In statistics released by the Law Society in May 2013, the proportion of female solicitors holding practising certificates was 47.3% at 31 July 2012 compared with 38.6% in 2002. For the past twenty years, women in law have accounted for over one-half of new entrants to the profession, so this proportion is set to increase for the foreseeable future.
The historic relevance is that as recently as one hundred years ago, women were prevented from qualifying as lawyers because they were labelled as having a “disability” and could not practise.
In 1914, four women brought proceedings against The Law Society seeking a court order so that they could take their professional exams to qualify as lawyers. The court said its hands were tied unless the government changed the law
Until the law was changed, the court acknowledged the ability of women, but would not include them in the categories of “persons” who could practise law. A World War later changed people’s attitudes and in 1919 the law was changed. It wasn’t until 1970 when the Equal Pay Act and 1975 when the Sex Discrimination Act, came into force that the concept of sex discrimination was formally recognised.
Rebecca Beresford said “At a time when there is, rightly, a real focus on ensuring that women are represented on the boards of major companies and in the cabinet, it is reassuring to know that there has been real progress in the legal profession. At Dyne Drewett we recruit staff based on merit, and we hope these encouraging figures inspire more women to join the profession.”