In an interview with First 100 Years, Eileen Pembridge has spoken of her experiences of setting up Fisher Meredith, lobbying for changes in domestic violence law, and being the first woman to stand for the Law Society presidency in 1995.
Eileen has had a very varied career. After starting off as a scientist, she switched to languages, and worked as an interpreter at the UN. Later, she worked for Release, the UK charity that provides legal advice and representation for people charged with the possession of drugs, which motivated her to qualify as a solicitor. Speaking of her motivation to become a solicitor, Eileen said “I thought there was an awful lot of injustice out there, and I wanted to do something about it.”
Qualifying in 1975, Eileen set up the firm Fisher Meredith with Mike Fisher. She describes the firm’s early days:
We started in Mike Fisher’s front room, and he had one of those loft beds in the corner, so if we had early clients and he hadn’t got up he had to stay motionless for hours. We had a filing cabinet, a telephone and a cat and that was about it.
While working at Meredith Fisher, Eileen became interested in domestic violence. “Women would come to us for help”, she explains, “there were so many women coming in, but no particular law to help them…it was ridiculous so we were lobbying in Parliament for a domestic violence law, which we eventually got in 1976.”
In 1995, Eileen became the first woman to stand for presidency at the Law Society, against an alleged “serial groper”. Eileen described how many women came forward and wrote to her about their experiences with him, but that Eileen had to explain to the men on the Council “that it really was an issue and it shouldn’t be allowed”. Although she describes fighting against the male dominated culture of the Law Society as a “bit of a battle”, Eileen maintains that women “could and did stand up for ourselves”.
The full video interview with Eileen Pembridge will be released by First 100 Years soon.