Our Stories

21st March 2017

As one of the Inspirational Women in Law Award finalists, Georgina Wolfe submitted a short essay on ‘How can Women Shape the Future of the Legal Industry?’. She tells the story of her own experiences in the world of law, in particular at the Bar, and how women bring unique experiences and skills to the […]

7th March 2017

Guest post by Antonia Hart My maternal grandparents, Elsie Waugh and Stanley Turner, married in 1932, and their first child, a boy, was born in 1940. They were living in Willesden when in May of the following year, in the thick of the Second World War, Stanley joined the Royal Navy, leaving his job as […]

28th February 2017

Guest post from Baroness Deech QC(Hon) I studied law at a time when it was not at all fashionable for women to choose this – there were 8 women amongst 150 men in my year at Oxford. I got a place at Oxford on my 9th attempt at the admissions exams for Oxford and Cambridge […]

21st February 2017

The story of Ada Yeates and Sisters, legal stationers, scriveners and typists, who were the successors to a “law and commercial stamp retailer” business operated by Catherine Carroll since 1851. Ada Yeates was born in 1852 to Robert Eustace Yeates and his wife Sarah. The Yeates family lived at Elm Hall in Celbridge, but in […]

31st January 2017

Did you know that one of our FHY Professional Champions is the World Bank Group’s Senior Vice President and General Council? Sandie Okoro, appointed to the position in November 2016, previous worked for HSBC Global as their Global General Council and has devoted much of her time to improving diversity in the City. She has […]

1st December 2016

The First 100 Years Champions have been selected for their committment to furthering equality in Law and beyond. This week, two champions have been featured in the national media to advance the causes of diversity and equality in the profession. Barry Matthews has been a champion for diversity in Law throughout his career. He currently […]

30th November 2016

A woman of fierce determination, Agnes Twiston Hughes qualified as a solicitor in 1923 and thus became the first Welsh woman to qualify as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. Born in 1896, the younger daughter of solicitor John Williams Hughes, Agnes was trained by her father; on qualification she joined […]

29th November 2016

We are delighted to announce the winner and finalists of the First 100 Years’ Inspirational Women in Law Award. From the huge number of nominations we received from all over the legal industry, the First 100 Years team and our brilliant panel of judges were able to narrow the competition down to five finalists, from […]

23rd November 2016

Born in 1896 Mary Elaine Sykes was one of the first four women to pass the Law Society’s Final Examinations in 1922. She was the middle child of Huddersfield solicitor James Sykes and his wife Emma Amelia Turner. Her elder brother, Eric, died in France in May 1917 at the age of 22 but her […]

17th November 2016

On November 9th 2016, Spark 21 and the First 100 Years project held their second annual conference to promote gender equality and diversity in the legal profession. They day was a great success, with 150 delegates from all over the country (and beyond!), and raised nearly £3,000 for the project – thanks to the generous […]

7th November 2016

As we look forward to the Annual Spark 21 Conference on 9 November 2016 at Simmons & Simmons LLP, the First 100 Years Project will be publishing excerpts of speeches from the 2015 Spark21 Conference every Monday, leading up to this year’s conference. Please visit the website for more information on how to attend. Keynote […]

31st October 2016

As we look forward to the Annual Spark 21 Conference on 9 November 2016 at Simmons & Simmons LLP, the First 100 Years Project will be publishing excerpts of speeches from the 2015 Spark21 Conference every Monday, leading up to this year’s conference. Please visit the website for more information on how to attend. The […]

26th October 2016

As we look forward to the Annual Spark 21 Conference on 9 November 2016 at Simmons & Simmons LLP, we feature one of our Red Chair Interviews with Funke Abimbola from the 2015 Spark21 Conference. Please visit the website for more information on how to attend this year’s conference. The idea behind the Red Chair […]

24th October 2016

As we look forward to the Annual Spark 21 Conference on 9 November 2016 at Simmons & Simmons LLP, the First 100 Years Project will be publishing excerpts of speeches from the 2015 Spark21 Conference every Monday, leading up to this year’s conference. Please visit the website for more information on how to attend. The […]

