I brought all my ba­bies into court for the first four months


Manchester Evening News - - NEWS - By BETH ABBIT [email protected]­i­tymir­ror.com @BethAb­bitMEN

FOR Pauline Chan­dler, moth­er­hood and work went hand in hand.

The so­lic­i­tor has been prac­tic­ing law for 50 years – but when she first ap­plied for a job at a Manch­ester law firm, she was re­jected be­cause of her gen­der.

“I don’t re­mem­ber ever be­ing told why I wasn’t given the job but I later found out that the main rea­son for not hir­ing me was be­cause I was a wo­man,” she says.

“I’d been out of work for a year when the Manch­ester part­ners at the firm re­lented and asked whether I was still in­ter­ested.”

Now 71, Pauline – who works as a se­nior lawyer at Slater and Gor­don – is cel­e­brat­ing more than half a cen­tury in the in­dus­try.

She is thought to be Manch­ester’s old­est prac­tis­ing fe­male so­lic­i­tor and has no plans to re­tire any­time soon – but her jour­ney was not al­ways straight­for­ward.

As a mother-of-three, Pauline was back in the of­fice within a month of hav­ing each of her ba­bies.

“I took three weeks off work af­ter each birth and then took them into work ev­ery day. I didn’t ask any­one if I could. I just did it and it worked.”

Af­ter that, Pauline would wake up at 3am to get a head start on her work be­fore wak­ing up the kids and tak­ing them into the of­fice, and into court, for their first four months.

“Bar­ris­ters re­call hav­ing to hold them while I went off to in­ter­view a wit­ness in the court cor­ri­dor,” she says. “We didn’t ex­change wit­ness state­ments back then like we have to now. It was trial by am­bush which was much more fun!

“The firm got their full-time work out of me and I was able to con­tinue to breast­feed and look af­ter them.

“I would have been bored to death at home; it’s just the way I am.”

De­spite ini­tially be­ing re­jected for a role at a Manch­ester law firm, Pauline went on to be­come their first fe­male part­ner.

“They em­ployed a lot of women and many went on to be­come part­ners,” says Pauline – who grew up in Wythen­shawe and stud­ied at Manch­ester Univer­sity.

“I was al­ways well treated and once I had joined the firm was never prej­u­diced in any way be­cause I was a wo­man. In fact, the Manch­ester of­fice was very sup­port­ive.”

The grand­mother-of-five, who spe­cialises in in­dus­trial ac­ci­dents and dis­ease, joined Pan­none in 1999 be­fore it be­came Slater and Gor­don in 2014. She says it was her fa­ther who in­spired her to pur­sue a ca­reer in le­gal ser­vices.

He worked as a per­son­nel of­fi­cer for the Co-op and that sparked an in­ter­est in her to pur­sue union law.

And the pas­sion for law con­tin­ued to spread through the fam­ily with Pauline’s daugh­ter Amy fol­low­ing in her foot­steps and be­com­ing a part­ner at Pan­none Cor­po­rate.

It’s some­thing Pauline – who also has two sons, Ed­ward and An­drew – is par­tic­u­larly proud of as women in cor­po­rate law were al­most un­heard of when she started her own ca­reer as, she says, they were gen­er­ally guided to­wards fam­ily law.

Pauline, who lives in Stock­port with her part­ner Trevor Hatch­ett, will be join­ing Slater and Gor­don as they cel­e­brate 100 years since women were first al­lowed to prac­tice law.

This year marks the cen­te­nary of the Sex Dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion (Re­moval) Act 1919 – paving the way for women to be­come bar­ris­ters, so­lic­i­tors, mag­is­trates and ju­rors as well as other pro­fes­sions.

“I am not sure there are many em­ploy­ers even now that would en­cour­age ba­bies at work but things have moved on and more avail­able child­care and flex­i­ble work­ing pat­terns have made ca­reers for work­ing moth­ers more ac­ces­si­ble but it is still a jug­gling act,” she says.

“I was in­cred­i­bly for­tu­nate to have so many highly suc­cess­ful/im­pres­sive women to look up to, and a lot of in­cred­i­ble fe­male so­lic­i­tors/sup­port­ive and en­light­ened men to work with.

“There weren’t very many women in the field in the late 1960s and 1970s when I first started and the changes have re­ally hap­pened more in the last 50 years rather than the last 100. I’m proud of how far we’ve all come, even if there is still a long way to go.”

Pauline Chan­dler has been a so­lic­i­tor for 50 years

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