Dorothy Livingston: “Be prepared to speak your mind”

Published 5th April 2018
Dorothy Livingston, first female partner of Herbert Smith Freehills has spoken to First 100 Years about her advice to young female lawyers, and what she hopes will change for the future. She says:

I’d like to see a future in which the legal profession is well balanced between men and women. I think to do that it’s very important to look at the promotion process, which at the moment happens to coincide with when a professional woman is likely to be having their children, and I think very conscious efforts need to be made not to disadvantage women in that process.

Dorothy herself was promoted to equity partner at Herbert Smith whilst pregnant with her second child, but she says it took her longer than her contemporaries to be promoted, because of the extra pressure to demonstrate she was good enough after having children.

After graduating from Oxford, Dorothy applied to several firms, with some writing back saying they didn’t accept women. Herbert Smith offered her a job in 1970. While today, women make up over 50% of trainee solicitors, at the time Dorothy was the only female trainee at Herbert Smith. However, although her experience in the legal profession was very male-dominated, she maintains that “I was respected by the people that I worked with, both the clients and in the firm.”

And Dorothy’s advice for young female lawyers today? “Have a thick skin. Keep calm, and be good at your job. Don’t be too reticent, and you mustn’t worry that people are going to criticise you if you open your mouth. You’ve got to be prepared to speak your mind.”

The full video interview with Dorothy Livingston will be released by First 100 Years soon.