Rt. Hon Lady Justice Mary Arden

Presented by Professor Frank Sanderson

Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Lady Justice Arden for the award of an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University.  

The legal profession is often portrayed as traditional and somewhat out of tune with the times, a profession where women and ethnic minorities are underrepresented, particularly in senior positions. Liverpool-born Lady Justice Arden is helping to change the image. She is a high achiever whose talent demands acknowledgement. 

She is now a leader in the profession, having been named to the Court of Appeal in 2000, the first practising woman barrister to achieve such an elevated position. In this male-defined world, she was inevitably styled as Lord Justice Arden when appointed but I am happy to say that her formal title is now Lady Justice Arden.

And she has actively campaigned for more family-friendly and flexible working hours, as well as greater transparency in the appointments process. Progress is being made. 

Mary Arden comes from a long line of Liverpool lawyers: her grandfather was a partner in Liverpool solicitors, Gamon Arden and Co, which her father and brother Roger also joined. 

Born in Liverpool in 1947 to Eric and Mary, she was brought up in South Liverpool and educated at Huyton College. She then read law at Girton College, Cambridge before completing a Master of Laws at Harvard Law School in 1970. It was a momentous year in America with the Vietnam War protests and the attempts at racial integration in schools leaving a deep impression on Mary. 

She was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn in 1971 and admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1973. From 1971 to 1993, she was in full time practice as a member of Erskine Chambers, specialising in company law. In 1973, she married fellow lawyer Jonathan Mance in the Lady Chapel of this cathedral and managed, despite the non family-friendly working conditions, to combine a demanding legal career with raising three children. 

It is no surprise to learn that Dame Mary has received numerous honours and appointments during her career. 

She has served as chair and member of countless legal committees, and was:   

  • Appointed Queen's Counsel in 1986
  • She is a former Attorney-General of Duchy of Lancaster
  • She was appointed as the first female High Court Judge  of the Chancery Division in 1993.
  • In 1996 she was appointed the first female Chair of the Law Commission
  • She was named as a judge to the Court of Appeal in 2000, replacing Lord Justice Laws as its youngest member.  
  • There are currently 37 Justices of Appeal and Mary is the senior one of a total of three female Lady Justices.
  • As is customary, she was at the same time sworn in to the Privy Council <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privy_Council_of_the_United_Kingdom> 
  • She is a Member of the Advisory Board, Centre of Commercial Law
  • A Member of the Council of the Statute Law Society
  •  A Member of the Board of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
  • President of the Trinity Hall Law Society
  • President of the Association of Women Barristers

And she was Chair of the Working Party of the Judges' Council on the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 - one of its proposals, strongly supported by Mary, is the setting up of an independent judicial appointments commission to enhance the confidence of women and those from ethnic minorities who wish to apply  

Since her time as a postgraduate student in the United States, Mary has had a strong interest in international law - she travels extensively for business and pleasure - just recently returning from South Africa where she was most impressed with the work of the Constitutional Court which was established in 1994 to protect human rights in a country whose judiciary had been overwhelmingly white - and male - during the apartheid era.  

Examples of her international involvement are as follows:

  • Recently the Judge in charge of International Judicial Relations for England and Wales
  • A member of the Anglo American Legal Exchange
  • Member of the American Law Institute
  • Advisor to the British Institute of International and Comparative Law
  • Member of the Executive Committee of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law
  • The UK ad hoc judge on a number of cases in the European Court of Human Rights  
  • As for honours, she has an impressive collection of honorary degrees, reflecting the esteem in which she is held by the academic world.  
  • She was given The Times Woman of Achievement Lifetime Award in 1997
  • She has Honorary Membership of the Society of Public Teachers of Law, reflecting her great personal interest in legal education

And in 1993, she was appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire for services to the legal profession.

Dame Mary is a regular visitor to Liverpool and has in recent years given highly-regarded lectures at Liverpool John Moores University's School of Law and at the University of Liverpool. She is proud of her connections with the city of her birth, and we in turn are proud of her, a most worthy recipient of a fellowship. 

Thus I have pleasure in presenting The Right Honorable Lady Justice Arden, DBE, this most distinguished daughter of our city, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.