Linda Mulcahy, Director of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, has been awarded over £50,000 for a new research project 'Inspiring Women: Challenging the democratic deficit in the legal professions'.

Contemporary debates about the democratic malaise in developed nations indicate that key institutions of democratic states are in danger of being seen as formal shells run by politico-economic elites. This project aims to examine one aspect of this problem by examining the lack of diversity in the upper echelons of the UK legal professions and the relative invisibility of women lawyers in positions of power.

An extensive body of research has revealed persistent structural inequalities within the legal professions from pay to status, together with stratification on the basis of gender, race and class. Lack of diversity in the legal professions has not gone unnoticed and a range of new policies and strategies have been introduced to mitigate its effects in recent decades. While these have played a part in promoting more diversity, there is general agreement that progress remains very slow and that the UK is lagging behind developments in other European countries. Research on diversity-related issues to date has tended to focus on statistics, content analysis of policy documents and relatively short interviews with law students, solicitors and judges.

This project aims to address a gap in existing work by creating an in-depth oral history archive of pioneering legal lives. The funding requested will allow the applicant to create a database of women pioneers, produce a credible sampling frame, conduct pilot interviews, write a larger bid to the AHRC and develop a pathways to impact proposal. The project will draw on Professor Mulcahy's expertise in the area of marginalized legal lives and legal biography and will form part of an ongoing stream of projects which have been, or will be, conducted in partnership with the British Library.