The practical and unfair effects of the Barristers Act
What this means in effect is that as the Court, or Crown prioritizes matters on a docket list, it leaves women, aboriginals, and racialized lawyers sitting waiting while older white men all move to the front of the line for no reason other than their seniority that is inherently skewed to their advantage.
To further aggravate such frustration, the priority has nothing to do with when lawyers arrive to the courtroom. Therefore, a relatively recent call could (and routinely does) sit for hours on end waiting for their matter to be called, only to have a senior lawyer stroll in and bump the cue. That same lawyer can stroll in and out of any court and bump themselves to any list as other (less senior) lawyers wait patiently for their turn that is perpetually pushed downwards as a result of this nonsensical rule.
As another practical matter, even where one of these minority groups is legitimately entitled under the Act to speak first, it forces them to vocalize their entitlement in a system where the power dynamic suppresses it. Effectively, it requires women counsel to express and challenge in open court that she is older than the other lawyers present. Similarly, it would require a racialized lawyer to confront a (likely white male) lawyer that his assumptions of seniority are not accurate.
Stranger still, very few lawyer even know when other lawyers were called. What therefore happens, as a matter of effect, is a strange guessing game that invariable favours older white males who look the part of senior counsel – whether they are or not.
Lastly, this statutory prioritization is wildly ineffective, inefficient, and chaotic. In many jurisdictions, the order of counsel is determined by a discreet “counsel list” that is placed to the side and lawyers sign up on as they arrive to Court. It is a perfectly sensible and intuitive solution to an otherwise odious practice that favour privilege over fairness.
Even though justice may not be on a first-come, first-serve basis, the order in which it should be delivered should be that way.