International Women's Day- Women in Law

by Annette Thorpe on 08 March 2021
International Women's Day- Women in Law

I had the pleasure recently of taking part in a wonderful discussion on #women in #leadership – what is a #leader, what makes a good leader, what are the barriers to women taking leadership roles?

As my core business is related to the placing of #legal professionals into law firms and industry, I wanted to touch upon women’s journey into law. I mentioned in the Show above, that women were only able to practise law in the UK as late as 1919, with the removal of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act; prior to this date women were ‘disqualified’ purely due to their gender. 

Since then, many milestones have been hit and women #lawyers have smashed down the barriers, as can be seen in the timeline produced by First 100 Years Project,Robert%20Easton%20made%20surgical%20instruments.

Madge Easton Anderson was the first woman admitted to practise as a professional lawyer in the UK, after qualifying as a solicitor in Scotland in 1920. In 1922 Carrie MorrisonMary PickupMary Sykes, and Maud Crofts became the first women in England to qualify as solicitors; Morrison was the first of them admitted as a solicitor.

The renowned, Lady Hale, has spent her professional life as a proponent of diversity, women’s rights and women’s place in the judiciary. 

‘Brenda Marjorie Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE PC FBA is a British judge who served as President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from 2017 until her retirement in 2020, and serves as a member of the House of Lords as a Lord Temporal. In 2004, she joined the House of Lords as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. She is the only woman to have been appointed to that position. She served as a Law Lord until 2009 when she, along with the other Law Lords, transferred to the new Supreme Court as a result of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. She served as Deputy President of the Supreme Court from 2013 to 2017. On 5 September 2017, Hale was appointed under the Premiership of Theresa May to serve as President of the Supreme Court, and was sworn in on 2 October 2017. She is the third person and first woman to serve in the role. Hale is one of three women to have been appointed to the Supreme Court (alongside Lady Black and Lady Arden). Since 30 July 2018, Hale has been a non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong. Hale has also been Honorary President of the Cambridge University Law Society since 2015. On 11 January 2020, Lady Hale was succeeded by Lord Reed as President of the Supreme Court.’ [Wikipedia]

‘In December 2018, during an interview to mark the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, Lady Hale argued that the judiciary needed to become more diverse so that the public have greater confidence in judges. Hale called for a more balanced gender representation on the UK's highest court and swifter progress promoting those from minority ethnic backgrounds and with “less privileged lives”. However, Hale objected to the idea of positive discrimination because “no one wants to feel they have got the job in any way other than on their own merits”’ [Wikipedia]

Stats from The Law Society show that since 1990, 60% of new entrants into the profession have been women and there are now more women practising as solicitors than men. But, there is still under-representation of women taking senior roles – as managing partners and senior partners with only 33% of partners in law firms being female.

Information published in 2020 (when comparing data from 2017), by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, showed that:

‘Women make up 49% of lawyers in law firms, up by 1% since 2017. For the other staff working in law firms, women make up three quarters of the workforce (75%) with no change since 2017. The ONS Labour Market Survey shows that 47% of the UK workforce are women.

Differences become more apparent when we look at seniority, as just 34% of partners are female in 2019. However, the gap has been narrowing over the past five years, with a slow but steady increase in female partners (up by 1% since 2017 and 3% since 2014). This represents an approximate increase of 10% in the proportion of female partners from 2014 to 2019. However, the proportion of female partners in firms of different sizes does differ.

More than half (59%) of solicitors (ie those who are not partners) across all firms are female. There is a higher proportion of female solicitors in firms which have six to nine partners, 66% (up by 6% since 2014).

SRA date

There is a higher proportion of women in the in-house population. Three in five (60%) of the in-house solicitor population are women.’ [Wikipedia]

So, the profession may have come a long way since 1919, but there is still more to do to encourage and promote women into the more senior roles with law.

My colleagues and I at #G2Legal work with some incredible women across all areas of law at all levels, but today we would like to celebrate some those who have reached the more senior roles and those who have founded law firm to ‘disrupt’ the traditional model (not an exhaustive list, of course), they include:

Alice Stephenson – Stephenson Law, Founder & CEO

Alisa Willows - Wolfterstans, Managing Partner

Cathy Wahlberg – Alster Kelley, Managing Partner

Christine O’Neill – Brodies, Partner & Chair 

Claire Clarke – Mills & Reeve, Managing Partner

Diane Benussi – Benussi, Founder & Managing Partner

Donna Richards – Carpenters, CEO

Donna Scully – Carpenters, Director

Ellie Holland – The Wilkes Partnership, Joint Managing Partner

Emma Pearmaine, Ridley & Hall, Managing Director

Jane Campbell – Makin Dixon, Senior Partner

Joanna DeBiase – IBB, Managing Partner

Karen Moores – Sydney Mitchell, Senior Partner

Kate Barton – Boyce Hatton, Managing Partner

Kate Hallin – Bennett Griffin, Managing Partner

Kim Carr – FBC, Managing Partner

Lucy Tarrant – Cognitive Law, Founder & Managing Director

Louise Workman – Ashfords, CEO

Michelle O'Hara – Thursfields, Managing Director

Nadia Cowdrey – Griffith Smith, Managing Partner

Nicola Poole - Hedges Law, Managing Director

Sam Wright – BTTJ, Senior Partner

Sara Bailey – Managing Partner, Trowers & Hamlins

Sarah Goulbourne – GunnerCooke, Co-Founder & Partner

Sarah Henwood – Thomson Snell & Passmore, CEO

Sarah Perry –Wright Hassall, Managing Partner

Sarah Walker-Smith – Shakespeare Martineau, CEO

Susan Glenholme - Debenhams Ottaway, Managing Partner

Suzanne Liversidge – Kennedys, Managing Partner

Vivienne Williams – BLM, Managing Partner


Happy International Women’s Day to all women worldwide and to the men who support us and who will stand with us to inspire the future generations to treat everyone with respect and encouragement, no matter their backgrounds and diversity.  

#legalrecruitment #lawprofession #legalprofession #celebration #inspiringwomen


About the author

My remit is to promote G2 Legal Ltd as one of the largest independent legal recruitment consultancies in the UK; to collaborate with our clients in adding value to their business through the recruitment of talented lawyers and support staff.