Woman QC leads the way at the office and home; LEGAL WEEK.
LIVERPOOL'S only woman QC has taken the challenge of juggling home and work commitments to a new level.
Family, criminal and personal injury law specialist, Tania Griffiths, has a well-earned reputation as the city's "tripping queen", having spent 15 years defending the council against accident claims.
Last night she revealed her parallel life as a single mum to numerous foster children, many who suffered trauma and abuse at the hands of their natural parents, and some of whom she has adopted.
Last night, Ms Griffiths, 47, from Southport, told how she managed to balance a pioneering career with raising an often troublesome family alone.
Last autumn she became only the third female barrister in Liverpool to serve as a Queens Counsel, following in the footsteps of Rose Heilbron, who took silk in the 1960s, and now Judge Margaret de Haas.
Ms Griffiths is among the first cohort to take silk in the last three years, since the start of a review which reformed the way candidates are assessed in an effort to end perceptions of the profession as an old boys' network.
The changes mean potential QCs are considered more on merit than on earnings and their referee's status.
Ms Griffiths said: "Previously the system would have precluded a lot of women from making it, because if you've taken time out to have children then your earnings will be less. Now they look much more at the whole person."
Ms Griffiths has often forged new ground in the region's legal world, becoming the first woman to be accepted to Liverpool's biggest set, at Exchange Chambers, in 1982. Now women account for more than half the lawyers working out of the Derby Square office.
The daughter of a car painter and a nurse, former Christ the King Comprehensive pupil Ms Griffiths originally wanted to join the police, but changed her mind after starting a law degree at Liverpool Polytechnic.
But, she said: "I've never regarded myself as a role model. It's been a natural progression for me. You get to a certain level in your career and it makes sense to move up.
"I think I'm the start, but there'll be lots of women QCs in future. More and more women are going to the Bar now."
She believes women have slowly changed attitudes within the profession over the last 20 years: "The very fact that women are here means that Chambers have got to be more aware of women's issues. People now understand, for example, that a jury member might have childcare commitments, because they know their colleagues do.
"I think women are more organised, too. They work just as hard but they have to juggle a lot more commitments than men, so they have to be more efficient."
Ms Griffiths says her title will allow her to pursue more high-profile criminal and family cases in Merseyside, while spending as much time as possible at home in Birkdale, where she lives with her adopted children next door to her father.
"I always wanted to have a family, and I was single, so at the age of 30 there was no man, and I thought if I don't get a move on I'm never going to get my family," she said.
"I'd have preferred to have brought children up in a marriage, but there were children there who needed love, and I could give it to them.
"You have to take time off. When they come you can take maternity leave, and I never work in the summer holidays. Chambers are very good. I always give 100% to my children, but I also give 100% to my clients. It means sometimes I have to say I can't take on the next case after I've finished this one, because I won't take on a case if I can't see it through. It is tough to organise, but I wouldn't change a thing about my family or my professional life.
"The only frustration is getting the right help for some of the kids who have been through serious trauma. It can be difficult to access the right mental health professionals sometimes, and that is something I'd like to see changed."
Ms Griffiths said one of her major concerns for the next year professionally was the potential passage of the Government's Carter reforms to the way lawyers are paid for criminal work, which she fears could cause a brain drain to commercial work.
She said she would lobby against the reforms, adding: "We need to defend the innocent and convict the guilty, but at the moment that is not being encouraged because the money is not enough to keep the best minds in the criminal courts."
I've never regarded myself as a role model
Tania Griffiths - the only female QC in Liverpool Picture: JASON ROBERTS