Dame Jenni Murray to chair First 100 Years Conference

On 2 November 2015 a new annual conference for 21st Century lawyers takes place in the City – celebrating the past to shape the future for women in Law – led by Dame Jenni Murray, the presenter of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

The conference is part of The First 100 Years – a ground-breaking research project launched by Obelisk Support in partnership with the Law Society and the Bar Council which is charting the journey of women in the legal profession since 1919, when the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act paved the way for women to become lawyers for the first time.

This one-day conference is being hosted by Simmons & Simmons, with a series of panel debates chaired by Jenni Murray. The keynote speaker is the Government’s work and health advisor, Dame Carol Black.

Writing in The Times this June about The First 100 Years, Legal Editor Frances Gibb wrote:

“A five-year project to chart and celebrate the progress of women in the legal profession has been launched by Obelisk Support. Backed by the Law Society, Bar Council, CILEx and Aspiring Solicitors, the idea of First Hundred Years is to create an online library of 100 stories with videos of women who have shaped the law and the profession — including interviews with current leaders and role models.”

Tickets went on sale last week, and we sold 50% on the first day.

Four panel debates – each one involving four high profile professionals from the world of Law and Business – will cover a range of modern issues facing the legal sector;

  • The history of women in law and the first pioneers
  • Cross-generational; looking at the past, shaping the future
  • The male perspective on women in law
  • What women in law think today about how the sector should evolve

The event will see the launch of The First 100 Years’ crowdfunding campaign, which is setting out to raise funds to enable the project to produce 100 individual stories on video that will combine to tell one complete story of women in law from the last 100 years. Obelisk plan to donate the research project to the British Museum.

Stories from The First 100 Years;

  • 1922. Ivy Williams and Helena Normanton; the first women to be called to the Bar
  • In the same year Carrie Morrison and Maud Crofts; the first female solicitors admitted to the Law Society. Carrie Morrison finished her articles first, and was the first woman to be admitted to the role of solicitor. Maud Crofts was a prominent suffragette. When she went into practice with her father and brother, her clients included wealthy and influential members of the women’s suffrage movement
  • 1945. Dame Rose Heilbron; first woman to lead an English murder case
  • 1962. Elizabeth Lane; first female judge appointed in the County Court
  • 1981. Fiona Wolf; the first female partner at CMS Cameron McKenna
  • 1990. Elisabeth Wall; first general counsel of a FTSE 100 company
  • 2014. Sonya Leydecker; first female CEO of leading law form (Herbert Smith Freehills)

“It’s rare for 21st Century lawyers to have the chance to get together as a profession to reflect on and learn from our past. That’s why this conference is such an important and incredibly exciting conference. As we approach the end of the first 100 years of women in Law the time is now to gather the stories and the insights from our past, so we can start to shape a more positive future for women in Law. The conference and the crowdfunding campaign are a great way for law firms to get involved with The First 100 Years and the relevant debates we are sparking as this centenary approaches.”

– Dana Denis-Smith, Obelisk’s CEO and founder