A former high street law firm practitioner from Wales makes British armed forces history
A state school-educated solicitor is set to become the the British Army’s highest-ranking woman officer, as the Ministry of Defence announced Susan Ridge’s promotion earlier this week.
Ridge, currently a Brigadier and director the army’s legal advisory department, will from September be the army’s first female Major General.
After reading history at Bangor University in Wales, Ridge completed the pre-Graduate Diploma in Law conversion course at the then College of Law.
She went on to complete the old Law Society Finals exam — the predecessor of today’s Legal Practice Course — before training and qualifying at north Wales general practice Swayne Johnson Wright, which is now simply Swayne Johnson.
Her private practice career focused on non-contentious work and Ridge had been with the firm for four years when the then 29-year-old was asked to join the partnership.
Ridge declined the offer because she wanted to “escape the mundane nature of normal life”. So she joined up and enrolled on the professionally qualified officer’s course at Sandhurst in 1992.
In those days, that branch of the Sandhurst regime was colloquially known as the vicars and tarts training course, as it was a far cry from the strenuous boot camp imposed on front-line soldiers.
However, lawyers with a yearning for the military life today will not be so lucky. An army spokesman explained that the updated 10-week course is based directly on the regular commissioning course. The focus is on “officership, command and leadership”, and the syllabus includes field training, physical training, weapons training and good old-fashioned drill.
When not out in the field, future army lawyers, doctors, dentists, nurses, physiotherapists and chaplains are in classrooms for lessons on global security, leadership psychology and the history of warfare.
Along with promotion, Ridge will have an enhanced professional role as Director General Army Legal Services. In that position, she will be the army’s chief legal adviser, providing legal support to the soldiers in barracks, on training and on operations.
Speaking earlier this week, Ridge said:
The army is a constantly evolving organisation which has provided a varied and interesting legal career. It has allowed me the opportunity to develop and progress throughout my working life. I feel very honoured and privileged to have been given this opportunity.