The marathon to achieving equity in law

Guest post by Professor Ruth Sutton, head of the school of law and social justice at the University of Chester, and Ian Bowden, senior lecturer 

Ruth Sutton

Achieving gender equity throughout society has, for a long time, been a tireless and continuous mission. Implementing sustainable and meaningful change will require systemic changes, to benefit everyone equally and reduce privilege, which is no small task.

For those in the legal profession, the road to gender equity is a marathon and, although considerable progress has been made, the sector has some miles to go before it crosses the proverbial finish line.

As educators of the next generation of law professionals, it is our responsibility, and that of the sector, to bolster equity through our teachings and practice. It is with this in mind that we have worked to build on our offerings, both within the classroom and beyond, to shape an inclusive legal sector of the future.


We first looked at the distance already travelled to achieving gender equality by hosting our Celebration of Women in the Law event, which featured a variety of speakers from a range of backgrounds and stages in their legal journey, from a High Court jJudge to a current second year law student.

Their contributions recognised the achievements of female predecessors over the past century and the event provided an opportunity for individuals aspiring to enter the sector, our students for example, to see themselves in successful legal professionals.

The insights from these current professionals provided invaluable support and insights to students, working to breakdown any misconceptions about the sector and making known the opportunities available to them. By hearing from successful professionals directly, the students were able to leave the event feeling inspired and represented in the field.


To bring our vision for equity into the classroom, we showcase a range of role models for our students to learn from, including our own colleagues, who have achieved much within their careers in the legal sector. We believe that ‘if you can see it, you can be it’.

This is a continuous message that we share to motivate students to speak up, challenge themselves and claim a space within the sector.

Celebrating the achievements of colleagues and local women in law allows us to demonstrate the various pathways available to students but also recognise that using diverse representation in the classroom leads to more effective inclusive practice.

To bring high aspirations to fruition, we also provide mentoring opportunities on a one-to-one basis to support students in realising their route into law. For example, we have facilitated visits with the Crown Prosecution Service for students to observe sessions and talk through the step-by-step process for how they can someday become a crown prosecutor.

Empowerment through practice

As 69% applicants to study law in the UK in 2021 were women, we recognise the importance of empowering our students through practice. All students must have the opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills to become successful legal professionals, a mission that we continue to embed in our approach to teaching and learning.

Ian Bowden

In teaching and learning, our approach is to provide an opportunity for all students to build confidence and demonstrate ambition. Through our positive and compassionate approach, students are encouraged to participate in all aspects of the classroom and develop a unique, individual approach to law.

We consistently encourage and empower students to be confident and provide them with tangible opportunities to develop these skills in practice, through exposure and experience directly within the legal sector.

For example, our relationship with Hill Dickinson led to students being invited to attend a mock inquest where they could learn about how a solicitor works in practice, and network with other legal professionals. Likewise, Employee Management Ltd welcomed a group of second-year students to a mock employment tribunal.

It is through hands-on experiences and opportunities like these, paired with a compassionate approach to teaching, that students will be able to drive forward the inherited mission towards creating an equitable sector in which they see themselves succeeding.

Though the progress to date is promising, there is still considerable work to be done to ensure that equity is embedded throughout the legal profession, and that emerging legal professionals are given equal opportunities.

In order for the next generation of lawyers, barristers, solicitors and judges to thrive and succeed, we must continue to work to shape the sector into one that is for everyone, breaking down the inequalities that many of us have faced as we move towards the finish line.

    Readers Comments

  • IAN WIGG says:

    I find it interesting that the author uses the term gender “equity” rather than gender “equality.”
    The two terms imply very different things.

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