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María Jesús Martínez del Campo, the first woman lawyer in Fuengirola. SUR
Fuengirola's first woman lawyer: 'The divorce law gave me my career breakthrough; everyone wanted a woman to lead them'
International Women's Day 2024

Fuengirola's first woman lawyer: 'The divorce law gave me my career breakthrough; everyone wanted a woman to lead them'

In her 44-year career, María Jesús Martínez del Campo has seen it all: one of the first divorces passed by the Marbella courts was one of her clients

Lorena Cádiz

Fuengirola

Friday, 8 March 2024

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María Jesús Martínez del Campo arrived in Fuengirola at 23 years old, having just completed her law degree. It was December 1979 and at that time Fuengirola had 11 practising lawyers, none of whom were women. She was the town's first registered female lawyer, and according to recent data by the Malaga Bar Association, if we include her colleagues who are no longer practising, she was fifth in the whole province to join the association. If we leave out those who are retired, she is the third of those who are still practising.

Now, at the age of 67, she is retiring. Just a few days ago, over 50 of her colleagues organised a surprise tribute, and on Friday 8 March the Fuengirola town hall will hold an event in recognition of her career, to mark International Women's Day.

-The accolades are piling up...

-I'm still in shock from what my friends did for me a few days ago. When I opened the door and saw over 80 people waiting for me, about 50 of whom were colleagues, I was very surprised. I still don't know how to thank them for so much love.

- It says a lot about you, that in a profession like yours you are shown so much affection

-I've spent many years in the Fuengirola branch of the Malaga Bar Association, and my relationships with my colleagues have been smooth. Now there are many of us practising, but when I started we weren't so many. Moreover, I've always defended professional etiquette. Even if you have to fight with a colleague because you must always defend your client's opinion, you have to be polite and have professional ethics. In this profession, you talk, you don't bite.

This behaviour that you advocate for, is it the most common?

-Not at the moment. In my time there were some complaints about some colleagues' behaviour, but what is happening now has never happened.

- And why do you think there is no respect between colleagues now?

-Because there are many of us and because a good number haven't read the statutes or the code of ethics; I sincerely believe there is a lack of training in this field.

- What other things do you remember from those early years as a professional?

-When I arrived in Fuengirola it didn't even have jurisdiction; we depended on Marbella which had huge courts, and I was totally naive. To everyone, I was the 'girl', but the truth is that I got lucky with the judges and prosecutors because they treated me with quite a bit of respect. My career breakthrough came in July 1981 when the divorce law was passed because both men and women preferred a woman to handle divorce and family matters.

-And why is that?

-Women [preferred that] because they thought that another woman would be more empathetic, and men because they thought that a woman would know more about the weapons another woman would use against them. At that time I didn't plan to specialise in family law; I liked civil law, but I started to receive cases and I had to start studying. One of the first divorces in the Marbella courts was one of my clients. The truth is that in the end, you end up liking this speciality a lot; much of it deals with people, you learn a lot about humanity.

-In your 44 year-long career you will have seen all kinds of situations...

-In my office there are about a thousand family cases and each one is different from another. You have to try not to get too involved, but I have to admit that in all cases with young children, I have been affected. I once had a married couple come to me with a two year old child and neither of them wanted custody of the child. The two of them argued in front of me for an hour and I got tired of it and told them that I would keep the child. That stopped them in their tracks, but it stuck with me.

- In a way you have also witnessed how Fuengirola and its surroundings have evolved as a society...

-That's right. It's evolved a lot more than people think. For the first divorces they would come to the office in secret, and now they come like it's the most normal thing in the world. And the truth is - and this is a very personal opinion - that women have evolved more than men.

-In what way?

-We are now aware that we have a voice, an opinion and that we are exactly the same as men. We have the right to defend our position, our opinion... Forty years ago it wasn't impossible, but it was all Greek to most people. Nowadays women still carry a greater familial and social burden than men, but at least now we know it; we're aware that we carry a greater burden. Before it seemed normal to us.

-What advice would you give to a woman lawyer who is about to start practising?

-I'm sure they would be giving me advice, but I'd tell them to know that they are practising the most beautiful profession in the world, but that it's a demanding profession, and to be patient if they have decided to practise freely, as a freelancer. I didn't have it easy, but nor is it easy now, with the number of professionals that are coming up. Now, a woman is equal to a man - this indeed has improved - but setting up an office on your own and waiting for clients to come to you is very complicated.

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