Women and Justice: Court: Court of Sessions

Domestic Case Law

Hall v. Incorporated Society of Law Agents Court of Sessions (1901)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Margaret Hall appealed to the Court of Sessions regarding the decision of the Society of Law Agents in Scotland to deny her permission to take the preliminary examination for the Society. Hall argued that she should be given permission because the statute permitted “persons” to become law agents and so, by its terms, did not exclude women. The Society had found that women did not have a legal right to practice law given that “[a]ccording to inveterate usage and custom in Scotland, that practice has in all departments of the law been hitherto confined exclusively to men.” Upon Hall’s appeal, the Court of Sessions also refused to grant her permission because the statute did not explicitly include women, even though it did not explicitly exclude them either. In support of its decision, the court stated that the word “persons” had to be interpreted according to its customary usage; because women had been ineligible to become law agents when the statute was enacted in 1873, the court found the customary usage of “persons” to mean “male persons” and accordingly refused Hall’s appeal.