19th October 2016

In 1923 Mithan Tata became the first woman called to the bar by Lincoln’s Inn and the first practising Indian woman barrister. She would have been remarkable in any era, but for those times she was extraordinary. Mithan was born into a Parsi family in Maharashtra in 1898 and spent her childhood in different parts […]

17th October 2016

As we look forward to the Annual Spark 21 Conference on 9 November 2016 at Simmons & Simmons LLP, the First 100 Years Project will be publishing excerpts of speeches from the 2015 Spark21 Conference every Monday, leading up to this year’s conference. Please visit the website for more information on how to attend. In […]

13th October 2016

Mercy Ashworth was called to the bar on 26 January 1923 at the same time as Mithan Tata. They were the first two women from Lincoln’s Inn. At the age of 54, Mercy had waited a long time for to be called. Mercy’s age was not unusual amongst the early barristers. Cornelia Sorabji, Amy Edwards […]

10th October 2016

As we look forward to the Annual Spark 21 Conference on 9 November 2016 at Simmons & Simmons LLP, the First 100 Years Project will be publishing excerpts of speeches from the 2015 Spark21 Conference every Monday, leading up to this year’s conference. Please visit the website for more information on how to attend. Panel […]

3rd October 2016

As we look forward to the Annual Spark 21 Conference on 9 November 2016 at Simmons & Simmons LLP, the First 100 Years Project will be publishing excerpts of speeches from the 2015 Spark21 Conference every Monday, leading up to this year’s conference. Please visit the website for more information on how to attend. Panel […]

26th September 2016

As we look forward to the Annual Spark 21 Conference on 9 November 2016 at Simmons & Simmons LLP, the First 100 Years Project will be publishing excerpts of speeches from the 2015 Spark21 Conference every Monday, leading up to this year’s conference. Please visit the website for more information on how to attend. Panel […]

19th September 2016

As we look forward to the Annual Spark 21 Conference on 9 November 2016 at Simmons & Simmons LLP, the First 100 Years Project will be publishing excerpts of speeches from the 2015 Spark21 Conference every Monday, leading up to this year’s conference. Please visit the website for more information on how to attend. Opening […]

16th September 2016

In September 2016, Dana Denis-Smith, founder of the First 100 Years project, introduced the project to employees of a large multinational banking organisation. Her speech at the presentation was titled, Why We Must Not Succumb to “Diversity Fatigue’. The First 100 Years project started with a photograph. I happened to glance it as I browsed […]

12th September 2016

These are excerpts from the First 100 Year’s video interview with Ruth Lady Morris of Kenwood. The video is currently being produced and will be released shortly. Let me start by saying that in my day, and it’s as long ago as that, there were only 28 women a year who qualified, so it was […]

9th September 2016

The First 100 Years project hosted its annual reception at the Supreme Court, thus marking the amazing achievements of the last year in the presence of the country’s top judges – the Supreme Court President and Baroness Hale, the only woman on the Supreme Court.

7th September 2016

The Founder of the First 100 Years project, Dana Denis-Smith, shares her personal story and her journey from Transylvania, in Romania, to being a journalist, City lawyer, woman in law and entrepreneur as well as a mother and wife.

5th September 2016

These are excerpts from the First 100 Year’s video interview with Dame Janet Gaymer, first woman to become Senior Partner of a Top 20 law firm. The video is currently being produced and will be released shortly. I think the story of women in law is very much a slow burn. It’s obvious if you […]

2nd September 2016

#OnTheRoll captures the story of how women were prevented from getting a job in the legal industry for decades, simply because there were no female toilet facilities at law firms and legal institutions. This unbelievable story has been printed on one hundred limited edition toilet rolls. You can purchase this special edition roll for £100. […]

29th August 2016

These are excerpts from the First 100 Year’s video interview with June Venters QC, first woman solicitor to be appointed a Queen’s Counsel. The video can be found here. What happened was that the solicitors firm where I was working, one morning, on a Monday called me in to say they were closing the department […]

26th August 2016

June Venters QC, the first woman solicitor to be appointed a Queen’s Counsel, speaks to the First 100 Years about her journey in law. Her interview transcripts can be found here.

