Breaking The Glass Ceiling

President of Law Society Of England & Wales makes special visit to leading Northamptonshire law firm.

Leading law firm Wilson Browne Solicitors welcomed Christina Blacklaws, the President of the Law Society of England & Wales, who became President in July 2018. The primary focus for her term is Diversity and Inclusion - focusing on social mobility and women in leadership (within the law). Christina honoured Wilson Browne Solicitors with a visit following a chance meeting at the 2018 Law Society Excellence Awards, where the firm received two ‘Highly Commended’ accolades.

In her inaugural speech Christina stated an aim to make 2019 the ‘Year of Women in the Law’, drawing emphasis to the fact that gender equality is beneficial to everyone:

“It is not just an issue for 50 per cent of us, but all of us…women now represent the majority of practising solicitors and have accounted for over 60 per cent of new entrants each year since 1990. However, 78 per cent of partners in private practice are men”.

She cited the largest international survey ever conducted on this topic and found: unconscious bias; ‘male’ only routes to promotion; and a gender pay gap that only 16% of respondents said they have seen visible steps to address.

“Shift the needle”

Christina has campaigned to ‘shift the needle’ by which she means shifting the metaphorical needle on the dial to address or equalise the balance. As important as highlighting the work remaining to be done, is showcasing examples of where work has been done.

Kevin Rogers, Chairman of Wilson Browne Solicitors comments

‘It has been inspiring to hear Christina speak about this subject. As a professional, but also a husband, and the father of a daughter, this is not a ‘female only’ issue. I am delighted that I took the chance to tell Christina about our firm, and equally honoured that she accepted my invitation to learn more about us. I hope that we can be held up as a large firm with over 160 staff that has really delivered on her agenda, and if we can do it, that others can have a similar aspiration’.

Women have been ‘people’ for a century!

Wilson Browne Solicitors trace their history back nearly 200 years, and both the firm and the legal profession has seen many changes in that time. For example it is staggering to think that, in a 1914 case called Bebb v Law Society, the Court of Appeal ruled that the female of our species failed to fall within the definition of ‘persons’ and could not, therefore, qualify as a solicitor! In 1919 the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act came into force, which allowed the first four women with first class degrees from Cambridge to pass their law exams and become lawyers.

Modern Day Large Law Firm

The Wilson Browne of 2019 provides modern legal services to individuals and businesses from 6 offices across the county and Leicester, with many of their women lawyers proudly included in the ‘who’s who’ of law, the Legal 500. Christina met with some of those women lawyers, from every stage of their careers (trainee through to solicitor, Associate, Junior Partner and Equity Partner). She had the chance to hear first hand their personal stories, and how the firm has supported them so that the women at Wilson Browne now make up:

- 50% of the owners;

- 70% of the Junior Partners; and

- 50% of the Associates.

In addition the firm has just appointed a new female Financial Director, and many of its staff enjoy a range of working hours to suit. Vitally, there is no gender pay gap.

Christina commented:

“I’m very happy to visit Wilson Browne Solicitors where gender balance is an integral part of the business and culture of the firm. I have campaigned for over 20 years for greater equality in our profession, and it is encouraging to see a progressive, large firm leading by example in the legal sector.”