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Women in law: learning from the legal pioneers

With more women than men entering the profession, the battle must move to representation at higher echelons and to unravelling a system not fit for purpose, says Dana Denis-Smith

16 April 2019

This year marks the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act becoming law, paving the way for women to become lawyers. 

Considerable progress has been made over the subsequent 100 years, with the number of women entering the law now outnumbering men, but female representation at the top still lags significantly behind. 

According to the Law Society, women now make up 50.1 per cent of practising solicitors, yet only represent 28 per cent of partners in private practice, with the figures for equity partners even lower. 

Statistics from the Bar Standards Board show that only 14.8 per cent of QCs are women. When I first started looking at the history of women in the law, I found that the picture was patchy.

The information was not easy to find and many in the law did not understand that not long ago it was simply not possible for a woman to enter the legal profession. 

Portrayals of early women in law were negative and grounde...

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