24th August 2016

Barry Matthews, deputy General Counsel at ITV, in conversation with Mrs June Foote, his school headmistress and a magistrate, who inspired him to succeed in life and train as a lawyer.

22nd August 2016

These are excerpts from the First 100 Year’s video interview with Shami Chakrabarti which can be found here. I think I wanted to become a lawyer fairly early on. I think I was partly shaped by the books and movies that my Mother shared with me, that’s ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’, ‘Rumpole of the […]

17th August 2016

Guest post by Caroline Derry. A member of the first small cohort of women to practise at the English Bar, Ethel Bright Ashford was called alongside Helena Normanton and seven other women at Middle Temple in November 1922. Her political background and subsequent career were very different to Normanton’s, highlighting the diversity of the legal […]

10th August 2016

Guest post by Emma Crewe. The elevated social status of peers in the House of Lords might conjure an image of rigid and old-fashioned hierarchy and, more specifically, patriarchy. In contrast, an idealisation of the apparently more modern Commons may create assumptions of equality and fairness between MPs. I went into Parliament with these preconceptions […]

15th July 2016

There is a saying in Latin America that when one woman comes into politics, she changes, but when many women come into politics, politics changes. When Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister she was one of very few women in the political arena. By comparison when Theresa May became the second female Prime Minister on Wednesday […]

12th July 2016

In 2016 Chambers & Partners described Clare Montgomery as ‘the most formidable member of the bar’. She is a highly respected specialist in criminal, regulatory and fraud law, known for her work on legally and factually complex cases. The following article is based on Clare’s video interview with First 100 Years and is written in […]

11th July 2016

On the recent donation of one of our #ontheroll artefacts, it was suggested by a librarian that First 100 Years look into the innovative and important work done by female legal librarians over the past century. This is a field that is very un-worked, and we welcome any contributions from legal librarians on your work […]

8th July 2016

Tensions over labour relations and frustration that social change was stagnating caused a backdrop of restlessness to this decade. The First World War shook the British nation to its core and led to unprecedented changes in political, legislative, and cultural structures. This was the epoch that saw the sinking of the unsinkable Titanic in 1915, […]

7th July 2016

Before women were permitted, from 1920 onwards, to serve on the grand and trial juries which were responsible for the final determination of a person’s guilt or liability, they had occasionally been empanelled on “juries of matrons”. The most common reason for such a jury to be put together was if, on being convicted of […]

6th July 2016

This piece gives a snapshot of the state of affairs in legal academia for women, what challenges are faced by female students of law, and what the consequences of these issues are for the legal profession. In 2014 over 50 senior Cambridge academics called on the university to change its staff appointment procedure because the […]

5th July 2016

This article is based on the video interview with Linda Dobbs which can be found here. I came to the UK when I was seven in the 1950s to stay with my English family, and I was usually the only person of colour in the area. I would have names thrown at me by the […]

5th July 2016

Guest Post by Elizabeth Cruickshank When Maud Crofts was formally admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales on 11 January 1923 she realised an ambition for which she had been working for more than a decade. Maud Isabel Crofts, (nee Ingram) was born in 1889, one of the twelve children […]

4th July 2016

On this day, 4th July, 240 years ago, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, establishing that 13 American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation. The Declaration came at the end of bloody revolutionary wars in America. The economic and political pressures associated with wartime resulted in the roles of women undergoing significant […]

1st July 2016

A tradition of strike action in the twentieth century resulted in legislative changes that shaped workers’ rights in Britain. This article briefly examines two successful strikes in Britain, 80 years apart, which were led by women. These two examples readjust the historical lens that traditionally sees change as initiated by men, instead drawing attention to […]

27th June 2016

In 1974 Barbara Calvert earned her place in the historical timeline of female lawyers by founding her own chambers at 4 Brick Court. Eight years later she broke another record as the first woman to become a Bencher at Middle Temple in 1982, where she delivered a reading in 2001 on the history of women […]

