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’.
Lord Sumption claims rushing to achieve equality could damage the judiciary
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.
Women who want to re-enter the world of work after having children are struggling, and business needs to do something about it
The First 100 Years project was born out of a great need to highlight the certain invisibility and struggles that women in Law – and indeed across a myriad of professions – have faced. Since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919, when women were permitted to join professions for the first time, pioneering women […]
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 […]
The First 100 Years project is celebrating the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which enabled women to become barristers, solicitors, jurors and magistrates. It’s not well known, however, that the Act might never have been passed at all if it hadn’t been prompted by a more radical private members’ bill. The government […]
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. Although three other women (Maud […]
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 […]
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. […]
We're in the second decade of the 21st century but there are still places where women will never be equal
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 […]
Solicitor, Business Leader and Diversity Campaigner Funke is a multi-award-winning Solicitor, Business Leader and Diversity Campaigner with 18 years’ comprehensive achievements within niche ventures, regional and national businesses and global, multinational organisations. She has been recognised for her inspiring and impactful leadership in both full time & voluntary C-suite roles and has proven success in […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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.
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 […]
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.
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. […]
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 peace (JPs) was announced by the Lord Chancellor. One of these seven was Miss Gertrude Mary Tuckwell (1861-1951), who shortly after became the first woman to be sworn […]
In a first for any legal profession in the world, female Irish solicitors now outnumber male solicitors practising in the country.
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 […]
Baroness Janet Cohen talks to the First 100 Years about her journey in law.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
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 […]
Baroness Hale claims male colleagues have concerns about changing the application and hiring process
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. […]
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. […]
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 – […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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.
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.