The year 2019 marks the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which paved the way for women to become lawyers. The First Hundred Years project celebrates the past to shape the future for women in law.
To mark the occasion, Coodes is putting the spotlight on some of its team members to learn more about their experience in the legal profession.
Mary Wright, Chartered Legal Executive in the Residential Property team, answers a few questions about her career to date.
When and why did you decide to become a lawyer?
I started out a long time ago as an Office Junior in a Furnishing shop and then progressed to a local solicitor’s office. I remember a conversation with my father about how he thought I could do a lot better and maybe I should look into training. At that time I was working for another Solicitors’ firm in Penzance and my boss at the time had me drafting Instructions to Counsel in the matrimonial department. Another young woman joined the firm and talked about the new ILEX courses starting at Truro College, so I looked into it. I worked as a Secretary by day and then rode my moped 27 miles to Truro in the evening to start the courses.
When my father had an accident I had to take over the family business for the next two years. During that period I was further inspired to carry on by the legal advice my father was getting. At one point he was told he could not appeal a Legal Aid decision. I looked it all up and found he could. He went back to his lawyer, who dubiously applied, and he won. At the Court case around two years later I was invited into negotiations with the Barrister. I then restarted the courses. I had another little hiccup in that I got married, had my beautiful daughter and then divorced. That kick-started me again and I got my qualifications.
What drives you in your role?
Funnily enough I did not want to practice conveyancing initially, but ended up falling into it. What I love is that every case is different and you are helping clients achieve their goals and dreams of moving into the property they have fallen in love with. It makes me smile when I can finally make that telephone call to tell a client, ‘you can pick up your keys now’. That buzz never goes away.
What do you like about working for Coodes?
I love the people and the willingness to put the client at the heart of what we do. Even when we win awards and achievements there is still a drive to improve.
What changes have you seen during your career that have affected female lawyers?
There are certainly a lot more woman in the profession that there were back when I started. I believe more needs to be done to allow them to attain higher management roles but on the whole the profession is a better place, with a more open attitude to female lawyers.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a legal career?
If you like the idea of a career in law, there are many, many opportunities and several routes you can take to achieve it. Do some research and see what best suits your lifestyle. I would say that your age is no barrier either as a lot of being a good lawyer is about common sense and life experience can really help with that.
Mary Wright is a Chartered Legal Executive in Coodes Solicitors’ Residential Property team.