38% of lawyers in the world are women but according to the SRA’s 2022 study of diversity they make up 52% of law firms in the UK. At Attwells we are proud to be a female-led firm, with 70% of our workforce and 50% of our partnership being female. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we thought we’d shine a light on the most influential and inspirational women in law.
Up until 1919 women had been prohibited from practising in the legal profession. However, following the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act being passed in parliament, women were free to start their legal careers. Madge Anderson was the first woman to practice law in the UK, qualifying as a solicitor in 1920 in Scotland. In 1937 she also qualified as a solicitor in England, making her the first woman to qualify in two places in the UK.
She went on to set up her own law firm in Glasgow and later established the first law firm run exclusively by women. She was the ultimate pioneer – in her university classes she was one of only a few women and her brave movements have paved the way for women in law all over the globe.
Ruth’s legal path began when she went to Harvard Law School and graduated from Columbia University where she received her degree in Law. A strong advocate for women’s rights, Ruth battled against gender discrimination and faced sexism throughout her life and career. Despite this she balanced motherhood, caring for her sick husband and law school. The list of Ruth’s achievements seems endless, but arguably her most impressive achievements were:
Amal Clooney is ranked in Chambers and Partners as one of the leading human rights and criminal law lawyers in the UK. She was born in war-torn Lebanon and had to flee from the civil war in 1982 She is also an advocate for victims of war crimes and unjust trials.
Despite her hard start in the world, she studied at Oxford University on an Exhibition scholarship, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Jurispendence in 2000. She then proceeded to do a Masters’ in Law at the New York School of Law in 2001 where she received an LLM. She has represented a slew of high-profile clients such as the founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange and the former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
- Gloria Allred
Gloria is an American attorney who is passionate about women’s rights and is considered to be one of the most influential people in the legal sector. She is renowned for taking on high-profile and sometimes controversial cases and has represented famous individuals from Scary Spice to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
She is the founding partner at her law firm Allred, Maroko and Goldberg and her firm takes on more women’s rights cases than any other firm in America. Gloria is arguably one of the most influential women in America and has been enacted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
- Michelle Obama
Michelle was the first black first lady in the history of America and wife to 44th president Barack Obama. Before her rise to fame, Michelle graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School and then trained to become a lawyer.
She specialised in intellectual property law and met Barack at Sidley Austin LLP where she mentored him. Her legal skills combined with her excellent public speaking skills helped her play a huge role in Barack’s presidential campaign. During Barack’s time as president, Michelle launched the Let’s Move campaign which was dedicated to ending childhood obesity. She was also involved in other worthy causes such as supporting military families.
These women have made a huge impact and continue to inspire others and pave the way for other women who want to embark on a career in law.
If you’d like to be part of a female-led firm, visit our careers page.