BY JANE SOUTHWARD
A new initiative is bringing together lawyers to celebrate how far women have come in the legal profession since the Women’s Legal Status Act was passed in November 1918, allowing women to practise as lawyers in NSW.
Rachel Scanlon, a lawyer who works in financial services, is leading the First 100 Years project, with the support of the Law Society of NSW and the Women Lawyers’ Association of NSW.
The first woman to serve as the Chief Justice of the High Court, Susan Kiefel, has signed on as Patron of the First 100 years project. Included on the First 100 Years Steering Committee are Amber Cerny, Catherine James, Ilana Orlievsky and Lucinda Bradshaw.
Among the commemoration plans for 2018 is a scholarship for a woman lawyer, the commissioning of a portrait of Chief Justice Kiefel, and a photo mosaic digital artwork of Ada Evans, the first Australian woman to graduate with a law degree.
“Women’s contribution to the legal profession is definitely worth celebrating,” says Scanlon, who studied law at UNSW, has worked at Clayton Utz, Goldman Sachs and Magellan Financial Group, and now is consulting with Peerpoint by Allen & Overy.
“One hundred years on, women represent more than half the legal profession yet we don’t have enough perspective on how far we have come and the hard work that happened to allow women to practise. And, there is so much further to go in regards to pay equality and career progression.”
The First 100 Years project began in the United Kingdom where they will mark the centenary of their first female lawyer in 2019. Other countries are considering similar projects to document the history of women in law.
Scanlon and the team behind the First 100 Years in Australia are seeking financial support from firms, big and small, for numerous projects.
For the photo mosaic digital artwork, hundreds of women lawyers will be invited to submit a photograph of themselves to make a digital image of Ada Evans.
Plans also are underway for a gala event in late 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of the passing of the law allowing women to practise as lawyers.