Eulalie Evan Spicer

Published 23rd July 2014
Eulalie Evan Spicer will always be remembered for her role in the founding of the Legal Aid Scheme, but those who knew her personally will remember her for the vivacious spirit and unique character with which she tackled the challenge of her minority within the legal profession. She cultivated a sternly masculine exterior, wearing her hair in an Eton crop, travelling often by motor scooter, and spending her spare time practicing revolver shooting. She was never addressed by her Christian name, opting instead for Miss Spicer, or simply EES; her clients were often surprised upon their first meeting with their solicitor ‘E E Spicer’ to be greeted by a young woman but, by all accounts, Eulalie’s prowess left no room for unflattering comparisons with her male counterparts. She worked tirelessly to command the level of respect that she held within the field.

Born in Kent in 1906 to a wealthy family of paper manufacturers, Eulalie’s considerable intellect was first recognised at St Helen’s School, Northwood, and took her on to a degree in Philosophy at King’s College London, before she undertook her PhD at University College London. Having then read Law, Eulalie qualified as a solicitor in 1938, at a time when only around 15 women a year did so. Such was the scarcity of females in the legal profession at the time that, rather comically, her Law Society exam certificate read that Eulalie served ‘his’ Articles of Clerkship, and was placed in the Second Class. She worked in a small firm for several years, often undertaking social work, an interest which eventually became the underpinning of her career.

In 1942, midway through the Second World War, Eulalie joined the newly-established Services Divorce Department of the Law Society, which had been set up in response to the increasing number of marriage breakdowns a result of wartime conditions. These domestic troubles were thought to foster anxiety in soldiers, and the potential detriment to the war effort was necessary to address. Only making the issue more complex was the shortage of legal practitioners due to the war service, and thus Eulalie was granted her break, becoming supervising solicitor of the department, with more than 100 solicitors under her charge.

Even before the end of the war, the Government began to strategise how legal aid could become incorporated into the welfare state. Spicer was appointed Secretary of the No. 1 London area committee, which became the most successful of the 12 areas across England and Wales. She worked tirelessly, dealing with some 25,000 annual aid applications for 15 years. Such was the magnitude of this workload, and Eulalie’s efficiency and ability to tackle it, that once she retired from the role, by necessity the area was divided in two and for her efforts, she was appointed OBE. She continued to work for a further seven years in private practice and up until her death in 1997, Eulalie continued to play an active part in her local churches – her final appointment was to the parochial church council of St Saviour’s.