International Women’s Day 2024- Women in Law

Image of scrabble tiles spelling the word Law

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2024 Family Law Solicitor, Jessica Silvers, has chosen to write about some inspirational women in law.

The History of Women in Law…

The first female’s that were able to qualify as lawyers were Ivy Williams, she was the first woman to be called to the bar; and Carrie Morrison, the first woman to become a Solicitor.

Believe it or not, this was only 102 years ago. A relatively short period of time, to think that the English legal system has been around for hundreds of years.

The change evolved over time, stemming from the first female with a law degree in 1888, when opinions started to change. Her name was Eliza Orme; although she had a law degree, she could not practice law, and in fact, she did not until the 1930’s. What she did do however, was set up her own Chambers, for the men to practice law out of; frustrating to say the least.

In 1919, an Act of Parliament came into force that introduced equal employment status for women. This was revolutionary, and for the first time, meant that women could have the same jobs as men.

Before the act came into place, women could not become solicitors or barristers. In 1922, women were officially allowed to become Solicitors and Barristers. In 1931, there were 100 female lawyers in England and Wales (less than 100 years ago!).

Since this time, women have continued to challenge the status quo and we have since been able to practice as solicitors, barristers, become King’s Counsel and we have even had a female president of the supreme court of England and Wales.

The pioneering first female lawyers are inspiring to me for being the first in the profession to reach new heights never held by women before. I cannot imagine the challenges they faced and had to persevere with. Working in the law is not easy, yet these women defied the odds. Their actions brought about a change, that most of us take for granted today.

Thanks to the determination and interests of these women, to not only receive an education but be educated in law, we are where we are today; in an ever-evolving career, in which women are slowly becoming the majority. They should be celebrated for making history and creating opportunities never before given to us; and I think they would be proud of what we have achieved in the last century or so.

In the year I qualified, 2019, 51% of lawyers in the UK were women. The number of women now coming through with law degrees is now 62%, and perhaps this signifies more changes to come.


Jessica Silvers

March 2024

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