Ania Rontaler is a Corporate partner in the London office of international law firm, Simmons & Simmons.
Ania trained and qualified as a solicitor at Simmons & Simmons, having joined in September 2003. She studied law and French at Exeter University, with one year spent studying French law in (the beautiful and very sunny!) Aix-en-Provence, France.
She advises clients on a variety of aspects of corporate law and has a strong focus on the asset management sector, advising alternative investment managers on all aspects of their business.
In 2015, Ania was listed as one of the 50 leading women in hedge funds by the global publication, The Hedge Fund Journal. Ania has spent time at the firm’s office in The Netherlands, and on secondment to a well-known US hedge fund manager, and is also the co-chair of the Simmons & Simmons women’s network, The Number One Club (TNOC). TNOC has both an internal and external focus – internally, TNOC looks to support women throughout the firm in their careers by putting on a variety of “Looking After Number One” events and externally, the network puts on various events focussed on its female client base.
The First 100 Years project is a fantastic initiative which we (Penny Miller and Ania Rontaler, on behalf of Simmons & Simmons) are very excited and proud to be part of. It is a great opportunity to highlight the history of women in law for those in the legal profession and for the general public. The project will allow us to celebrate the achievements of many highly successful and leading women who have paved the way for so many other women in law over the last 100 years. Hopefully, they will be able to act as inspiration and role models for even more women as a result of this project.
2019 marks the 100 year anniversary of women being allowed to enter into the legal profession in the UK. Since becoming involved with this project, we have learned so much about the history of women in the law, much of which has been both surprising and inspirational. Having an understanding of the history in this area provides context for the way we work today and is important when trying to improve the future. Penny and I are the chairs of the Simmons & Simmons women’s network, The Number One Club and have a very keen interest in gender diversity issues and initiatives. Whilst so much has been achieved in terms of increasing gender diversity in law, there is still much work to be done and no one solution.
We are particularly excited about hosting the first annual First 100 Years conference at our offices. We see this as a great way of spreading the word about this fantastic, important project and bringing together interested people from across the legal industry – solicitors, barristers, academics, students etc. We are very much looking forward to 2 November!
Barry trained and qualified at Hogan Lovells and has held numerous roles at ITV. He is currently the Director of Legal Affairs and Third Party Sales with responsibility for two divisional legal teams covering all UK commercial, global pay TV distribution and online legal matters; he also overseas advertising content compliance and ITV’s third party sales representation business in the UK and ROI. He sits on the board of BCAP and Clearcast and is a member of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s Education and Training Board Committee. He has a passion for diversity in the legal profession and to this end created the Legal Social Mobility Partnership which comprises over 30 law firm and in-house partners delivering work insight and skills training to over 100 state school 6th form students annually in London and the regions.
The key to breaking down actual and perceived barriers in our profession is the celebration of role models to encourage individuals to follow in their footsteps; the First 100 Years project use of all forms of media enables all ages to access and take inspiration from pioneers in the world of law. I believe the aggregation of these stories in this form can only help our shared goal of making our profession a true meritocracy.
Over 25 years in the legal profession Catherine Calder has worked in private practice, in-house and at the Bar, and as a lawyer and in management.
She is Director of Client Care at Serjeants’ Inn Chambers, which specialises in public law cases, often involving important ethical, social and political issues. Work of particular – although of course not unique – interest to women includes the first FGM prosecution, an important decision this year concerning the legal standing of a child in utero and the forthcoming Deepcut inquest into the death of Private Cheryl James.
Serjeants’ Inn Chambers is the only set of barristers’ chambers to be shortlisted for The Financial Times 2015 Innovative Lawyer Awards and The Lawyer’s Business Leadership Awards. It won three of the six awards available to the Bar at The Lawyer Awards, and Chambers of the Year at the Halsbury Legal Awards this year. It is a finalist for three awards at the forthcoming Chambers and Partners awards, including Client Service Set of the Year.
Catherine was previously Director of Client Care at Radcliffe Chambers. Originally appointed in 1999, she was one of the first solicitors to work in a management role at the Bar. She worked with others at Radcliffe to take the set to “the forefront of a minor revolution at the Bar which has seen the profession take on some of the trappings of modern customer-focused businesses” (Chambers and Partners).
