100 years of women in law - Kate Golding
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.
1. What inspired you to pursue a career in the legal industry?
Since I was a child, I have always been interested in law and the legal system. My favourite books to read and television programmes to watch generally had a legal theme, and when it therefore came to choosing options to study at GCSE and thereafter at A Level, I made sure I was choosing things that would stand me in good stead to go on to a degree that would enable me to follow a career in that field.
Initially, I was torn between a career in the police force and the career I am now pursuing as a solicitor. Having researched and tried both as part of work experience schemes however, it was this side of the fence that I ended up preferring.
2. How did you qualify?
I obtained a dual-honours LLB undergraduate degree in Law and Criminology from Keele University, following which I went on to Exeter University to study for my Diploma in Legal Practice. During the course of my year at Exeter, I was fortunate to be offered a training contract with Battens, which would start in the September the year after my graduation. I therefore had a year to play with, in which I was lucky enough to be offered a paralegal position in the insurance department of Veitch Penny Solicitors in Exeter, the head of which had mentored me through my Legal Practice year. The 9 months that I spent in that position entitled me to “time off” what would normally have been a 2 year training contract, meaning that I, in fact, only had 15 months of training prior to qualifying, at the end of which I had decided that my preferred discipline was litigation and specifically personal injury law. As there were no opportunities for me in that field within Battens at the end of my training, I returned to Veitch Penny to take up a position as a Newly Qualified Solicitor in the insurance department, dealing with the defence of personal injury claims on behalf of several large insurers and local authorities, focussing particularly on claims involving educational negligence. From there, I broadened my horizons by moving to a larger firm in Bristol where I again undertook work for several large insurance companies and entities including The Royal Mail Group and Network Rail, defending personal injury claims. When my circumstances changed in 2007, I was fortunate enough to be able to return to Battens, this time taking on the role of building up an in-house personal injury team to act predominantly for injured Claimants. That exercise was successful and has led to the team that I now head up today.
3. What do you think you bring to your chosen discipline?
I have the unique position, I think, of having had experience on both the Defendant and the Claimant side of personal injury claims. My defendant experience allows me to think more broadly, grasp the issues in cases early on and give what I consider to be more realistic advice to clients about the prospects of success at the start of their claims, how I think claims will progress going forwards and how they should be considering concluding their claims, bearing in mind the arguments that I can often predict coming from the other side of the fence. As well as that, I like to think that my naturally understanding, sympathetic, dedicated and caring nature assists me in building strong relationships with clients that create the basis from which I can put clients in the best possible position both legally and otherwise to achieve the best possible outcome at the end of their claim.
4. How do you think the legal industry for women has progressed?
As a lover of history as well as law, I am only too aware of the fact that the legal profession has traditionally been male dominated – whoever saw a female legal adviser in the court of Henry VIII! It is great however to see that the times are now firmly changing with a view to making the profession more equal – some of the highest ranking members of the judiciary are now female, which never would have been the case in years gone by. I have certainly never noticed a dominance either way during the course of my career, whether in my pre-qualification legal education or my post-qualification experience. It never seems to come as a surprise to clients or representatives for the opposition that they are dealing with a female solicitor and the development of flexibility in working arrangements increasingly allows women to strive for whatever they would wish the pinnacle of their career to be. I am very proud to be part of this progression and long may it continue.