News that Scotland's first woman judge loves shopping is a welcome hint that the formidably successful and efficient Lady Cosgrove has a streak of frivolity in addition to the cool cleverness apparent in her pioneering legal career and landmark judgments.

Scotland's first legal Lady has just notched up another breakthrough as the first woman to be appointed to the elite group of Inner House judges in the Court of Session - the civil equivalent of the Court of Criminal Appeal. It is the natural progression from her appointment as a judge in the High Court and Court of Session six years ago but, in a system which has operated since time immemorial on the

Buggins's turn principle based on length of service, it is notable that she has also leapfrogged a male

colleague or two.

If she's a feminist - and it's much clearer from her deeds than from her words that she is a champion of equality for women, not only in the workplace but in other aspects of life - she is the sort of woman who has advanced the cause the hard way, by indisputably sterling work. That has not prevented her from making the occasional remark about the lack of sisters on the bench. When appointed as the first woman to the Sheriff Court Bench in Glasgow she said: ''It is a tremendous challenge and I hope that it will be a great source of encouragement to women throughout the profession.''

A year after being appointed as a temporary judge in 1992, the then Lady Aronson told students at Strathclyde University: ''The public must have confidence that its legal system is representative of and has the ability to respond to and deal with the needs and problems of all of its citizens. A profession which is not truly representative of all of its citizens cannot enjoy that confidence. The increasing presence of women in the profession will, I believe, be a positive force.''

Those who know her well say that she has broadened the judiciary's reflection of society, not just because she is a woman, but because she is firmly rooted in the world. In the

little spare time left after her day in court has been stretched by the paperwork she takes home and time for her family, she goes swimming, shopping, or walking. She will spend an evening entertaining friends at home rather than socialising with the establishment circles in their Edinburgh and Glasgow clubs. What is clear to those friends is that she is aware of diverse areas of

modern life and acutely interested in what is going on in the world.

Born in Glasgow 57 years ago, Hazel Josephine Aronson's determination to study law began as a pupil at Glasgow High School for Girls. There was no tradition of law in the family but her obvious enjoyment of a legal career inspired her younger sister, Danielle, to follow in her footsteps. Inevitably, the glittering career has involved jumping more hurdles than a glance over her cv would suggest.

Four years ago, she revealed to newly qualified solicitors that her intention to join the Faculty of Advocates in 1966 was met with much shaking of heads and sharp intaking of breath from both sides of the profession. ''Even the university professor in whose class I had done rather well told me I was

making a mistake and that the Bar was not a place for women. Few impediments now exist to women's progress, but one thing has to be said, and here I speak both as a judge and as a mother and grandmother, and that is that women should not require to renounce motherhood in order to advance their careers. Employers should be encouraged to adopt family-friendly policies and, most importantly, the government must be persuaded to take positive steps about childcare provisions which have long been promised but not yet delivered,'' she said in an address at Parliament House, which, although in-house, was reported in the press and

therefore raised her head above the parapet.

It was an act of generosity to a new generation from someone who had done her share of juggling the beginnings of a career with young children. She married John Cosgrove, an Edinburgh dentist, in 1967 when she was 23 and had two children, now both in their twenties and with children of their own. She limited her maternity leave to the minimum - on one occasion returning to work at Parliament House a week after the birth. She explained: ''If you were away for a long period there was the chance people would forget about you.'' In her case, that would seem unlikely, but her comment was a paraphrase for the lack of acceptance of working mothers at the time.

There's just a touch of the Princess Royal about that pronouncement, as there is about her court persona, with her face elongated and hair augmented by the judicial wig, but the smile is warmer and jollier.

The former Hazel Aronson, QC, was the first woman to sit on the Sheriff Court Bench in Glasgow and made legal history when she was appointed a temporary High Court and Court of Session judge in October 1992. At that point she was known as Lady Aronson, but took her husband's name for her judicial title when she became a permanent member of the Court of Session and High Court Bench in July 1996. Many women who felt it important to retain their own identity as they established themselves in their professions were surprised by a step which some saw as a bizarre move by a woman who had achieved so much under her own name. It was widely interpreted as a tribute to a husband who had been supportive.

A different explanation was provided by her husband, John, when he said that, although his wife had become Lady Cosgrove, he would remain plain Mister. ''When she was called to the Bar, she was already married and she wanted to use her married name, but she was told that was not appropriate. Judges did not want to refer to a woman as someone's wife but as herself. That was why she used her maiden name all these years. However, things have changed a great deal since then and when we discussed what title she would take, Hazel said she wanted to be known as Lady Cosgrove,'' he said.

It's the public indication of how important her family is to her. Those close to her say it is the most important thing in her life, making her a very active mother and grandmother. Her daughter, Abby, and son, Nick, are both in London, but she travels down to see them one weekend a month. She enjoys spending time with them and her four grandchildren - a fifth is expected in the summer - more than anything.

The closeness of her family life is something that she has carried over from her own childhood. She talks to her sister, Danielle, a solicitor who works for the children's hearing service, on the phone every day. Keeping Friday night for the traditional Jewish family meal is important to her and the extended family tries very hard to gather together for

Jewish festivals.

That has never prevented her from broadening her legal career to include wider public duties. She has been a member of the parole board for Scotland, chairwoman of the Mental Welfare Commission, chaired an expert panel of sex offending set up by the Scottish Executive, and deputy chairman of the Boundaries Commission.

All of those tasks have been undertaken with the serious commitment with which she has sentenced what must have been a depressing and frequently distressing parade of serious offenders to appear before her. She has criticised the lack of psychiatric beds for patients who need to return to hospital when unable to cope in the community,

She has presided over a significant number of high-profile cases, including the dispute between Celtic Football Club and its former manager, Lou Macari, in which her judgment was upheld on appeal.

Since then she has sat on appeal cases on an ad hoc basis. In the historic case last year in which she was one of seven judges who rewrote the law of rape in Scotland, which removed force as an essential part of the crime, Lady Cosgrove described the change as ''the living tree of the law not only growing

but shedding dead wood as it does so''. Finally, the inner house has

a new member to accelerate that process.