Double celebration for City of London Corporation and Bar Council as milestones are reached

10 July 2019

The City of London Corporation and the Bar Council marked the centenary of women first being allowed to qualify as lawyers, as well as 125 years since the Bar Council was established, in an event hosted at Guildhall on Tuesday 9 July 2019.

The event included remarks from Richard Atkins QC, the Chair of the Bar, the Rt Hon Lady Justice Hallett, and the former Lord Mayor of London Sir David Wootton, after which Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair at the City of London Corporation, opened a Q&A session.

The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 first allowed women to qualify as lawyers. The first woman became a practising barrister three years later. Earlier this year, the Bar Council announced its  'next 100 years' campaign to mark the centenary of women being allowed to practise law. This aims to generate discussion about the challenges women face, as well as highlighting positive initiatives to support women at the Bar.

The City of London Corporation is currently supporting the Government Equalities Office's efforts to improve women's progression in the workplace, including in the legal sector. As part of the partnership, the City Corporation is working with businesses, academics and government stakeholders to identify barriers to workplace progression, explore how City firms can increase the number of women who progress to senior roles, and develop new academic research to be published later in the year.

Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair at the City of London Corporation, said:

"As a lawyer myself, I am delighted to honour this historic occasion and the female pioneers of our profession who have paved the way for countless women in the past 100 years to realise their ambitions of a career in law.

"We are also here to celebrate a landmark 125 years of the Bar Council, which has achieved a great deal in its time, including the good work it has done in promoting diversity in the Bar.

"But despite great progress made in the legal sector, the glass ceiling has not yet been smashed. The lack of women in senior positions in the sector and the legal gender pay gap demonstrates the challenge at hand. That is why the City of London Corporation, along with the Bar Council, continue to work on positive initiatives which will help to remove the existing barriers for women in the sector and put men and women on equal footing."

Richard Atkins QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said:

"Together with the City of London Corporation, we are marking two important milestones today. 125 years of the Bar Council and 100 years of women as lawyers are both occasions for celebration and reflection on the foundations which have been laid for the future.

"The Bar Council has achieved a great deal over the past 125 years, promoting not only the profession, but also the rule of law and access to justice. The Bar Council has also played a major role in promoting equality and diversity at the Bar. I would like to take this opportunity to recognise all those who have made such a valuable contribution to our profession over the last 125 years.

"There is more work to be done, but I take pride in what we have achieved so far, which is not only in the interest of the profession, but also in the wider public interest."

Notes to editors

About the City of London Corporation

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

About the Bar Council

The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales (over 16,000). It promotes:

  • The Bar's high-quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

Press Office contact:  Shiryn Sayani, Communications Manager (Policy & Campaigns) 020 7611 1399 or press@barcouncil.org.uk