Partner and Head of Family Department, Anthony Gold
My first experience of legal practice was when I joined a trade union firm and commenced my “articles” in 1982. It was a different world. We were not computerised. Tippex on letters was a normal thing. Briefs to counsel were always tied with pink ribbon and documents were proof read. We were not allowed to wear trousers. Refreshments were delivered by a “tea lady” with a trolley. I recall the male partners attending the annual TUC conference driving their wives’ cars to avoid looking too wealthy. Of course, they owned Jaguars!
Despite the trade union connection, I was paid the minimum wage – then £3000 pa and I did cleaning and waitressing jobs to get by.
Money was one reason why I transferred my articles to Russell Cooke in Putney and qualified as a family lawyer in 1984. I was made a partner and head of the family department when I was just 26 years old. I was the second female partner at the firm.
I did start to wear trousers, but law practices still had many peculiarities and frustrating features. I remember battling with my dictation machine and feeling rage on those occasions when the tape snapped and all my work was lost. The fax machine had some advantages over email. It was unreliable and the sender could never be sure that the entire document had been delivered. This gave the recipient ample time to respond!
Gender equality was still a struggle. I felt it particularly when I had a baby at 30 years of age and took only 3 months maternity leave. I feared being managed out of my job which did happen in those days. I have always regretted not spending more time with my only child.
On the other hand, there was lots of fun in the 1980s. Everyone had lunch on Fridays and it often lasted the entire afternoon. Beaujolais Nouveau day was a really good lunch/afternoon. Smoking indoors (yes in the office) was allowed. We had big phones and even bigger hair.
One thing that has not changed is that we still have the 1973 Matrimonial Causes Act which governs divorce and financial outcomes. This elderly statute has been with me throughout my career and that’s not a good thing.