One of London’s most famous barristers’ chambers was wracked with internal rancour yesterday as some of the set’s female lawyers were accused of being “unsisterly”.
The attack was part of efforts by Matrix Chambers to deal with a row about how its senior members are dealing with public allegations of sexual harassment at the set.
The Times revealed that an independent review of Matrix Chambers in Gray’s Inn had found “institutional failings” in the handling of claims of harassment. The review was conducted by Dame Laura Cox, a retired judge, and it is understood to have found that there was a lack of support for a woman who had alleged harassment and that she was distressed and in poor health as a result.
In the wake of the revelations a senior female barrister is understood to have emailed the entire chambers to chastise those who had spoken to the media. “As I understand it,” read the email, “the concern is that a number of women here feel there is no-one whom they can complain to, if (and only if) there was something to complain about. In the light of the fact that there are a lot of women here who have not been consulted at all by these women, whoever they are, I suggest that we call a meeting of all Matrix women as a matter of urgency.”
The email went on to complain that the media reports were damaging the reputation of the chambers, which was founded by Cherie Blair, QC, in 2000 and is well known for its employment law expertise. “Absurdly, what has been done is deeply unsisterly,” continued the note with emphasis on the last word. “There is an irony in the fact that Matrix has the highest percentage of women in a public law chambers and ends up in this mess.”
The email’s author went on to implore the set’s female members to work together and “not send out alarm bells to the media”, which, the writer claimed, would put “other people’s careers and livelihoods at risk”. The email finished by saying that “women must help and empower other women not lead them down the path bleating”.