries with microfinance.
The Princess Royal was elected a Royal Bencher in 1990.
Treasurer: Professor Dawn Oliver
- Emeritus Professor of Constitutional Law in the Faculty of Laws,
- University College London. Served as Dean of Faculty from 1993-98 and again in 2007.
- Called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1965 and appointed a Bencher of the Middle Temple in 1996.
- Practised in London and on the Midland Circuit from 1965 to 1969 specialising in crime, divorce and civil litigation.
- Member of the Study of Parliament Group since 1991 (elected Honorary President in 2010) and Fellow of the British Academy since 2005.
- Read Modern Languages and Law at Cambridge.