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How times have changed – 99 years of women in law and how there are now MORE female solicitors than male

Nearly a century on since certain women were granted the opportunity to practice law, there are now 366 more female than male solicitors in England and Wales.

The year was 1888 when the first ever woman, Eliza Orme received a law degree from University College London, yet it wasn’t until 1919 and the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act came into force that women, and even then, only women with first class honours degrees from Cambridge were then able to practice.

Now almost a century has come and gone and the number of woman who have taken up the profession exceeds that of men. Currently the tally of women in this “club” stands at 69,995 which is 366 more than their male counterparts at the same level. What is equally interesting is that for the first time ever there is also a two to one ratio of woman to men studying law in the UK; a number that has been increasingly rising for years and appears to be a trend which will continue. A most encouraging thought, not just for gender representation purposes, but also to provide inspiration from any marginalised groups, to prove that nothing should be a barrier to enter a career in Law.

According to Katie King for the website, Legal Cheek:

To break the figures down, of the 26,075 students who accepted a place to study law in 2017, 8,510 were men (33%) and 17,565 are women (67%), UCAS data shows.”

There is still much which needs to be done in terms of positioning woman in the senior roles within firms and practices though. According to an article on the Law Society Website, entitled, “100 Years Since Women Became People” by Christina Blacklaws, (Vice President of the Law Society), in 2017, only 25% of partners were women. In this article, Blacklaws discusses “The First 100 Years Project”, which was set up by journalist and city lawyer, Dana Denis-Smith.

I felt the need to bring new perspective to the whole diversity debate by creating a coherent history of women in law…The project is about access to justice.” says Denis-Smith.

The nature of this initiative is to provide an education as well as the opportunity for debate on the subject. The team behind it has collated 100 video stories, recounting the advancement of women in the legal sector. Furthermore, it emphasises just how influential and inspiring these women have been in the whole profession over the last century.

Progress, albeit it not as rapid as hoped for, is progress and notably, The Guardian reported on the 28th June 2018, that of the three new appointments to the Supreme Court bench, one is a woman. Lady Justice Arden joins the 12 strong cohort on the 1st of October 2018. Lady Arden’s husband had in fact held a seat until it was necessary for him to step down because of their compulsory retirement age of 75 and him reaching it. The court’s president, Lady Hale said:

I am delighted that the supreme court will be joined by three new justices in the coming months, each of whom has led a distinguished judicial career.”

Is it any wonder therefore, that on the centenary of woman being able to practise law as well being able to vote on legislature being created in parliament thanks to the efforts of the Suffragettes, that we look at a future within the legal profession, where woman seem highly likely to hold the major stake in terms of people practising law? The future is bright; the future is female?!


At Law Consultants we don’t just limit ourselves to females.  We limit ourselves to quality.  Therefore if you are a quality legal professional looking to make that next step in your career, please give us a call.

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