27th June 2016

The fifth woman to sit in the Court of Appeal writes about the women in law who have inspired her during her career. In February 2013 she was called the 8th most powerful woman in Britain by Woman’s Hour. We are honoured to be featuring her fascinating story as part of the First 100 Years […]

27th June 2016

The first female jurors sat at the Bristol Quarter Sessions in 1920. These women were the first to step into a traditionally male role in the justice system. But there was in fact already a specifically female role in English common law, though it had become obsolete by the twentieth century, if not before. The […]

22nd June 2016

The First 100 Years project celebrates the right to enter the legal profession afforded by the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act in 1919. The year before, women were politically enfranchised by the Right to Vote. But how did the law in the twentieth century continue to influence how women spent their money? Money is one of […]

20th June 2016

Postcards provide an entertaining insight into popular imagination. Used by ‘ordinary’ people, as well as the ‘great men’ of history, the well-known images used on postcards reveal what appealed to contemporary tastes or interests. A flurry of propagandistic postcards circulating in the early twentieth century demonstrate what anxieties and hopes were also in circulation on […]

13th June 2016

I should like to see more and more women at Westminster, and in the highest places, too. It would certainly be a good thing for the women of Britain. And I’m sure it would be a good thing for the men, too!’. As well as two term prime minister of the UK, in 1953 Margaret […]

13th June 2016

Due to her position as constitutional monarch, the Queen is more a woman above the law than a woman in law. Due to this position, Her Majesty has a unique relationship with the UK legal system, a relationship that can provoke both interest and criticism. This weekend the nation will celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, […]

8th June 2016

We interviewed Slaughter & May Corporate Partner Frances Murphy in December 2015. We were saddened to hear the news of her death on 25 May 2016. Legal Week have featured our film with her in which “Murphy discusses everything from her motivation for becoming a lawyer to her love of deals and the reality of […]

7th June 2016

Born in Manchester into a well-off family, Joyanne Bracewell was educated largely at home and became a talented child actor. As a young teenager in 1948 she appeared in two comedy films and seemed destined for a career as an actress. Baroness Brenda Hale suggested that this acting training contributed to her outstandingly clear diction […]

6th June 2016

The UK’s supreme court should be “ashamed” if it does not radically improve its diversity in the next round of judicial appointments, according to its only female judge, Lady Hale. Read full story

6th June 2016

First 100 Years is delighted to share the story of BT’s first female lawyer, Mrs. Chaya Ray. Chaya and her ex-colleagues at BT have been able to tell us about her story in becoming their first female lawyer. She was born on 21st August 1931, and was called to the bar in 1957. She completed […]

3rd June 2016

These excerpts are special previews from Baroness Brenda Hale’s video interview capture her experiences of working in the legal profession, which is currently still in edit and will be published soon. We are honoured to share the details of her experiences and journey working in the legal profession. The journey of women in law was […]

1st June 2016

Amelia Bloomer, American women’s rights advocate, gave her name to the emancipatory bloomer style of clothing because of her prestige as a spokesperson for women. Her newspaper, The Lily, promoted a change in dress standards, arguing that ‘the costume of women’ should be ‘suited to her necessities’. in 1851, Elizabeth Smith Miller, of New England, […]

1st June 2016

Interesting article by Rashmi Chopra on the Hanne & Co website. Introduction The recent campaign conducted by Ms Thorp, a receptionist at Price Waterhouse & Cooper (PwC), concerning the compulsory wearing of high heels at work raises issues concerning dress codes at work. Ms Thorp was sent home by her supervisor for not wearing high […]

27th May 2016

Mary McAleese, the second woman ever elected as president of Ireland, discusses the structural prejudices which are holding back the new generation of women working in law. She identifies the pressures facing female lawyers and the ways to overcome them, as well as the crucical importance of female voices in public affairs. At the recent […]

27th May 2016

This week we heard the sad news that Frances Murphy – the former corporate head at Slaughter and May - has died after a long illness.

