Resurgence of the AWS Manchester

Posted in Latest News on 28 Sep 2017

December 1922 marks the date that, at the age of 34, Carrie Morrison was admitted as the first female solicitor in England and Wales. The fight for gender equality in the legal profession provides an engaging history in itself, from the admittance of the first female lawyers to the rise of contemporary, dedicated groups that represent Women’s interests. 

The Association of Women Solicitors (AWS) is one such group. Originally founded in 1923, it was first named the 1919 Club after the year that the Sex Discrimination Disqualification (Removal) Act was enacted, enabling women to legally join the profession as solicitors or barristers.

More recent statistics from The Law Society indicate a continued upward trend in female engagement in the legal profession. The 2016 Law Society Annual Statistics Report lists that in 2016-17 17,855 UK students were accepted on to Law Undergraduate courses in England and Wales, 67.5% identified as female with 32.5% male. Of the 6,346 admitted to the Solicitors Roll (year ending 31 July 2016) 61.5% were female and 38.5% male, however, of the 136,176 solicitors in 2016 who held a current practising certificate 49.5% were female and 50.5% were male, a slight tip of the balance.

Despite the rising numbers of females in legal roles in the UK, our latest Salary Survey highlighted some interesting data around general career aspirations, pay and benefits packages. When asked if they aspired to a be ‘partner, manager, or business leader’, 68% of females answered ‘yes’ in contrast to 79% of their male counterparts. Furthermore, 42% of males and 34% females were satisfied to very satisfied with their current benefit packages. Interestingly, when asked what additional benefit they would like that was not currently provided for by their current employers the top results for females were linked to the provision of additional holidays, flexi-time, private medical care and enhanced maternity leave. Whereas, the top four benefits identified for males included financial bonus, pension rates, additional holidays, and private medical care. 44% of females believed that in their current roles they were earning below the market rate in comparison to 35% of males.

The observations we can take from these figures are that priorities in terms of benefits (almost stereotypically) do differ between the sexes. The gender pay gap is a contentious topic that is receiving heightened consideration through various high-profile media cases. We need to tread carefully when examining the survey information, there are several variables that impact the data trends and to draw such conclusions, conflating the two without deeper research and analysis, risks generalisation of a complex subject. What we can say is that these results are indicative of the known wider issues.

It is precisely such issues and topics that groups such as AWS Manchester confront head-on in a collaborative, supportive and interactive manner through dedicated events and forums.

What is the AWS Manchester and why is it important?

The Manchester branch of the AWS has been in existence since the early 1980’s, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2008 and fast approaching another milestone. The priorities of the Association centre around bringing together female solicitors across the Manchester area. The AWS promotes an open forum to discuss issues that the 21st Century female Solicitor may face with an active community as well as providing access to networking opportunities/ events organised by the Committee. Douglas Scott are pleased to have been involved in the re-launch of the AWS Manchester and Christine Smith, who works as a recruitment consultant for our Inhouse team, also acts as Events Manager for their committee. Read below for her insight…

Christine’s Involvement in the AWS Manchester

“During a chance encounter, back in early 2016 with Beverley Phillpotts, the Chair of the AWS Manchester, I asked about the Group mentioning that I hadn’t seen much activity. AWS Manchester, like many groups from time to time found themselves to be in a rut. There was a need to innovate and be receptive to the changes in the legal scene in Manchester in order to attract new members. One such area of change I had identified was the growth of the In-house sector and in particular the number of female lawyers who were moving away from the more traditional private practice law firm business to In-house. Beverley herself is an In-house Solicitor and both her and the AWS Manchester Committee were, with the support of Douglas Scott, energised to broaden the spectrum. We sat down with the committee to see what they wanted, what their vision was, and more importantly- how we could get the message out to all female lawyers in the Manchester area. 
So, let’s advance a year and see what’s happened… A brand-new website, several new committee members (Including more In-housers!) and three well-attended events! 

What does the AWS Manchester do and what can we look forward to?

AWS Manchester has organised a variety of interactive events, recently focusing on self-development, motivation, mental resilience, and executive presence. Our instinct had been right – there really is an appetite for these types of events – held in the evening, they offer our members the chance to come along and meet other female Lawyers in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.  We often attract 50+ members to events.

The re-launch began with a professional development event presented by Marianne O’Connor from The Influence Business. This gave us a great platform to let members know of our plans and indeed, ask them what they wanted from the Group. This was followed by a very entertaining and informative talk by John Dabrowski on Mental Resilience. Our last gathering, a sell-out blind wine tasting event at Veeno Wine Bar was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and a knock-out success.

Our final event for this year is a professional development session lead by Kevin Sanders (founder of 23 Degrees Business Solutions) which is to be held on Thursday 9 November.

It’s my pleasure to be a member of the AWS Manchester committee – the more we can promote the legal profession in Manchester the better, whether that be from a private practice or In-house perspective.

A sincere thank you to all those who have helped to recently re-energise the AWS Manchester, your contributions have been significant in the success of the group in the past year. These include Blumin (who did a great job of re-vamping the website), Fran at Manchester Law Society for the promotion of our events, as well as, sponsors; Nasstar, Kellands, NatWest, LexisNexis and also Butler Capital.

For more information or to formally register your interest in joining the AWS just email


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