Our Stories

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 female exclusion. She […]

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 […]

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 was a lawyer and Legal Aid administrator, described as “one of the most prominent divorce lawyers of her day”. Born on 20th April 1906 to Charles Evan Spicer, a wholesale stationer, and Elsie Mary née Williams who came from a family of paper manufacturers. Eulalie was educated at St Helen’s School, Northwood. […]

21st July 2014

Dame Barbara Mills DBE QC was the first female Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) from 1990 to 1992, and the first female Director of Public Prosecutions from 1992 to 1998. As Director of Public Prosecutions, she also served as the second head of the Crown Prosecution Service, presiding over a staff of 6,000. […]

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

Ada Summers was the first female magistrate, one of the first women in England to become a Justice of the Peace and was the first female councillor, mayor and freeman of Stalybridge. Born Ada Jane Broome in 1861, Summers was elected as a councillor in Stalybridge in 1912, representing the Liberal Party, years before women […]

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 was a plaintiff in the famous Bebb v Law Society case of 1913, which was an attempt by Bebb and others to open the legal profession to women in Britain, claiming the Law Society should be compelled to admit them to its examinations, as women were ‘persons’ within the Solicitors Act 1843. However, […]

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 one of the first women 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 […]

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 on the 10th May 1922, although she never practised as a barrister. Born in 1877 in Devon, Ivy’s mother was Emma Ewers, and her father, George St Swithin Williams, was a solicitor. She was educated privately along with her brother, Winter […]

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.