In the Media

Obituary: Vivien Symons

PUBLISHED May 18, 2013

The first female member of the LCCSA, Vivien Symons, a life member of the association, has died peacefully at the age of 94.

Vivien Symons was a remarkable woman whose life illustrated a perfect response to ageism. For, at 89, she came out of retirement and successfully represented her friend who had been badly injured in a street attack, pursuing an appeal to win £13,000 compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. Despite losing the first two applications, Vivien tenaciously pursued an appeal. Those who knew Vivien Symons will remember a friendly and optimistic character. At first, she may have appeared to be from a privileged background. However, her life was, at times, one of struggle against adversity.

She was born to wealthy parents in Ealing; but she remembered when, after the stock crash of 1921, the bailiffs called and her father?s unemployment resulted in the family?s poverty. Her mother, a teacher, was unable to return to work because she was married. She could only be given a teaching job if she became separated from her husband. After struggling for a while and for the sake of his family, Vivien?s father walked out of their home - simply to allow his wife to earn a living.

Fortunately, Vivien was a bright girl and won a scholarship through grammar school.

She left school at 15 and her first job was as a messenger girl at Pyrene Fire Extinguishers. Within a short time, she had learned shorthand and typing and was promoted. Her secretarial skills took her to a solicitors? firm in Liverpool Street, working for the litigation clerk.

Later, she married her long-term boyfriend and began working for Taylor Woodrow as the secretary to their chief engineer. By now, however, the war had started and her husband was called up. She went to join her sister Norah working for Maurice Rubin and Co in Manchester. Vivien was encouraged to take the solicitors? finals and complete five years of articles. Her sister Norah also decided to become a solicitor and both were so valuable to the Manchester firm they were - unusually for that time - paid as articled clerks. She studied by correspondence course, attending lectures at Manchester University and working in the evenings.

In 1948 at Euston Town Hall, Vivien sat her solicitors? final exams and fondly remembered sitting beneath a large notice for the benefit of the many Americans still in London "No jitter bugging allowed!? Both sisters passed and, as the only lady solicitors, were invited to sit at the top table at the Law Society reception.

Vivien went on to be an assistant solicitor and partner with Oswald Hanson and Smith in West Kensington where she was an advocate appearing at Marylebone, Marlborough Street, West London and Bow Street magistrates? courts.  It was at this time that she met Claude Hornby, founding president of the LCCSA, who suggested that she should become a member.

In 1951, she married for the second time and became pregnant. In a recent interview with The Advocate, she commented "Nowadays you get time off to have children. But then the only way was to give up my partnership. Now, that?s a terrible thing to become a partner and then have to give it up.?

Four years later and now with two children, Vivien was back in court, having moved to Surrey where she was recruited and made partner at WH Matthews & Co. She appeared at Sutton, Wallington, Croydon and Bow Street magistrates? courts and became president of the mid-Surrey Law Society.

The latter part of Vivien?s career was spent working as a consultant to her son Michael, a solicitor, and in 1980 they formed Symons solicitors in Croydon, where she worked for seven years.

In retirement, Vivien was never idle and enjoyed attending LCCSA events, once giving an entertaining after-dinner speech at a working dinner.

The LCCSA will fondly remember Vivien Symons as a charming, vivacious and determined lady who served the profession with uncomplaining resilience and tenacity. She was a fine example to us all.