Earlier in her career, Catherine trained and subsequently worked as a solicitor at Macfarlanes. She later moved to work for a client in the Saatchi Group, dealing with the Halifax plc and Amnesty International accounts.
Catherine is described by Chambers and Partners as “charming and clued up”. She is a committee member of the Legal Practice Management Association.
The support and friendship of other women at work has been invaluable to me throughout my career and, having first become involved in equality and diversity issues at university, the First 100 Years project is one I believe in strongly.
Great progress has been made but there is still so much more to achieve, as was most recently illustrated by the study published in July which revealed a 42% pay gap between male and female solicitors in Scotland.
The First 100 Year project challenges the attitudes underlying such statistics with stories of amazing trail-blazing women, such as Rose Heilbron. Born before women had the vote, she was a working mother who (with Helena Normanton) became the first female barrister to take silk, the first to lead in a murder case, the first woman recorder and the first woman to sit at the Old Bailey. As chair of the Heilbron Committee, she made the recommendations that rape victims should remain anonymous and be protected from unnecessary cross-examination about their sexual history, which we now take for granted as law.
Rose Heilbron is just one of an ever-growing number of instructive and inspiring female role models that the First 100 Years project will bring to life in its ambitious, exciting campaign to celebrate the past and change the future.
Elizabeth Cruickshank is a graduate of the University of Aberdeen, having obtained both her MA and M Litt at her “local” university. She taught English Literature at a Sixth Form College in Surrey for 10 years before qualifying as a solicitor and practicing Law in the City of London. Her current focus is on researching and writing about the lives and experiences of women solicitors, especially those few who qualified between 1922 and 1962.
She was the founding editor of “Link”, the magazine of the Association of Women Solicitors of which she was Chairwoman in 2004/5. Her involvement with that organisation led to her being given the Eva Crawley Award in 2005 for services to women solicitors.
She is the author of “Women in the Law” and “Sisters in Law”, both of which are based on interviews with outstanding women lawyers, the first dealing with English lawyers and the second, co-authored with Boma Ozobia celebrating women lawyers in Nigeria. “All You Need to Know About Being a Trainee Solicitor” co-authored with Professor Penny Cooper offers practical advice to young and aspirant lawyers. Currently she is engaged in researching and preparing material for the 100th Anniversary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 and writing a biography of Carrie Morrison, the first Englishwoman to qualify as a solicitor, although being a Scot herself, she usually points out that the first woman to qualify as a lawyer in the United Kingdom was a fellow Scot, Madge Easton Anderson.
I believe that the exploration of the past enables a better understanding of the present and can help us to make better choices about our future. When I became a solicitor it was under the naïve impression that there had always been women lawyers, and it was not until 1997, when the AWS decided to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Carrie Morrison’s admission, that I realised just how brief a time women had had even a walk-on part on the legal stage. Even forty years after Carrie’s admission only about 400 women held Practising Certificates, but now more women than men qualify into the profession.
In 2019 we shall justifiably be celebrating the passing of The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which prohibited the professions from refusing women the right to be admitted to their ranks simply on grounds of their gender. This was the culmination of several attempts by women going back to the latter decades of the Nineteenth Century to become solicitors or barristers. They carried on through rejection by the Law Society, the Inns of Court and in 1914 by the Court of Appeal in the famous case of Bebb v The Law Society and through years of lobbying and argument until with the passing of the 1919 Act they were entitled to be called to the Bar and to be admitted as solicitors and members of the Law Society.
Rather than swamping the profession as many men had argued, women solicitors were initially so few that many practised for almost the whole of their careers without encountering another solicitor of their own sex. Despite this they were notable for the skill, knowledge and determination that they devoted to benefit the legal position of other women. They were to be found arguing for Divorce Law Reform, for the rights of women to retain and manage their own property, to have custody of their own children and even in 1943 to retain some at least of the savings they had made from judicious use of their housekeeping money (Blackwell v Blackwell).
The First 100 Years project is an opportunity to remember not only the 1919 Act itself but to celebrate the achievements of those many highly intelligent and tenacious women who have worked over the past one hundred years to improve the legal position and social status of those less advantaged than themselves. And who continue to do so.
