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 third instalment we profile Eve Carter, director and head of private client law at Harrison Drury.
What piece of advice would you give any woman entering the law profession now?
Don’t settle for what you are told – stand up for what you believe in and don’t let ‘narrower-minded’ individuals compromise who you can be and what you may become.
Dream big and don’t be afraid to take a risk. If it doesn’t work, there’s always something better around the corner.
What made you decide to choose a career in law?
From the age of 13, I actually trained as a ballet dancer. I travelled and spent seven years in Japan before returning to the UK to train in law.
By this time, I had danced at the Albert Hall, appeared in a Japanese TV commercial as a dancing Christmas Tree and was even sat upon by two drunken sumo wrestlers thinking it humorous to ‘sit on the foreigner’ (thankfully not using their full weight, as I wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale).
I chose to retrain in law because of its academic challenges. Ambition, drive and determination are qualities I apply to whatever I do. I have always been fiercely independent, law offered a career path that would enable me to maintain my own financial independence and stability in the future.
I also met several successful international lawyers during my travels and I felt such an affinity with these people that it seemed the natural career choice for me.
Have you had female role models during your career?
As a newly qualified solicitor I was very fortunate to join a successful legal 100 firm in the South West which had a fierce female managing partner. What impressed me most about her, was she knew every person in the firm on first name terms. She would regularly take the time to talk with each of them and discuss how they were getting on.
The organisation she created around her was open and enlightened, with many confident female leaders.
My head of department at that time was also a superb leader in her own right in the field of mental capacity and private client law. She went on to become the chair of a worldwide organisation called STEP (Society for Trust and Estate Practitioners).
I therefore had two phenomenal female role models and the time I spent working with them was invaluable.
Having moved to other firms during my career I have come to realise my experience as a newly qualified was the exception to the rule and that some firms had, and still have, a much more heavily entrenched male dominance and a fear of change.
Where firms have emotionally intelligent leaders, I do see that they recognise the value and potential leadership capabilities in women and are now moving to encourage and develop professional environments that inspire female employees to progress.
Why is it important to have women in senior positions in law firms?
Women bring another perspective to the legal profession as they approach things differently. Their skills also complement those of male colleagues. Creating management teams with a better, more balanced ratio between men and women, offers more diversity in law firms and enables them to reach a wider range of clients and, in an increased number of different ways.
What would you like the next 100 years bring to the profession?
Current statistics indicate a far greater number of women are entering the legal profession than men. Change is here. The law firms of the future are likely to see more and more women progress and move into leadership positions.
I would like to see equality for both men and women across the profession and more encouragement within both genders to progress professionally, take up management and senior positions, and be paid equally for their efforts.
I’d like there to be an even playing field for both men and women throughout their legal career.
What do you think is the most defining moment for women in law over the last 100 years?
Not long after the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act came into force, the Law of Property Act was introduced in 1922. This enabled a husband and wife to inherit each other’s property and also granted them equal rights to inherit the property of intestate children.
This act heralded the start of a move towards equality for men and women. Later legislation has gradually moved towards equality in the workplace.