The history of the Association of Women Solicitors should serve as an inspiration and a warning. An impressively a small cohort of women solicitors had succeeded in founding an organisation to support each other, had maintained it through economic recessions and war … But its subsequent gradual demise demonstrates how an organisation can all but disappear through a laudable desire for expansion coupled with an unrealistic reliance on income which was not self-generated.
The Association of Women Solicitors (AWS) was the first organisation in England and Wales whose purpose was to represent women in the legal profession. Initially it was an informal grouping of a small number of women articled clerks (trainee solicitors), no more than six or seven, who came together on an unrecorded date in either 1920 or 1921 for mutual support and companionship. They called themselves ‘the 1919 Club’ in recognition of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which would enable them to sit the Law Society’s examinations and to be admitted as solicitors.
For several decades this became the only, if very tenuous, contact some women solicitors had with other women legal practitioners. Over the years, AWS volunteers provided Mentoring Scheme, the Maternity Helpline and the Law Reform Committee as well as a returner course (a intensive week-long residential experience for women returning to the profession), and LINK (a magazine) was disseminated free to all AWS members.
In 2013, the AWS was absorbed into the new Women Lawyers Division of the Law Society. However, several groups of women solicitors have formed regional groups, some, such as Bristol and Merseyside adopting the Women’s Lawyers Division name and others, such as Surrey and London, continuing to style themselves as AWS.
The full version of this landmark is written by Elizabeth Cruickshank.
Elizabeth Cruickshank, ‘Carrie Morrison’ (100 First Hundred Years, 8 September 2015) http://first100years.org.uk/carrie-morrison-2/
The Law Society, ‘National Association of Women Solicitors Takes an Historical Step on the Future of Representation for Women Solicitors’ (13 December 2012) https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/news/press-releases/national-association-of-women-solicitors-takes-an-historical-step-on-the-future-of-representation-for-women-solicitors/