Women solicitors seek out pioneers

THE ASSOCIATION of Women Solicitors (AWS) is compiling a record of the experiences of pioneering women solicitors.

The project marks the 75th anniversary of the Sexual Discrimination (Removal) Act 1919, which removed the obstacles hindering women from entering any profession.

Scant information exists about Carrie Morrison, the first woman to qualify as a solicitor in 1922, four years after the act was passed.

Together with four fellow law students she formed the 1919 Club, the predecessor to the AWS.

The first women-only club designed to support and assist their female colleagues, the 1919 Club, was changed to the AWS in the mid-1980s.

Solicitor Alison Parkinson, national honorary secretary of the AWS, says the association is now attempting to locate and interview women who qualified before 1950, to record some of the experiences of these ground-breaking women lawyers.

Parkinson says women who qualified in the first half of the century faced the dilemma that if they wished to start a family they had no right to have their job held open for them.

The AWS's membership increased in the late 1970s as more women entered the profession and maternity leave was introduced. It now offers support and a help-line to women solicitors.

The AWS is an active campaigner and was pivotal in the formation of a new amendment to the Anti-Discrimination Practice Rule passed by the Law Society.

Firms not implementing an equal opportunities policy will do so by default. This allows female partners to be treated as employees entitled to maternity leave because partnership deeds do not traditionally contain such clauses.