2019 is a milestone for Women in Law both in term of our legal rights but also our participation in the legal profession.
One hundred years ago, the Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 was passed which finally allowed women to become lawyers. The Act paved to the way for women to qualify as lawyers, sit as judges and take part in juries for the very first time in British history.
A century later, much has progressed, women now constitute 48% of all lawyers in law firms and 37% of all barristers. Although, these statistics do not evidence equality they demonstrate progress. However, for senior positions in the law, the numbers are less positive. Women only represent 29% of court judges, 14.8% of Queen’s Counsel (senior barristers) and 18% of law firm equity partners. The picture becomes yet more dire when one considers that over 2/3 of law students are female. The reasons why female lawyers do not rise to senior positions are highly contested and often difficult to address, yet this does mean that we cannot try to tackle this disparity.
Without equal participation of women in senior positions of the legal profession, it is difficult to see how real gender equality in the delivery of law in society will be achieved. Baroness Hale, the previous Chancellor of Bristol University, continues to argue that those who decide the law should represent population. Gender equality in the judiciary affects everyone, because it improves the quality of justice, with female judges providing a different perspective and combating sub-conscious bias of decision making in court.
At Bristol University, the Women in Law society acts to provide a platform for women in the law, both as citizens and members of the legal profession. Our membership is not limited to female law students and compromises a variety of degree subjects and genders, all with the common interest in promoting women in law. Allies and supporters of women in law are essential to ensure change can happen.
This year, Women in Law will be fundraising for Refugee Women of Bristol and Missing Link (a mental health and housing service for women in Bristol). Our society will be collecting sanitary products, toiletries and clothing for these vital organisations to help women in need. We also have opportunities for our members to volunteer and raise money later in the year.
Our society organises panel discussions and talks with women lawyers that address the issues of gender in the legal sector, for example tackling female attrition rates at senior levels. We help our members think about career paths and meet more law students through networking events and socials. We also put on events that raise awareness about the complex ways in which the law can discriminate against as well as protect and promote women in the UK and around the world.
If you would like to become a member please join here: https://www.bristolsu.org.uk/groups/women-in-law
To find about more about Women in Law society head over to our website (https://www.bristoluniversitywomeninlawsociety.com/) or Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/womeninlawuob/)