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 top of the profession. Instead, her educational background saw her go from a South London convent school to a polytechnic university. After completing her law degree, and facing both of these problems in tandem, Dawn’s attempts to gain articles at City law firms were continually rebuffed, until William Heath & Co offered her a place – clearly not a decision that they would come to regret, given that she had made partner by the age of 28.
Having progressed so quickly to partnership at such an exceptionally young age, Dawn set upon a new challenge, which saw her set up her own firm in partnership with another like-minded lawyer. Webster Dixon became the first City law firm to be founded by black partners. Steered by Dawn, for fifteen years the firm went from strength to strength, until it was hit by scandal when Dawn’s partner, Michael Webster, was found guilty of stealing £75,000 from their client account in order to invest in an associate’s diamond business. The firm went into voluntary liquidation, which seems an unfit ending to what had been such a pioneering firm. Outside of the practice, Dawn has pursued many other ventures, and in particular has championed the progression of women in law. She became the first ethnic minority chair of the London branch of the Association of Women Solicitors, before becoming chairwoman of the ASW in its entirety. The message that Dawn sends to young female lawyers, and particularly those from an ethnic minority, is that with enough hard work and resolution it is possible to overcome any number of obstacles, and that a successful career in the law is not within the exclusive remit of the privilege.