HC judge laments “huge disparity” in legal profession, says only 15 % of practising lawyers are women

Delhi High Court judge Justice Pratibha M Singh Saturday highlighted the “huge disparity” existing in the legal profession in the country where women constitute only 15 per cent of practising lawyers.

She said while more than half of the students in law schools are women, their representation among practising lawyers was very low because of the constraints they face at home.

“There is a huge disparity there. Though our law colleges have more than 50 % women and most toppers are girls, why is that enrolments (as advocates) are so low?” she asked.

Some of our most competent litigating girls find it difficult to get acceptance in matrimony and some give it up for corporate practices post marriage, Justice Singh said.

She, however, said law firms score much better in this area.

Justice Singh said women lawyers struggle to practice in courts except for major metros, noting there are “insufficient facilities” for women in courts and females in litigation are “still viewed with negativity”.

Women in law have to give their 120 and not 100 percent to prove themselves as they have to be “more and more competent” to be in higher positions, she said.

The judge, who was speaking at an event to celebrate ‘Lady Lawyer Day’, added while women are easy to “stereotype”, competence and integrity beat everything else to gain success in the legal profession.

The event was organised by the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF) and SILF Ladies Group.

“The environment in the legal profession is such that women have to give 120 per cent to prove themselves. It is not enough to do 100 per cent… It is so true that women have to be more and more competent to be in higher positions,” Justice Singh said in her address as the chief guest.

“I believe for a woman to have a successful career as a legal professional, competence beats everything. If you are competent and you show integrity, there is nothing that can stop you,” she said.

In her address, she said, “first and foremost” gratitude should be expressed to “all the great men who made it possible” for women to enter the field of law.

The judge spoke on the issue of gender disparity in developing as well as developed nations, especially in relation to abortion rights.

Justice Singh also spoke on the “perceptional challenges” faced by women and said, “in negotiations, women tend to be shouted down more easily”.

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“There are three kinds of treatments that you can get one is very encouraging treatment; one is patronising and other is chauvinistic. We face all of this with a smile,” she said.

She said women in law should embrace skills like time management, patience and perseverance.

Choose your battles wisely, never seek sympathy or pity and not shy away from having domestic help for mundane work at home, Justice Singh said.

Whenever women do good work, they “need to showcase it”, she said.

She also said women lawyers from law firms should be seen in court and become more visible by arguing cases.

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