Helen Dodds is the Global Head of Legal, Dispute Resolution, reporting to the Group General Counsel at Standard Chartered Bank. She set up the Bank’s Dispute Resolution Team in 2005 and it has hubs in London, Mumbai, Singapore and Hong Kong. The team is responsible for managing the group’s significant disputes and investigations around the world.
Helen is also currently Co-Chair of Network For Knowledge and a former director of the London Court of International Arbitration.
The first 100 Years Project is important because it underlines not how long women have been able to practice as lawyers, but for what a short time. It helps women lawyers (and others) to understand how recent their gains are, how precarious, and how much remains to be done. Women lawyers now need to defend, embed and extend their gains very robustly as we move forward into the 21st century.
Monica is Addleshaw Goddard LLP’s Senior Partner and chairs the firm’s Board. Monica is a Non Executive Director of Channel 4 Corporation, Chair of The Mentoring Foundation ( a not for profit Foundation which runs the FTSE cross company mentoring programme, helping senior women break through to the top) and was appointed a Recorder (Civil) in 2010. She was on the Board of charity Prime from 2012 to 2015. She was named by The Lawyer magazine as one of the “Hot 100 Lawyers” in 2007 and 2011 and was named in the 2014 Timewise part time power list.
Laura is Head of Marketing and Business Development at Withers Worldwide. She specialises in all aspects of communication and relationship development in a law firm context, and in the management of legal services provision. She leads a team of 16 people and has been shortlisted as Business Development Professional of the Year 2015 by Modern Law Magazine. She was part of the team establishing and growing a thriving Women’s Network at Withers and works alongside her colleagues there to provide a varied programme of talks and networking opportunities for everyone at the London office of the firm. She is particularly interested in the impact gendered language and assumptions have on the treatment and experience of both men and women in the workplace and beyond.
The project is vital as there is still so much to be done to achieve gender equality in the legal sector and more broadly, and what better way to do it – to really make people sit up and listen – than through story telling.
Lucy Scott-Moncrieff is a mental health and human rights solicitor, having spent most of her working life representing mentally disordered offendors detained in high secure hospitals. During this time she won a number of test cases in domestic courts and the ECtHR that protected and asserted the rights of this unpopular section of society. She acted in the first case under the Human Rights Act that resulted in a remedial order, as a result of which the discharge criteria to be applied by Mental Heath Tribunals was amended in favour of detained patients.
Lucy also founded, and still manages, the first virtual firm of solicitors in the world, in which all the lawyers are self-employed consultants working from home or their own offices. They have to work to the firm’s standards but free to set their own working hours and make their own arrangements, which has meant the firm is particularly attractive to people who want or need to work flexibly.
Lucy was President of the Law Society of England and Wales in 2012/13 and is currently Chair of it’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Women have made great progress in the profession since I started in the 1970’s, such that now most new entrants to the solicitor’s profession are women. However we all know that equality has not yet been achieved, and this project, in allowing us to see where we have come from, and how we have got to where we are, may also show us how we can best achieve our objective of full equality.
‘Women are far too often hidden from history. Projects like this which re-discover and celebrate women’s achievements are of enormous importance, inspiring women today & ensuring the past isn’t forgotten.’
Angela Holdsworth is an experienced writer, editor and award-winning television producer, who worked for many years at the BBC before becoming an independent executive producer and consultant. Known for tackling complex subjects with a popular touch, her portfolio includes many history programmes such as the influential series, Out of the Doll’s House (exploring the changing role of women in the Twentieth Century) and the best-selling book which accompanied the series. She has also edited several books including an illustrated history of Lincoln’s Inn.
Peter is the Chief Executive and Dean of BPP University Law School. He is a qualified barrister, specialising in Land Law, having practiced at the Chancery Bar across a spectrum of law including mortgages, wills, probate, intellectual property, company law, and landlord and tenant.
He gained the Institute of Directors’ Diploma in Company Direction in 2007.
Laura Clenshaw has been the managing editor of 159-year-old legal trade press publication Solicitors Journal since autumn 2014, and has overseen the publication go through much change as it evolves in the 21st century. Also the editor of Young Lawyer, Laura has a specialist interest in legal education and training, and has followed the development of the ever-multiplying vocational routes into the profession with much vigour. Laura has strong ties with the junior end of the profession, and is a regular speaker at the Junior Lawyers Division ‘Helping you to secure a training contract’ forum.
