International Women’s Day 2022
8 March 2022 by Leah Groves
It’s just over 100 years since the first woman began practicing law and I thought it apt on International Women’s Day to shine a light on a few of the amazing women who have paved the way for females, like me, in the legal profession.
A year after the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 made it possible for women to be awarded university degrees and to work in the legal profession, Madge Easton Anderson, having graduated from university with a law degree was the first woman to work professionally as a lawyer in the UK. Although her admission was not without its challenges she was a true pioneer for women in law. Not only did the fabulous Madge smash this milestone but she was the first woman to qualify as a Solicitor in two jurisdictions in the UK and to establish the first law firm founded and run entirely by women. What a trailblazer!
Ivy Williams is the first female to be admitted to the Bar of England and Wales, in 1922, some 19 years after passing her qualifying exams! She was prevented from qualifying until 1919 when the change in law came into effect. Consequently she didn’t practise instead turning her hand to teaching law. Ivy was quickly followed by Helena Normanton in 1922 who campaigned fiercely for the 1919 Act and was the first female to actually practise as a barrister. This is not the only legal history made by Helena as she is the first woman to appear in the High Court, and at the Old Bailey and one of two female King’s Counsel in 1949 in England and Wales. Go ladies!
Lady Brenda Hale a respected Barrister, Judge, Professor of Law, and law reform pioneer has made history on a number of occasions. She is the first woman and only female to be appointed as a ‘Lord of Appeal in ordinary’ in the House of Lords becoming the President of the Supreme Court in 2017. She is also the youngest and first female commissioner to be appointed to the Law Commission, a statutory body which promotes the reform of the law, playing a big part in the Children Act 1989 reforms amongst others. She retired in 2020 as the UK’s most senior judge.
More recently, Dame Bobbie Cheema-Grubb, a judge of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court is the first Asian woman to serve as a High Court judge in the UK, making some progress here.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s latest stats tell us that just over 50% of lawyers working in law firms in England and Wales are female, although only 35% are partners so we still need to raise the bar in this respect. That said, Fisher Jones Greenwood is #aheadofthecurve having over 50% of female partners, an all-female associate lawyer contingent and a forward-thinking female Chief Operating Officer.
It is inconceivable that a century ago women weren’t permitted to be in the law. So, a personal thank you to these inspiring women and to all of the fantastic females with a career in law over the last 100 years and today. Here’s to the next generation continuing to #breakthebias
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in law please get in touch with our HR team by emailing [email protected]
Blog written by Leah Groves, Solicitor and Partner at Fisher Jones Greenwood, an award-winning law firm with offices in Essex and London. The firm offers a wide range of legal services for business and personal needs and is waiting to give you legal advice with a conscience.
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