As an alumna of the University of Sydney Law School, I am proud to support the Law School’s Women of Law Alumni Program. Although as I look back now, I feel I was an exceptionally raw recruit, entering Sydney Law School in the year immediately after the Higher School Certificate. However, there is no doubt that it was the ethos and the teaching at Sydney Law School that was the genesis of my deep love of the law and successful career at the Bar and as a judge.
Navigating the legal profession as a woman lawyer in the mid-70s and 80s was challenging. One encountered strongly articulated views that although women barristers had to be tolerated, they ought to confine themselves to Family Law. The view was they had no ability or place in other areas of the law.
Another significant problem was what has been described as ‘peer deprivation’. With so few women at the Bar, the opportunities for friendship and mentoring were minimal and the general camaraderie and collegiality of the Bar often was not extended to females, even to the point where women were sometimes excluded from social events because of the choice of a males-only club for the occasion.
With experiences such as these, you might understand why I often mentored younger women in terms that the law, and the Bar in particular, was something you really have to love in order to thrive. Indeed, I consider that to be important advice to any young lawyer today.
Women were sometimes excluded from social events because of the choice of a males-only club for the occasion
Whilst women now function and succeed in law without most of these barriers, there remains every reason – from mentoring to friendship, from guidance to a sense of collegiality and belonging, to have spaces for women, institutionally supported and promoted. This is the importance and the strength of the Women of Law Alumni Program, where women of the law, past and present, are honoured, celebrated, supported and empowered.
In spite of the challenges women have faced in accessing legal education and entering the legal profession over the last 100 years, it is so rewarding to be a woman in the law and I encourage young women to follow in the path of our great alumni and continue to pave the path for future women lawyers.
Find out more about our alumni community.