Masters of the Bench
Full Title: Stella HollisCategory: Senior Benchers
Bench Call Date: 17.11.1994
Call Date: 9.2.1954
Stella Hollis was born in London and was evacuated in May 1940 to Canada during the War; thence to Australia, where she was educated in Sydney. This culminated in a State Scholarship to do an Arts degree, specialising in Languages. She was heading for the Diplomatic Corps.
In 1950 she returned to London. In 1951, at a party, the late Master Sherrard suggested Stella join the Middle Temple. Through her three years’ dining there she made many friends and abandoned her Australian accent. She started her pupillage with Master Jacob, before being Called in 1954.
The assumption then was that women had no place at the Bar, full stop. However, she was accepted by Cyril Rochford, Head of Chambers at 2 Doctor Johnson’s Buildings (contrary to the wishes of Albert the Clerk), on the grounds that the Bar ‘in its unwisdom’ had decided to admit women, and that it would be wrong to exclude one who appeared suitable. Stella survived this – and had a flourishing mixed practice in crime, contract, and landlord and tenant law, as well as divorce cases.
In 1966 the Bar Council put up notices in all the robing rooms, which at the time were mixed, stating that lady barristers should not wear mini-skirts. Stella called a meeting of all the lady barristers she knew; 33 turned up to discuss the formation of a Women Barristers Association. She was sent for by Mrs Justice Elizabeth Lane, the first woman High Court Judge, who ‘read the Riot Act’ against the whole idea. Stella herself made it a rule to have only women pupils.
In 1976, she took up appointment as Chair of Industrial (now, Employment) Tribunals. A ‘reasonably happy’ 16 years followed. She found her colleagues (not ‘comrades’, as she had to explain) from the CBI and the Trade Unions ‘a perpetual joy’. She developed a formidable reputation as a Tribunal Chair.
Stella retired in 1992 and was made a Bencher in 1994. Her husband, Dan Hollis QC, whom she met in 1956 at dinner in Hall, died in 2016. She regards Middle Temple as an anchor between her homes in France and London.