Sunday 8th March 2020 marked International Women’s Day. Recent events around Coronavirus have become the main news item, but we wanted to ensure we take time to celebrate this global event. For our valued team at Lawbite, International Women’s Day isn’t just a time to remember how far the world has progressed in the area of women’s rights, it is also an opportunity to reflect on the success of women in the legal sector. According to the Law Society, female law students now outnumber
their male counterparts by a considerable margin (68.8% vs 36.5%). This is mirrored at Lawbite, where 70% of our staff are women.
The first four Women Solicitors
While we may take the entry of women into the law profession for granted today, it cannot be overstated how much resistance the first women Solicitors faced in doing so. In 1919, the case of Bebb v The Law Society (Bebb) was heard to determine if Miss Bebb was, for the purposes of interpreting the Solicitors Act 1843, a “person”, and hence would be able to undergo the examination of the Law Society. The judge dismissed the action reasoning women were incapable of carrying out a public function in common law! It wasn’t until the Sexual Disqualification (Removal) Act was brought into law that women were allowed to take the exams which would enable them to enter the profession. Carrie Morrison, Mary Pickup, Mary Sykes, and Maud Crofts became the first four women to qualify as Solicitors in the UK in 1922.
Opportunities for women in the legal profession today
While the modern legal profession would be unrecognisable to Carrie, Maud, and the two Marys, there is still much progress to be made. Despite the large proportion of female law graduates, when it comes to senior positions, women remain under-represented. While nearly 60% of Solicitors are women
, two-thirds of men are law firm partners. Modern and progressive law providers such as Lawbite are striving to ensure that women are fairly represented in senior law firm positions. This view is echoed by our Operations Team Leader, Janice Dmello, who has been with Lawbite for two years. She believes that law opens many doors for women and not just as a practising Solicitor; “there are many other paths you can take in law to suit your lifestyle and family”. In her case, working on the operational side of the business and managing a team has provided Janice with the opportunity to use her natural affinity for people leadership.
The legal profession is still evolving from a profession which is dominated at the top by men, to one which is providing equality of opportunity to women. Law firms realise that to attract the very best legal professionals, they need to make sure new female graduates entering the profession feel safe, supported, and encouraged by a progressive and balanced senior management team. We at Lawbite will continue to make sure it is one of our top priorities.