Legal pioneer to be honoured at conference

Ethel Houston

A major conference will be held later this year to honour pioneering female solicitor Ethel Houston – who would have been 100 years old today.

2024 marks the 75th anniversary of Ethel becoming the first female Partner at a Scottish law firm, when she was appointed by Balfour+Manson in 1949.

She went on to become the first female Council member of the Law Society of Scotland, in 1975 – and before her career in the law, was a wartime code-breaker at Bletchley Park. She died in 2017, aged 93.

Elaine Motion, Partner, and former Executive Chairman at Balfour+Manson, said: “On what would have been her 100th birthday, it’s wonderful to announce plans for this celebration of Ethel’s remarkable life. She paved the way for so many women in the law and her achievements in a very different era mark her out as a very special and significant figure in legal history.”

Sheila Webster, President of the Law Society of Scotland, which also celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, said: “Ethel holds a special place in the story of the Law Society of Scotland, as our first female council member and a woman who was always at the frontier of change.”

The conference will be held in central Edinburgh in early October, with major legal figures attending.

Elaine Motion will tell Ethel’s remarkable life story before discussions about the current status of women in Scottish law, with issues including equal pay, the maternity penalty and the way the legal system and profession is structured.

The event will highlight multiple examples of positive changes to working practices, as well as where improvements are still required.

Full details of the conference will be announced soon.

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