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Want to find a female lawyer? Check the archives…

Posted by: Laurence Simons 16/10/15

The British Library has long been home to extensive archives of historical literature, but soon it will house the work of a new project. A digital platform hosting 100 original stories and celebrating the triumphs of women who have shaped the legal profession since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 is set to become the newest addition inside its walls.

“The First 100 Years” will chart the journey of women within the legal profession to promote a deeper understanding of the past and ensure a more equal future. Dana Denis-Smith, who masterminded the initiative, commented: “Many females practicing law up until recent times would have found themselves lonely in professional circles. This is not a long forgotten past, but the current journey of women in the legal profession today. We need these stories - both past and present - in order to understand what the future holds for female lawyers. I urge everyone in the profession to donate and help us chart women’s role in law and create a strong and lasting legacy for future generations.” But, although a progressive step in some ways – and likely to be both an educational and a reminiscent series – is this really what women in law need?

“The First 100 Years” has launched a crowdfunding initiative which aims to raise £100,000 by November. Denis-Smith commented that, “It would take just 1,000 lawyers to give £100 each for us to reach our target” – and with 180,000 practicing in the UK, it shouldn’t be too difficult. Plus, following the major controversy caused by Charlotte Proudman and her LinkedIn “fracas”, the topic of sexism in the legal sector has resurfaced and many are discussing issues such as equal pay and getting more women into the top positions. So whilst this is once again at the forefront, it seems the perfect time to be raising awareness for her campaign. Yet it is really important to not lose sight of the battles still to be fought. And whether this project turns out to be a successful documentary series, a practice in PR for female lawyers or just a nice addition to the Library, it is heartening to see such interest being taken over the historic diversification of the legal sector.