26th May 2016

The first female Irish president who proved that women could be ‘the hands that rocked the system’ as well as the ‘the hands that rocked the cradle’. Mary Robinson’s views of the legal system were shaped by the optimism of the 1960s to use the law as an instrument of social change. As president of […]

25th May 2016

‘A person shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage from the exercise of any public function, or from being appointed to or holding any civil or judicial post, or from entering or assuming or carrying on any civil profession or vocation.’ (Beginning of the Sexual Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919) In her 1938 essay ‘Three […]

6th May 2016

Story submitted anonymously through the website. Scene: Christmas Day, Cambridgeshire, 1980 Me (aged 5): [throws ball in sitting room narrowly missing Christmas tree] My mother: “Alice, don’t throw balls in the house!” Me: “But I didn’t throw the ball, I bowled it.” Auntie Joyce: “One day Alice, you will be a lawyer…” Fast forward to […]

6th May 2016

It is fairly well known that the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 abolished the previous bar on women serving as lawyers, judges or magistrates. What is less well known is that the 1919 Act also removed other bars to women’s formal inclusion in public life. It opened up much of the civil service to women, […]

8th March 2016

In 2004 Dame Linda Dobbs became the first black person appointed as judge of the High Court, commenting that she was confident that she was the first of many to come. In this iconic interview she describes her experiences of the legal world throughout her career.

8th March 2016

This short video captures the essence of the First 100 Years Project, featuring some of the trailblazing women who are being celebrated on the groundbreaking digital platform.

12th December 2015

First 100 Years organised a flagship event, the SPARK21 on 2nd November 2015, with confirmed keynote speaker Professor Dame Carol Black, and chair of the day Dame Jenni Murray from Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. First 100 Years is a ground-breaking research project launched by Obelisk Support in partnership with the Law Society and the Bar […]

25th November 2015

The BSN, which published its first diversity league table in 2006, said its sample of firms in the early years had around one in five partners who were women and about 4% from a minority ethnic background.

25th November 2015

Charlotte Proudman - "I'm tired of members of the old boys' club telling me that quotas are 'patronising' to women while holding on to their privileged positions - especially in the legal profession"

25th November 2015

A lawyer who received the ‘Services to Law’ prize at the British Muslim Awards has said there is a “massive under-representation” of ethnic minority groups in the legal profession.

25th November 2015

Chakrabarti was born to Hindu-Bengali parents in the suburb of Kenton in the London Borough of Harrow. Her father, a bookkeeper, has been cited by Chakrabarti as an influence on her gaining an interest in civil liberties. She attended Bentley Wood High School, a girls’ comprehensive school, then Harrow Weald Sixth Form College.[4] Chakrabarti was […]

25th October 2015

Two women have been appointed as High Court judges for the first time in the history of the judiciary in Northern Ireland.

25th October 2015

Barrister Charlotte Proudman accused male solicitor of sexism after he described her photograph on the networking site LinkedIn as 'stunning'

22nd October 2015

Dr Mari Takayanagi writes for the First 100 Years project about some links between the women's suffrage movement and the campaign by women to enter the legal profession.

19th October 2015

First 100 Years is launching a campaign to fund the filming of 100 individual stories of leading women in law as it looks to build the UK’s first digital museum dedicated to the journey of women in the legal profession. This is a ground-breaking project that has the support of all corners of the profession.

19th October 2015

This month saw the launch of the First 100 Years’ In Conversation series, which brings together two leading lawyers from across the profession to talk about the key issues surrounding women in law. Our first event posed the question ‘How Can Innovation and Diversity Shape the Legal Profession’.

25th September 2015

Lord Sumption claims rushing to achieve equality could damage the judiciary

25th September 2015

Shocking levels of rampant sexism still exist among barristers “existing in a children’s playground” who know they can get away with “grossly disrespectful” comments, according to a major Bar Council report.

