A female in a male-dominated profession

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Gillian Robson, Female Solicitor

We asked Gillian Robson, Wills & Probate solicitor all about how she got into law and her experiences being a female working within a male dominated profession…

Careers advice for girls at my school in the 1970s was pretty rubbish.  I left school after A levels and after a few false starts did a secretarial course.  My first job was as a legal secretary.

After about 6 months I knew i wanted more of a challenge, and as I found the legal work very interesting I decided to apply to university to read law.

Stereotypes of the time

My then boss, a youngish male solicitor, expressed his concern that it could be a waste of time if I then decided to marry and have children.

Such was the attitude at the time!  I think being a woman may have made it more difficult for me to progress my career in the early days, but attitudes have changed and now it is good to see that young women find it much easier to enter the profession.

My then boss, a youngish male solicitor, expressed his concern that it could be a waste of time if I then decided to marry and have children.

I thoroughly enjoyed studying law, and still do enjoy researching and learning about recent changes and developments.  I started out in general practice and after a few years I did give up for a while to have children (I also lived in Scotland for several years).

Combining career and family

Many of my friends however did manage to combine a career and family with part-time and flexible working.  On my return to the profession I concentrated on Wills, Probate and Trusts and undertook more studying to qualify as a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.

People often assume that women solicitors will work in Wills and Probate, as this is seen as a softer option.  I think both men and women can work in this area, which requires a degree of patience and empathy as well as a good brain to understand complex legal matters.

These are not necessarily strictly feminine attributes.  To be a good lawyer, you need to be interested in people and a good communicator.  Studying law helps you to develop a logical approach to dealing with problems.  It is not all about being able to stand up in court and argue your point.

A different profession

The profession is very different now to when I qualified in the 1980s.  Technology has made the job easier in many ways, more challenging in others.  It is sad that women are still not making partnership level as easily as men, but I think on the whole things are improving.  Women need to take the initiative and move into these positions on their own terms.

We have come so far in the last 40 years however; I think we will get there.