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Club 21: In pursuit of equality

Club 21: In pursuit of equality


Dana Denis Smith is encouraging law firms and chambers to chart the journey of women in law

The First 100 Years, the ground-breaking video project charting the journey of women in law since 1919, has launched a call to organisations in the sector to join it in building the UK's first digital archive dedicated to women in law.

The archive has already built an impressive story board, including videos of pioneering lawyers such as Dame Linda Dobbs and Baroness Hale, as well as an impressive decade-by-decade timeline that is constantly updated with submissions from the public.

Upon completion in 2019, the archive '“ which will contain 100 original videos commissioned by the project '“ will be donated to the nation and used as an educational tool by future generations.

In exchange for a donation of between £3,000 and £5,000 per year to Spark21 '“ the education charity that manages the project '“ the first 21 firms to answer the invitation will become founding partners of the project.

Withers and Serjeants' Inn Chambers have already pledged their support for the next three years, when the project is due to be completed on the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, the Act which opened the doors to women being admitted to the profession for the first time.

The invitation is open to all organisations that are passionate about advocating the importance of equality in the legal profession, be they law firms, in house teams, or chambers, but also any organisation that is involved with the act of justice.

In its first year, the project focused on engaging with individual lawyers and supporters to align with the project's mission to collect as many personal stories as possible. It ran a crowdfunding campaign which raised £12,000 from individual donors, and all its public events have been by donation only '“ to date, £20,000 have been raised from individual donations. Everyone who donated £50 or more has been included in a donor's wall on the digital archive.

The focus now shifts on engaging with organisations across the profession to ensure that the personal stories reach as widely as possible an audience. We encourage firms to include the project's videos into their education outreach plans, into women networks events and to be part of the planning for the anniversary year, in 2019.

As the pursuit for equality goes on, the project should be seen as a unifying force supported by all corners of the legal profession.

Dana Denis Smith is the founder of the First 100 Years project