Sometimes, progress is all it’s cracked up to be. And so to the recollection that Slaughter and May, la grande dame du cercle magique, had no women’s toilets on the partner and client-focused top floor – at least until the late 1970s. With no female partners, why would they?
Slaughter and May was not alone. A very special item has arrived in the Law Society Library and awaits archiving (it is an unusual shape). As readers who have accidentally glanced at social media will know, it’s a toilet roll.
Created for the #first100years project, it marks a century of women solicitors being added to a different sort of roll. ‘Sitting comfortably?’ type imprinted on this item asks. ‘Thanks to the courage and tenacity of pioneering women in the law, now we all can.’
‘As recently as the 1970s,’ sedentary users of non-archived rolls will learn, ‘lack of washroom facilities for women was used as a pretext not to hire female lawyers.’ But build it, and they will come.
Back at Slaughter and May meanwhile, toilet construction hasn’t quite done the job. The firm now has truly salubrious facilities behind doors marked ‘Women’, but judging by the latest round of partner elections, word on the water closets hasn’t got out. Of the 10 home-grown lawyers who make partner on 1 May, just one, Victoria MacDuff, is a woman.
Still, on the upside, MacDuff faces a shortish queue for a comfort break.