After months of planning and preparation, we have finally reached the ‘Camera, Lights, Action!’ stage on the First 100 Years project, with a series of incredibly high profile interviews to get the filming underway. Last month the First 100 Years film crew, led by former BBC Current Affairs Producer Naomi Jones, interviewed Dame Linda Dobbs inside her old chambers off Fleet Street. Dame Linda, who tended to avoid media attention during her legal career, spoke openly and in detail about being appointed a High Court Judge in 2004, and being the first black woman to join the senior judiciary.
Our film crew then interviewed Shami Chakrabarti, Director of the Human Rights campaign group Liberty, who spoke passionately about gender injustice in the UK and around the world, reflecting on her time as a barrister and a lawyer in the Home Office.
“I didn’t find pupillage the happiest of experiences. I did see young men being preferred over young women for pupillage. I can remember quite overt sexism at times when I was a young barrister and I can remember quite overt sexism when I was a lawyer in the Home Office.
“I can remember being admonished by a barrister for looking too confident as I walked into the clerks’ room to discuss a brief; how dare I have that kind of confidence and I was sure that was because I was a woman.
“And I can remember a senior colleague in the Home Office asking me what the personal circumstances of a junior colleague were before we negotiated what her pay should be. The underlying question being, does she have a husband to support her or should she be paid the same as her male counterparts?”
Chakrabarti said that gender injustice was the greatest injustice on the planet and compared it to an apartheid “that is millennial in its duration and global in its reach”.
This interview and the First 100 Years project made the pages of Solicitors Journal.
Producer and Filmmaker Naomi Jones said:
“It is so fascinating to sit down with women like Linda and Shami to talk about their legal careers. We’re going right the back to the start of each story, to find out why these women became lawyers, who inspired them, what society and the legal sector was like then, and how they have seen life change. What has struck me most so far is how untold these stories are. Shami is very visible on TV, radio and in the press, but how many times have you heard her talk about the influence her mother had on her becoming a barrister. And Linda, who rarely engaged with the media when in post, gave the most incredible interview, sharing very personal stories about her experience as a black woman. Dana was so right to spot that women in law have few role models, and it feels so right and so inspiring that we are creating 100 right now, in the run up to the centenary in 2019. I can’t wait until the next interview.”
That takes place on 14 January 2016.
The First 100 Years is a ground-breaking history project, supported by the Law Society and the Bar Council, charting the journey of women in law since 1919. In 2019 the project – which will feature 100 videos telling stories of inspiring women in law – will mark the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 which paved the way for women to become lawyers for the first time. The 100 videos will be donated to the British Library in 2019.
People and organisations across the legal sector are being invited to join and support the First 100 Years project, by sharing stories, documents and artefacts, or by making a donation to the project. To get involved visit www.first100years.org.uk