25th September 2015

Women who want to re-enter the world of work after having children are struggling, and business needs to do something about it

14th September 2015

Guest post by Alice Tyson Lady Barbara (“Bill”) Littlewood (1909-1995) may not be a familiar name to many, but her contributions to women in the legal profession should not be overlooked. She spent her long career at a firm of “country solicitors” (as they were known). Alongside this, she held an impressive list of achievements […]

10th September 2015

A guest post by First 100 Years Champion Mari Takayanagi Photo credit: Original Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/PU/1/1919/9&10G5c71 Dr Mari Takayanagi writes for the First 100 Years project about the passage of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919. The First 100 Years project is celebrating the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) […]

8th September 2015

Guest post by Elizabeth Cruickshank In December 1922 Carrie Morrison became the first woman to be admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales. At the age of 34, and with a varied career behind her, Carrie set a high standard of determination and dedication to her profession for the women who came after her. […]

4th September 2015

Photo credit: Court of Justice of the European Union Eleanor Sharpston QC, Advocate General at the European Court of Justice Interview by Alison Maitland Eleanor Sharpston QC, the first woman appointed by the UK as Advocate General to the European Court of Justice, is one of the most distinguished contemporary lawyers. Yet her struggle to […]

7th August 2015

Eliza Orme (1848-1937) was the first woman in England to earn a law degree, in 1888 at University College London; she was 39 years old and already unofficially ‘practicing’ law out of an office in London’s Chancery Lane where she and a colleague prepared the paperwork for property transactions, patent registrations, wills, settlements, and mortgages. […]

25th July 2015

We're in the second decade of the 21st century but there are still places where women will never be equal

19th June 2015

Baroness Brenda Hale has always been known for her vivacious attitude towards women’s rights and diversity in the legal profession. At grammar school, she first noted there were only half the number of places available for girls as for boys. Whilst reading Law at Girton College, Cambridge, she found that she was one of only […]

18th June 2015

Funke is a black, female, single mother and the solicitor leading the UK & Ireland legal team of Roche, the world’s largest biotech company. She is currently the most senior black lawyer working in the UK pharmaceutical industry. Her legal expertise has been recognised through multiple awards and other recognitions including being the only female […]

11th June 2015

Most famously known by her married name – Blair – Cherie Booth QC is celebrated for her work in human rights, in particular women’s and children’s rights. Patron of many charities (Breast Cancer Care, Jospice, Scope…), Booth’s legal work mirrors this. She was one of the 22 barristers to set up Matrix Chambers, known for […]

10th June 2015

When asked what books she wanted on the GCSE set texts, Shami Chakrabarti cited Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. Not only is the book’s lawyer, Atticus Finch, one of Chakrabarti’s inspirations, but the novel itself, she argues, has inspired many towards human rights, “ [it is] touchingly human and intimate but concerned with massive […]

2nd June 2015

A guest post written by Matthew Holmes. The call to the Irish bar on the 1st of November 1921 was a historic one. It was the first call to the bar since the Irish Judiciary had been divided following our independence from England, it was also the first call to the bar anywhere in the […]

25th April 2015

The downward trend in the number of bar pupillages is continuing, reflecting a fall in the availability of work, statistics released by the bar’s regulator suggest.

25th April 2015

The Law Society’s latest Annual Statistics Report: Trends in the solicitors' profession, published today, provides an authoritative record of the numbers of practitioners and the types of organisations they work within in England and Wales.

20th April 2015

Top City of London lawyer Elaine Aarons is one of the founding mothers of employment law and is a pioneer of flexible working in the legal profession. When Elaine qualified in 1982, employment law was not a recognised speciality. Within two years of qualifying, she decided to make it her sole focus. “I felt I […]

9th April 2015

This is a short trailer introducing the aims of the First 100 Years project, the UK’s pioneering digital space dedicated to the journey of women in law. Filmed on 12 March 2015, on the date of the official launch at the House of Lords.

25th March 2015

The future of London law firms will be threatened unless they speed up efforts to help women progress to their senior ranks, a report warned today.

12th March 2015

Grand portraits hang in the halls of our profession’s historic buildings – from the Law Society to the Inns of Court – and coherently chart the history of men in the legal profession over hundreds of years. They tell of imposing, confident, impressive individuals that have been some of the country’s leading names in law. […]

12th March 2015

We are delighted to share with you a post on Gertrude Tuckwell, written for the First 100 Years project by Dr Anne Logan of the University of Kent. On Christmas Eve 1919 the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act became law. On the same day the appointment of the first seven women to be justices of the […]

25th February 2015

In a first for any legal profession in the world, female Irish solicitors now outnumber male solicitors practising in the country.

