Brenda Hale has been appointed as the first female president of the supreme court.
Lady Hale is a longstanding champion of diversity in the judiciary. She previously said the court should be ashamed if it did not improve its record on the issue.
Her appointment was announced on Friday and she will take up the role on 2 October, when she will be sworn in as president.
She said: “It is a great honour and a challenge to be appointed to succeed Lord Neuberger. I look forward to building upon his pioneering achievements, including developing closer links with each part of the United Kingdom, for example by sitting outside London, and improving the ways in which we communicate our work to the public.
“Recent high-profile cases mean that more people than ever before have heard of the supreme court, and we hope that this will help to create a broader understanding of how the judiciary serves society.”
Hale’s appointment was announced alongside that of another woman who will join the justices sitting at the supreme court. Jill Black joins David Lloyd Jones and Michael Briggs in being promoted from the court of appeal.
A family law expert, Hale joined the supreme court in 2009 and is among the the last of the judges who can serve to 75 as she became a judge before rules were changed in 1995 to make retiring at 70 mandatory.
She will earn £225,000 a year as the head of the UK’s highest court.
Neuberger said: “I have had the pleasure of working closely with Lady Hale over the last five years, and have seen at first hand the intellect and humanity with which she approaches the appeals which come before her, as well as her commitment to the rule of law, legal education and building public understanding of the work of the courts.
“For Lady Hale to become president of the institution to which she has contributed so much is a fitting pinnacle to a truly ground-breaking career.”
Hale has criticised the inbuilt bias in choosing judges, and the dependence on “soundings” from judges, as producing a judiciary that is “not only mainly male, overwhelmingly white, but also largely the product of a limited range of educational institutions and social backgrounds”.
Born in Yorkshire in 1945, she went to a state school, Richmond high school for girls, and then to Girton College, Cambridge, where she read law and graduated top of her class.
Hale’s career began in academia when she joined the University of Manchester law faculty as a junior lecturer. While teaching – and working in a pub – she studied for the bar exams, winning the top results for her year in the bar finals. She was also the first woman and youngest person to be appointed to the Law Commission.
In 1989, she was appointed Queen’s counsel and in 1994 she became a high court judge, the first to have made her career as an academic and public servant rather than as a practising barrister.
In 1999, she became the second woman to be appointed to the court of appeal; Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss being the first. Hale also became the first female law lord. In June 2013 she was appointed deputy president of the supreme court.