In this mini-series of posts, the women of the clinic discuss the theme of ‘Break the Bias’, what this means to them, what International Women’s Day means to them, and experience they have that resonates with this year’s theme.
Looking back I have discovered that I was first enrolled as a solicitor in 1991. That seems like a very long time ago. I had no qualms about entering the legal profession as a women but myself and other women law students set up a small network called the Women’s Feminist Legal network. We were mainly graduate entry students who supported each other and arranged discussions and talks with other women in the profession. Few women had made it to the bench as Sheriffs and Judges at that time and were grossly unrepresented at partner level. We all revered women such as Helena Kennedy who had both broken her way up the ranks in the legal profession but also was a woman of principal who was not scared to look at law from a feminist perspective. We wanted to be women in the profession, but we did not want to have to ‘act like men’ to ‘fit in’. We looked up to women lawyers in Edinburgh who had committed to working in the areas of matrimonial law and domestic violence and who understood the issues women faced.
The number of women in the profession and the positions they hold at all levels has improved markedly since I first started practising. I could not then have envisaged by any stretch of the imagination Amanda Miller being elected as the first openly LGBTQ woman President of the Law Society. We did not even wear trousers when we first appeared in the Courts! Mundane as that is perhaps it is important to remember how far we have come and all the little barriers that had to be broken and the things that had to change through the acts of individual women and men for Amanda to forge her way to that position. And forge she must have. There can be no underestimating the value of positive role models such as Amanda in creating an inclusive profession.
Many of the issues have not gone away and so women need to continue to support each other to be the lawyers that they want to be, to create the opportunities that they seek and to contribute to a workplace culture that is based on values of collaboration, support and encouragement.
By Kathleen Bolt, Clinic Supervisor
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