December 23rd 2019 marked a historic day; the 100th anniversary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 receiving Royal Assent. This law opened the legal profession to women.
Helena Normanton, who had lodged a petition at the House of Lords when her application to become a pupil in 1918 was refused, reapplied on 24 December 1919 and was admitted to Middle Temple. The first female magistrates were appointed soon after. Dr Ivy Williams was the first woman to be called to the English bar in 1922. However, she never took up practice and instead, was the first woman to teach law at a British university.
Three years later, in December 1922, Carrie Morrison was the first woman to be admitted as a solicitor. She was aged 34. In the years immediately after qualification she spent much of her time working as a “Poor Man’s Lawyer” in the East End of London, providing legal help to those who would otherwise not be able to afford it. She was also a strong advocate of Divorce Law Reform.
The profession has made great strides over the past 100 years. Women now make up just over 50% of practising solicitors and over 60% of new entrants.
Whilst there is still a way to go; reports show that many women in law are struggling to break through the glass ceiling and reach senior positions. However, at Bevirs Law, we are proud to say 50% of our partners are female and 72% of our fee earners are women. We have many talented women in our firm and will continue to champion them and support them throughout their career progression.