Bolton School Girls’ Division Newspaper


Women In English Law

Quite a unique title, don’t you think? In fact, researching this topic made me realize just how unchartered this topic is, whilst simultaneously intensifying my determination to write about women in law, so more young, aspiring female lawyers like myself have someone to look up to and identify with. 

Before I go into the details of how women came to be a part of the system of law in England, I want to give you a quick insight into how my idea for this topic came about. I have always been interested in law, in fact it actually influenced my subject choices for A level as I tried to pick subjects that would complement a future career in law, hence all my subjects being essay based. Over the last couple of months, I have undergone numerous research over law as a broader topic to confirm my aspirations of becoming a solicitor and gain some extra background knowledge on law. Being a woman myself, I was eager to find pieces on women in law and how they had an impact on the legal world. I was honestly quite surprised to discover how long it took for women to become a part of the legal world, and so I endeavoured to draft an article on it to make sure other people are aware of the amazing feats women have achieved in law over the last century or so.

The emergence of women in law in England:

So, how did women come about to thrive in the legal world? Well, it mostly kickstarted off with the Sex Disqualification Act of 1919, which finally gave women the right to serve as jurors or magistrates in England, and the first woman to officially practice as a barrister was Helena Normanton. She went on to become an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and suffrage, and when she married, she kept her surname, becoming the first British married woman to have a passport with her birth name. 


This is a great example of why women in law is such an important thing and shouldn’t be overlooked, as Helena Normanton understood that her position as the first female barrister in England was a crucial step towards true liberation for women in England and used her opportunities to obtain a number of firsts during her career, including becoming the first woman to lead the proceedings in a murder trial, the first woman to procure a divorce for a client, and the first woman to appear in the High Court and Old Bailey.

The first female solicitor:

In 1922, Carrie Morrison became the first woman to be admitted as a solicitor in England. This was a major turning point for women in law as she accomplished many feats during her 28 year long career, taking on cases which were considered socially challenging, such as acting for prostitutes in court. She had very modern values and was eager to see reform to divorce laws and was a major advocate for true gender equality, not supportive of women taking advantage of their husbands nor of men who mistreated their wives. I believe the example Carrie Morrison has left us with must be honoured by encouraging the young women of today’s world to pursue careers in legal field and become barristers and solicitors who can make further reforms to unfair legislation and continue to change the lives of all people for the better.

Representation of female lawyers currently:

However, despite women making fast tracks in the legal world, it took a whopping 51 years for the Equal Pay Act of 1970, which to this day is still being violated in businesses across England. Whilst this may be slightly demotivating, in some ways it makes me even more decisive in my choice to go into law once I finish school. 


I believe that women are still majorly underrepresented in law firms in England which makes us disadvantaged as whole in many other sectors in society; such as equal pay. Whilst the amount of female lawyers in law firms across the UK is significantly higher (at 52%) than it was several years ago, it remains a fact that looking at seniority, we see that 61 percent of solicitors are female, compared to 35 percent of partners. This could become more disadvantageous for female lawyers as time passes as they may feel that they are unable to speak up about issues within work environments or the legal world as they are not properly represented in more powerful positions.

In conclusion, I hope you have enjoyed this article and that it convinced some of you to possibly look at taking up law as a career in the near future. Even just being well versed in law by studying the degree but choosing not to practice it could be massively beneficial to you in whatever career you choose to pursue. If you want to read more into the history of women in law, or other such related topics, please take a look at the websites listed below.

By Rukaiyya Anas

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