On International Women’s Day 2022 I’m sure so many of us will be thinking of the women who have been forced from their country, those who have lost their lives, those who have lost children or other close family, those who have put themselves in danger to help the humanitarian effort and those who have chosen to take up arms to defend their country. Many of these situations are unthinkable to us, but these women will certainly be in our thoughts today.

Hard for us to get our heads round. But we shouldn’t forget that we mark this day every year to remember those who have fought their own battles for all women, for our rights and liberties. The history of Russell-Cooke features several such women.

Our firm’s first campaigner of note wasn’t actually on the payroll. Back in the late 1800s, Mrs Maye Russell Cooke was the wife of our founder and a leading advocate for women’s rights. The daughter of a Liberal MP and married to a lawyer, she was barred from either career by the rules of the time, so she chose instead to channel her considerable energies into campaigning and lecturing extensively.

In 1885, she published Women's Suffrage, led the National Society for Women’s Suffrage and became a trustee of the Weekly Despatch, a role which enabled her effectively to control the paper. She took an active interest in education, the position of women in general and in working men's and radical clubs.

Enduring principles

Maye’s passion for campaigning and the equality agenda she championed tells us a lot about the man she married and also about the principles of the firm that he established. Principles that thrive today in Russell-Cooke. From its foundation, ours has been a firm that stands for equal rights, for liberal values and for ‘doing the right thing’. This runs through the firm and its people – it’s in our DNA.

Today, even our practice areas reflect this fair-minded, campaigning history as they include many of the legal disciplines that are historically over-represented by women, such as my own practice of family law, as well as housing, criminal defence, children and education law. The proportion of women partners and board members is also well above the average for a London law firm, standing at 39% and over 50% respectively. Just over one year ago our first senior female office holder, Alison Regan, was voted in. She is Joint Managing Partner and has also just last week received a Gold Powerwoman award for Inspirational Woman of the Year.

Still fighting the good fight

Our campaigning credentials are very much intact too. In recent generations, many of the firm’s female lawyers have been prominent campaigners for equal rights. As a firm, we continue to be heavily involved in representing the victims of issues such as female genital mutilation, domestic violence and childbirth-related clinical negligence. We have a major presence on all the committees run by family lawyer group Resolution and in particular we are currently campaigning for equal rights for unmarried women on the Cohabitation Committee.

International Women’s Day falls on 8 March every year. It reminds me of how far we have come (as women) and how many great things women have achieved socially, economically, culturally and politically whilst also raising awareness about bias.