This year's International Women's Day seeks to #BreakTheBias. But women have been breaking the bias in the legal profession for over a century.

It’s a hundred years ago this year that the first women were called to the English Bar or passed the Law Society’s exams after forty years of challenging employment bias. Following a lengthy legal battle, the landmark ruling of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 vetoed women being excluded from civil or judicial professions due to sex or marital status. Without challenges faced by pioneering women such as Eliza Orme or Dr Ivy Williams, today’s female solicitors may never had had the opportunities they do.

Figures show that there are now more female than male solicitors and women account for 60 percent of all new entrants to the legal profession. At Medical Solicitors, over 80 percent of our staff are women. Across our three clinical negligence offices in Sheffield, York and Hull, Medical Solicitors’ female staff include senior solicitors, litigation assistants, medical records analysts, as well as our office manager, HR manager and receptionist.

But why is that?

 

I think you tend to find that in the field of clinical negligence, from my experience anyway, it attracts a lot of female lawyers. Women carry a lot of empathy for what patients have gone through and so it appeals to our people skills. But it also is intellectually very challenging work, trying to grasp the very technical medical literature as well as dealing with the legal challenges.
Sarah Johnson, head of Medical Solicitors’ York office

Medical Solicitors also attracts a lot of women to join the niche law firm due to the family friendly feel of the business and how it recognises the importance of having a work/life balance. One of the main reasons our director, Caroline Moore, launched her own firm in 2009 was to allow for more flexible working around her own three children, having been denied that in previous male-dominated companies.

Caroline knows the pressures that working parents have and does help to alleviate these. For example, she made sure that I did not miss my eldest son’s first ever Christmas performance. He was only two but it was an experience she made sure I didn’t miss. These are memories I cannot get back. This helps you with your motivation and determination to work hard.
Louise Haslam, solicitor and mum of two young boys

Regardless of gender, our team are most certainly motivated to help clients harmed by clinical negligence. Without their dedication, we wouldn’t have garnered the reputation as a specialist medical negligence law firm that holds high levels of client care at its core.

Our director, Caroline Moore, has made waves in clinical negligence from the outset of her career. Her first case in the early ‘90s was a high value cerebral palsy case for which she won a seven-figure settlement. It was unheard at the time of for a young, female and inexperienced solicitor to take on such a case. But it propelled her career; she quickly became an in-demand grade A solicitor who was headhunted by various firms. She was recently named Partner of the Year at the Sheffield & District Law Society Awards for the work she has done to grow the business in recent years.

Part of this growth is by opening offices in Hull and York, the latter of which is led by Sarah Johnson, another prominent name within clinical negligence due to her high level of expertise and skill representing patients. Along with being ranked as a Band 2 practitioner by Chambers and Partners, she also holds dual panel membership of the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Accreditation, and patient safety and justice charity, Action Against Medical Accidents which she says is one of her career highlights.

She is also joined in York by Lyndsey Taylor who has vital experience and knowledge of both sides of the medico-legal divide, having previously worked for the NHS in radiology administration before starting her legal career ten years ago.

For most of our solicitors, their motivation to practice law arose from a passion to help others and make a difference to their lives. At Medical Solicitors, many of our clients are women and we assist them to be in a position of power to make informed decisions about their health. We will always choose to challenge bias across every dimension of life, but especially regarding the levels of substandard care women receive compared to men.

Senior solicitors Christine Brown was one of first solicitors in South Yorkshire to receive clinical negligence accreditation from the Law Society. Her pathway into law was born from a desire to help solve other people’s problems sparked by observing in her formative years how difficult it was for disadvantaged people in her community to obtain help with their legal problems.

Representing people who have suffered negligent medical treatment gives them a voice and the means to take on large institutions to enforce their rights. A lot of my cases involve women and children who have been left confused and distressed by their medical care and it is rewarding to obtain answers to help them understand what has gone wrong, and compensation to help put things right so they can move on with their lives.
Christine Brown, senior solicitor

Sonia Parkes has over 30 years’ experience in personal injury and clinical negligence litigation and became a renowned name in Barnsley for helping women affected by the PIP breast implant scandal. Louise Haslam is highly motivated by justice and has such an extensive knowledge surrounding complex and high value claims. Miriam Bi one of our most determined solicitors and it is not uncommon for her to settle numerous cases in a week. Trainee solicitor Kelly Hunt is now handling her own case files, having been supported through her qualifications last year.

Legislation such as the Equal Pay Act 1970, Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Employment Protection Act 1975 and, more recently, the Equality Act 2010 has given more protection to women’s employment rights across the board. But there are still sometimes many biased undertones experienced by women in law.

When people find out both my husband and I work in clinical negligence, they presume I am his secretary. I actually feel sorry for those who presume this as it says more about them than anything else. But generally, I have to say I have been very lucky in terms of gender being an issue during my career.
Louise Haslam, solicitor
I recall a time when I was a newly qualified solicitor advising a male client about his Personal Injury case. At the end of the meeting, he asked me if he could speak to a solicitor about his case, to which I responded, I am a solicitor. I also remember whilst I was on maternity leave, my husband and I went to the bank to review our finances. The male bank manager assumed my husband was the main breadwinner – whereas at that time, it was the other way round!
Sarah Johnson, Head of York office

We may have come a long way in the last century, even more so since the days of Eliza Orme, but there are still ways we can take action for true equality in every dimension of life. It’s not about making women stronger – most would say they already are – it’s about changing how the world we live in perceives those strengths.

Why Choose Us?

We’ve handled many different types of medical negligence cases and provided expert advice for over 20 years.

  • We offer FREE, no obligation legal advice all throughout
  • Our processes are hassle free & we handle all the paperwork
  • We won't charge you a penny until your case has been settled

Our surgery claims expert:

Caroline Moore

Managing Director/Head of Sheffield Office