I brought all my babies into court for the first four months
HOW LAWYER PAULINE JUGGLED FAMILY LIFE WITH HER CAREER
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