One hundred years on from the act of parliament that allowed women to enter the legal profession, we profile some of Harrison Drury’s women in law about what the anniversary means to them.
In our fourth instalment we profile Amanda Webster, director, corporate and commercial divisional head, training principal and specialist in dispute resolution.
What is you proudest achievement, personal or career wise?
Becoming the first female partner within my previous firm’s 200-year history was certainly quite a proud moment!
I am also proud to have taken several calculated risks in my career and building my skill set outside the profession. This includes becoming Vice Chair of Lancashire Police Authority and an Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner for my beloved county. It involves stepping way out of my comfort zone and I love every minute of it. Bring on the next decade!
I think overall, I have been able to adapt to significant changes during my 34 years in law so far, by spotting opportunities in the legal market.
Have you ever been given a piece of advice that has stayed with you?
When I was an articled clerk (trainee solicitor in the modern world), I worked with one of the best advocates I’ve ever come across, who qualified before the 1925 Law of Property Act came into force. He gave me two pieces of advice.
His first piece of advice was to always make sure your words are sweet ones, as someday, you may have to eat them! Very wise words.
The second was to stay clear of litigation, it’s a hard life. But I didn’t listen!
What obstacles have you faced working in law and how did you overcome them?
When I qualified as a solicitor, women were very much in the minority. There were also clear expectations as to the type of law we should practice. The two areas I was told were ‘unsuitable for a women’ were criminal defence law and commercial litigation. Well it would’ve been rude not to prove everyone wrong!
The main hurdle I have faced in my career was becoming a judge, despite all the odds. After my first trip to court, I asked my boss what I would need to do, to be a judge. After she stopped laughing, she pointed out two obvious flaws: I was female and I came from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’.
When I did apply, my chances were probably less than 12 per cent of being successful.
I’ve been sitting as a judge now for 11 years. I’m very sure that my ‘so-called’ disadvantages have proven to be quite the opposite and very much worked in my favour.
I think the message there is, ‘if you want it, work hard for it, get it and then do it well.’
What would you like the next 100 years to bring to the profession?
There is certainly an increasing amount of opportunities for women and minority groups within the profession, but it has also become more competitive.
I’m hoping I’ll be around to see 2119, but even if I’m not, I’d like to see more genuine equal opportunities for everyone within the legal profession to become leaders and within the senior judiciary. And more opportunities in for people from Ribbleton too!
I would also like to see work environments where firms offer greater support for employees with children and / or other care commitments and family responsibilities.
I would also hope that within the next 100 years the profession will finally realise how important it is to consider and protect the wellbeing of its members as well as finally moving away from its traditional macho tendencies.
What do you think is the most defining moment for women in law over the last 100 years?
Something that transcends the legal profession is the need for equal pay for equal work. The gender pay gap is something I have witnessed from various levels of the pecking order. There have been many initiatives and achievements to reduce the pay gap over the last 100 years, but one that sticks out to me is the Equal Pay Act 1970. It was the first proper piece of legislation that sought to achieve equal pay, or at least prohibited any less favourable treatment between women and men in their employment.
We are still some way to achieving real equality in the workplace as a country, and also as a profession, but it is fantastic to know that this goal has the support of our professional regulators, including the Law Society, Bar Council, Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.