25th February 2015

Almost two-thirds of entrants into the Scottish legal profession are women, the Law Society of Scotland has said.

12th December 2014

Baroness Cohen has enjoyed a colourful career, excelling in a remarkably varied number of fields. A published novelist, a Labour peer and Chancellor of BPP University, Janet’s accomplishments to date can be traced back to the earliest part of her career, when she practiced as a solicitor. Having graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge with a […]

11th December 2014

Baroness Janet Cohen talks to the First 100 Years about her journey in law.

25th November 2014

In a profession in which law firms struggle to retain female talent and establish gender parity at partner level, young female lawyers stand apart.

22nd October 2014

As a young, black woman, Dawn Dixon’s route into a legal career inevitably involved an enormous amount of determination, and even more hard work. That she had not been educated at a red brick university further stacked the odds against her, as this was viewed as essential for anyone with ambitions of climbing to the […]

15th October 2014

Born in 1882, Helena Normanton was the first woman to practice at the Bar (although not the first to be called to the Bar: that accolade went to Oxford academic Ivy Williams). She continually shocked and scandalised the legal profession – and wider political circles – with her tireless refusal to accept the uncompromising dogmatism […]

30th September 2014

Born in 1954 and educated at Jews Free School in Camden, Barbara Roche’s attitude to equality and diversity coupled with her natural aptitude for public speaking and debate allowed her to flourish in both of her areas of passion: politics and the law. When it came to choosing a path for university, the world of […]

22nd August 2014

Born in Queensland, Australia, Margaret’s journey to prominence in the legal profession has taken her to the other side of the world, with an enormous amount of hard work required to get her there. As one of six children born into a working class family, Margaret’s work ethic was instilled into her at a young […]

21st August 2014

The richness and diversity of Eileen Pembridge’s experience before qualifying as a lawyer perhaps goes some way to explaining why her approach to the law is so vastly empathetic. Her balancing of a rigorous and effective approach with a genuine and palpable interest in those individuals who seek the help of her firm is perhaps […]

18th August 2014

As one of the first four women to pass the Law Society’s examinations, Mary Sykes has been immortalised by her achievement. Legend has it that these four women raced up Chancery Lane to the Law Society, to decide who had the honour of being the very first to qualify as a solicitor. Since Carrie Morrison […]

6th August 2014

As one of the UK’s leading judges, Anne Rafferty commands great influence over the legal system, with her success bringing a new touch of radicalism to a traditionally male profession. As the first female chair of the Criminal Bar Association she is a genuine trailblazer, who capitalised upon her novel status as a female in […]

4th August 2014

As the first female head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde is one of the most powerful women in the world. As well as being an accomplished lawyer, Lagarde has served on the French government, becoming the first female Finance and Economy Minister of a G7 country. Her legal background – most notably her experience […]

1st August 2014

Edwina’s career is made remarkable not only by her becoming the first woman president of the Association of District Judges, but also by the atypicality of her education. Her original diploma was in housecraft and needlework and, upon receiving it, Edwina became a teacher. However, she always harboured a nagging aspiration to become a lawyer. […]

29th July 2014

Not only was Juliet a fantastic lawyer, but she also managed to bridge the gap between law and politics in a way far more accomplished than most. Her knowledge of these two sectors led to a tremendous career, encompassing many legal firsts which she took deftly in her stride. Juliet was the first female Treasury […]

25th July 2014

Baroness Hale claims male colleagues have concerns about changing the application and hiring process

23rd July 2014

Eulalie Evan Spicer will always be remembered for her role in the founding of the Legal Aid Scheme, but those who knew her personally will remember her for the vivacious spirit and unique character with which she tackled the challenge of her minority within the legal profession. She cultivated a sternly masculine exterior, wearing her […]