In addition to a penchant for legal education, Laura is a strong advocate of access to justice and diversity across all professional industries.
Nancy Scott is a Senior Director and Associate General Counsel for Avaya, the leading global provider of solutions for customer and team engagement. Avaya provides technologies for unified communications and collaboration, contact center and customer experience management and networking, along with related services to large enterprises, midmarket companies, small businesses and government organisations around the world. Nancy has responsibility and oversight of the EU and Global Growth Markets Law and Contracting functions at Avaya, including managing a team of over 20 legal and contracting professionals.
Nancy grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada and received a Masters in Political Science (International Relations) at the University of Toronto, before studying law at the University of British Columbia. After qualifying as a barrister & solicitor in Canada, she hopped on a plane to Europe with the hope of an international legal career, where she eventually ended up in England, where she also qualified as an English solicitor.
Nancy joined Avaya over 14 years ago, initially as UK Corporate Counsel, and has since supported a wide and varied geographic and legal remit including supporting the Avaya Services business across EMEA and the Global channels business globally. She now supports a combined Avaya sales region of over 1 billion USD sales per annum and a geographic footprint spanning from the UK to China.
Funke is a black, female, single mother and the solicitor leading the UK & Ireland legal team of Roche, the world’s largest biotech company. She is currently the most senior black lawyer working in the UK pharmaceutical industry. Her legal expertise has been recognised through multiple awards and other recognitions including being the only female finalist for Most innovative European in-house lawyer (2014 Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Awards).
She has overcome significant obstacles in progressing her career due to the narrow view of black women in UK society, especially single mothers. She is determined to improve the lot of those following her and recently won Career Woman of the Year at the 2015 Women4Africa awards. Persistent and tenacious, when entering the legal profession 15 years ago, she was advised to be less ambitious as corporate law was “too competitive for a black woman”. Instead, she cold-called the corporate department heads at the top 100 UK law firms and the heads of the top UK in-house legal departments with a “sales pitch” about herself confirming what she could offer as a trainee, resulting in several interviews and entry-level job offers. Importantly, she is a recognised diversity champion within the UK legal industry. She is an active member of the Black Solicitors’ Network and Women Lawyer’s Division of the Law Society and has been an Association of Women Solicitors member since 2000.
Relentless in her pursuit of diversity within the legal profession, Funke has made it her mission to promote diversity to the best of her ability across all fronts including gender. She is personally supporting a report on social mobility issues within the legal profession, due to be launched later this year, a follow up to Alan Milburn’s 2012 “Access to the professions” report commissioned by the government. She also recently established the Women Leaders in Life Sciences Law network, the only international network dedicated to developing future female leaders working as lawyers within the life sciences industry. She mentors and sponsors under-represented groups into roles in various organisations and is a strong role model showing that it is possible to achieve against the odds. She featured in the Diversity League Table Publication (DLT) (with Chukka Umunna, MP for Streatham and Shadow business secretary), a reflection of the work she has done to promote diversity within the legal profession over several years. As key note speaker at the DLT launch, she called for quotas and the need for flexible working which contributed towards many leading law firms setting diversity targets and establishing flexible working committees to enable retention of legal talent.
Funke is a Professional Ambassador for Aspiring Solicitors (an organisation that supports/ promotes diversity within the legal profession) and has been nominated for several diversity awards (2014 National Diversity Award nominee; Finalist for 2014 European Diversity Awards and Diversity Legal Awards (diversity champion of the year award category); finalist for 2015 Tesco mum of the year award). She judged the “Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion” award category at the 2014 Law Society Excellence Awards and will be judging the inaugural 2015 We are the City “Rising Star” awards. She is regularly invited to comment and speak on diversity issues within the legal profession and in the media generally. She is also a diversity commentator for the BBC.
Funke participated as a member of the Legal sector focus group for Project 28-40, launched by Opportunity Now in November 2013 and the largest ever UK survey of women at work (http://opportunitynow.bitc.org.uk/). She believes strongly in the importance of education and its impact on diversity and is a past governor of both Uxbridge College and Sandridge School. She regularly provides inspirational talks to state school students as part of Speakers4Schools.
