So here we are 100 years on from the 1919 Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act which enabled women for the first time to qualify and practice as solicitors.
A lot has changed since then, and the latest figures we have from the Law Society’s Annual Statistic Report show women entering the legal profession at an unprecedented rate, but there is still some way to go before we have equality in respect of women becoming partners in firms.
Following International Women’s Day though, I wanted to showcase how far the legal profession has evolved in providing women with a challenging and rewarding career path, both from my own experience and that of one of our senior solicitors, my colleague Caroline Denbow.
I founded Loch Employment Law over a decade ago, and subsequently established other businesses to form Loch Associates Group. My path into the profession was anything but traditional, having started on a graduate training scheme with an insurance company.
Six years into a successful career, I made the bold decision to retrain, returning to university in Scotland to study law and qualify as a solicitor while balancing time with my young family. Looking back, I was unusual when I became a trainee solicitor, being older than my peers, but my previous career gave me rounded business skills which I believe made me attractive to employers throughout my career.
This points to the change I have seen in the legal profession over the last 20 years since I qualified: law firms have become much more commercial and business minded than they used to be, and for women like me, retraining to enter the profession later in life, firms are more open to alternative skillsets.
The legal profession is also much more flexible in the opportunities it affords. I can see this in Caroline’s career path. After qualifying, she joined a large City law firm before moving to an in-house legal role. After taking time out to raise her family, she returned to work as an HR Consultant, using her employment law expertise to support the clients she advised. After six years she made the move back to working as a solicitor, and now practices part-time successfully balancing her family life.
I believe that modern law firms like mine are changing the culture of the legal sector and providing the opportunities for women to reach senior levels within the profession, through whichever route suits them.
With this outlook, I hope it won’t be long until the number of women reaching partner and senior levels of our profession will equal that of our male counterparts.
Pam Loch is managing partner of Loch Employment Law and managing director of Loch Associates Group