21st July 2014

In her appointment to the role of Director of Public Prosecutions in 1992, the late Barbara Mills became the first female to head the Crown Prosecution Service, presiding over a staff of 6000. Although this may sound like a daunting task, Barbara had been a trailblazer throughout her career, and, it seems, was fazed by […]

17th July 2014

It would be no exaggeration to state that, without the efforts of Eva Crawley, the Association for Women Solicitors might not exist, and that many women who had taken career breaks to become mothers would have had neither the confidence nor the facility to get back into the profession. In 1969, the 1919 Club – […]

15th July 2014

Indubitably one of the most enigmatic and fascinating characters in the legal world, there are many more questions pertaining to Peirce than there are answers. Why did she change her name from Jean to Gareth? What motivated her, a Cheltenham Ladies’ College educated Oxford graduate – an education and upbringing most typically renowned for producing […]

10th July 2014

Although not a qualified lawyer, Ada Summers made legal history by becoming the first woman to serve on an English bench, and the first female Justice of the Peace. Ada’s background was primarily political, this in itself an impressive feat for the time. In fact, she joined the council as a Liberal representative for Stalybridge […]

8th July 2014

The late Moira Gilmour’s remarkable achievements in the legal profession are made all the more laudable by the atypicality of her background. Born to shopkeeper parents and granddaughter to coal miners, she attended the local comprehensive before becoming the first member of her family to attend university, or indeed move out of the 10 mile […]

7th July 2014

Gwyneth Bebb gave her name to the famous ‘Bebb v Law Society’ case of 1913, which ruled that women were not ‘persons’ under the meaning of the Solicitors Act of 1843 and continued to prohibit them from practising law. However, whilst her name has become synonymous with the female struggle for equality, her personal story […]

7th July 2014

The late Dame Rose Heilbron’s remarkable catalogue of firsts reads like a record book: her career was truly unprecedented.  She was the first woman to receive a first class Law degree from Liverpool University, the first woman to win a scholarship to Gray’s Inn, one of the first two women to be appointed KC (the […]

3rd July 2014

Cornelia Sorabji was the first woman to ever sit the Bachelor of Civil Laws exam at Oxford University. Born in Bengal in 1866, Cornelia achieved the unfathomable, becoming the first woman to practice law in both India and Britain. Coming from a large family, her mother strove widely for the education of girls in India, […]

2nd July 2014

In their quest to open up the professions to women, the earliest pioneers found themselves up against a barrier of seemingly insurmountable stature: the ideological denial of a woman’s access to education.

1st July 2014

Louise Arbour’s list of honours and awards is staggering, and rightly so. Her long and distinguished career began in academia: following her graduation from the Université de Montréal where she completed an LL.B in 1970, she taught at Osgoode Hall Law School, climbing the ranks to become Associate Professor and Dean. From academia, she was […]

30th June 2014

To change the future, first celebrate the past Dana Denis-Smith talks about what inspired the First 100 Years Project: A wonderful group image captured my imagination in 2013 – it was a photograph of the partners of city law firm Herbert Smith (now Herbert Smith Freehills) dating from 1982, marking the firm’s centenary at Grocer’s […]

27th June 2014

Dr Ivy Williams was the first woman to be called to the English bar in 1922, and the first woman to teach law at an English university. Born in 1877, by 1903 she had passed all her law examinations with flying colours, but the university regulations at the time meant that she was prevented from […]

26th June 2014

Before rising to fame as a celebrity chef, Clarissa Dickson Wright was a barrister. There are many legends surrounding her time at the Bar, none more colourful than her impromptu appearance at a Gray’s Inn Smoking Concert. Notoriously ‘male only’, the concert encouraged Bar members to showcase their own talents. Clarissa attempted to circumvent her […]

25th June 2014

This article is about the recognition of the First 100 Year Project, some information about Obelisk Support, the progress made so far with getting women into law, and Dana’s thoughts regarding this.

25th January 2014

The legal establishment still looks like it is stuck in the Victorian era, the new justice minister has claimed as he announces a drive to boost the number of female and ethnic-minority barristers.