A former director of City Growth Luton (government-funded economic regeneration project in the Luton area), she also supports several charities, including Cancer Research UK and is a Friend of that charity. All her diversity work is provided on a voluntary basis on top of a demanding, full time job and being a single parent. She believes strongly in giving back to the community to make a positive impact and improve the lot of others less able to help themselves.
I found it extremely difficult to secure an entry-level position when I finished the QLTT (now QLTS) transfer test and needed to gain experience before qualification. To get my foot in the door, I drew up a list of the top 100 law firms specialising in corporate law and did the same with the top 50 in-house teams. I then proceeded to cold-call the heads of department at all 150 organisations. This lead to several interviews, including one with a major, fully listed PLC. At that interview, the head of legal (who is English but whose partner is of Asian descent) asked me if I thought my race had been a factor in me not getting interviews with other organisations. That was, honestly, the first time I had even considered race as being something that could inhibit my progress. Thankfully, I was offered a role by her and was able to qualify as a solicitor in-house. Soon after qualifying in 2000, I vividly remember waiting in reception for an interview at a top 30 City law firm for a corporate solicitor role. I reported into reception, telling the receptionist the name of the corporate partner who was interviewing me for the vacant role. The receptionist remarked, “How odd. I didn’t realise that he was looking for another secretary!” I calmly told her that I had no idea about his secretarial situation either but was there for the solicitor role. She was visibly embarrassed when I said this and did apologise but this is a good example of the barriers posed by unconscious cultural bias.
Fast forward to October last year (2014) when I was challenging a male, senior equity partner at a top 30 City law firm on why they only had one female non-exec on their senior leadership team. His response was that none of the female partners at the firm were good enough to lead, this despite the fact that there are a number of female partners at that firm who are recognised leaders in their field. It is incredible that these views still exist in this day and age but, sadly they do. Further on gender, I was in negotiations with a firm for a corporate solicitor role about 10 years ago and mentioned the fact that I was a mother. Soon after that conversation, negotiations cooled significantly and, eventually, the offer was withdrawn. When I asked the firm why things had changed, the reason I was given was that the firm was “looking for slightly different experience”. I am convinced that the reason was because I revealed that I am a mother but was unable to prove this at the time.
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Fatema is a private equity partner at Sidley Austin LLP. She was previously a partner at Kirkland & Ellis International LLP, having trained and qualified at Lovells LLP (now Hogan Lovells International LLP). She has experience on all areas of corporate law, in particular the structuring of private equity deals and leveraged buyouts, strategic mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, joint ventures, equity growth investments, equity and debt restructurings, and management equity plans, as well as related advisory work.
Fatema is a co-founder of Women in Law London (WILL), an active network with over 1,600 members from 350 different law firms and companies across London. WILL aims to promote and engage the next generation of women leaders in law. It does so in a variety of ways, including providing members with networking opportunities and talks/ workshops and through engaging with law firm management on issues facing women in the profession. WILL has gained support from high profile speakers such as the Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf and Shami Chakrabati. It has also secured a research partnership with Kings College London, through which it was able to conduct a large survey of its members who reported their experiences of the profession and their career aspirations.
In connection with her work with Kirkland & Ellis and with WILL, Fatema has spoken at diversity conferences and events including Oxford University and LSE. In addition, Fatema is an avid member of various other women’s networks, such as Oxford Women in Law (OWL) and 85 Broads (having co-founded the Oxford chapter).
The fact that 100 years’ ago there were no women formally involved in law or the legal system is astonishing, yet also inspiring. In 2005, I sat my law examinations at Oxford University, mind racing with academic commentary as opposed to whether or not I would be entitled to be awarded my degree. This is far removed from the story of Cornelia Sorabji, the first woman to read law at Oxford University (and likely sitting in the same exam hall in 1892) who had to wait 30 years to receive the recognition she deserved. Brave pioneers such as Cornelia started a wave with their impressive journeys. The First 100 Years Project will serve as a powerful reminder that, in a relatively short time period of time, there has been real progress and we can each play a part to ensure that the wave continues to amplify.