21 January 2019

2019 marks 100 years since women were able to qualify as solicitors. In 1919 the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act came into force and so paved the way for women to be admitted into the legal profession.

To celebrate this centenary and to remember and pay homage to the pioneering women of the legal industry, Battens are interviewing some of our very own female lawyers about their careers.

Lesley Powell is an Associate Solicitor in our Family department based in the Yeovil office:

1. What inspired you to pursue a career in the legal industry?

I have had a longstanding interest in law. I was a Special Constable when I was in my 20’s working alongside regular PC’s, including taking part in arrests, surveillance and responding to emergency calls. I was fascinated by the Courts and the Legal Process but at that stage it was a part time interest until I had the opportunity to work full time in the Courts’ Service as a Trainee Legal Advisor

2. How did you qualify?

Although I already had a degree when I joined the Courts’ Service I did not have any ‘legal’ qualifications. So I studied part time over a number of years gaining a Magistrates’ Court Diploma and Post Graduate Diploma in Law. I then completed the Legal Practice Course part time over a period of 2 years whilst still working in the Courts’ Service. I eventually qualified as a Solicitor in 1997. I then left the Courts’ Service and started work in a multi office high street firm in Exeter/East Devon before joining the Battens’ Team in 2015.

3. What do you think you bring to your chosen discipline?

Before working in the legal profession I worked in other industries at a senior level and gained an invaluable insight into a commercial world. When I first came into private practice as a newly qualified solicitor I undertook general litigation; personal injury, civil claims, employment, family and criminal law and so got to understand a wide range of litigious work. It was soon clear that the days of being a general litigator were numbered as the law was getting more and more complex in all areas and so I chose to specialise in Family Law. My early-life experience in industry and then in general litigation gives me a rounded understanding of some of the associated and complex issues that can arise, particularly when dealing with financial matters in divorce so that I can help and advise clients through this difficult time.

4. How do you think the legal industry for women has progressed?

Since the first woman solicitor was admitted in 1923 the opportunities for women have increased in leaps and bounds and more women than men are entering the profession both as solicitors and barristers. Flexible working including working from home has been made possible with advances in technology which helps juggle child care/family commitments with work. We still have a way to go as there remains an imbalance at senior levels across the profession, including in the judiciary, but I am sure those pioneering women in the 1920’s and 30’s would be amazed at the opportunities that are now available.