Leading women lawyers have expressed their concerns that Donald Trump’s victory in the race for US president will have a negative impact on the legal profession in this country.
Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said that a “tendency towards populism” was common to both the Brexit referendum result and the election of Trump.
Speaking at yesterday’s Spark21 conference on women in the legal profession – part of the First 100 Years project – she went on: “Perhaps it’s all the more important in these times to focus on what has made society work – one of those things is respect for the rule of law, and dare I say it, our judiciary.
“Respect for the rule of law allows society and the economy to function. That may be one of the challenges both for us and the USA going forward – how we as lawyers ensure that the cornerstones of society continue to exist, so people’s rights continue be upheld and so people respect the courts, even if they disagree with the decision. That’s an area that worries me.”
Ms Doerries said a resolution was passed at last weekend’s meeting of the Bar Council calling on the Lord Chancellor to condemn attacks on the judiciary, by the Daily Mail among others, over the High Court’s Brexit ruling.
Christine Kings, director of Outer Temple Chambers, said she agreed that Trump’s victory would have an impact on this country.
“We don’t exist in isolation. US clients and businesses are here. There many solicitors and barristers working in the US. This is going to have an impact on countries all over the world that work with the US.
“Those of us who work in the professions will see the changes. There will be a continued move to the political right and restrictions on civil liberties and employment rights.”
Vanessa Davies, director-general of the Bar Standards Board, said she found it “deeply worrying” that the Brexit referendum result and US presidential election “seem to have given permission for a populist challenging and questioning, which I have no objection to in itself, but is being done from a basis of a lack of knowledge and understanding.
“That is a deeply worrying thing, and public legal education does become very important. Both the regulatory and representative organisations in the profession have clear responsibilities, statutory responsibilities, to promote this.”
One delegate warned that Trump’s victory could lead to “quite a big change” at the US Supreme Court, with the appointment of new right-wing justices, leading to restrictions on gay marriage and abortion rights.
Earlier, Agnès Ayekpa, solicitor and executive coach, described how she “was quite apprehensive” about the US presidential elections because of what happened with Brexit.
“So many of the people Trump has insulted over the last 18 months must have voted for him, for him to win. I wonder what prompted them to do so. This sends a message to young people that it is OK to be a racist and a bigot. I hope those around Trump will teach him how to behave.
“I think it is true that some women stand in other’s ways. Hillary Clinton is not a particularly popular politician. The way some people see it is that the Clintons have had two terms in office and now they want a third.”
However Dame Janet Gaymer, former senior partner of City firm Simmons & Simmons, where the Spark21 conference was held, said the “jury is out” on Trump’s behaviour in office.
“I am concerned that he is a showman. A lot of politicians are showmen. Is he really stupid, or does he have a brain in there? I suspect that he has a brain in there. His victory won’t affect the way solicitors’ firms and barristers’ chambers apply equality law in this country. It’s mood music that will affect the debate.
“Women must dust themselves down and bounce back. Anything can happen in politics, as this country has already proved.”