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Australian Government sets targets for briefing female barristers

04 July 2018

The Australian Government says it has set all Commonwealth agencies specific targets to brief senior and junior female barristers from 1 July 2018.

A government statement says all Commonwealth entities are bound by the Legal Services Directions, which encourage the briefing of a broad range of barristers and, in particular women, based on their skill, experience and expertise.

"Amendments have been made to the Directions to require them to make all reasonable endeavours to brief or select senior female barristers for at least 25% of all briefs and junior female barristers for at least 30% of all briefs," it says.

"The Directions from 1 July will specifically encourage Commonwealth agencies to use all reasonable endeavours to select female barristers with relevant seniority, expertise and experience in the relevant practice area, with a view to:

  1. senior female barristers accounting for at least 25% of all briefs or 25% of the value of all brief fees paid to senior barristers; and
  2. junior female barristers accounting for at least 30% of all briefs or 30% of the value of all brief fees paid to junior barristers."

The statement says the Commonwealth's targets for briefing female barristers support the objectives of the Law Council of Australia's Equitable Briefing Policy.

"However, to reflect the Turnbull Government's strong commitment to briefing more female barristers, we have chosen to adopt a higher target for senior female barristers than the 20% target in the Law Council's Policy."

The statement says in 2016/17, female barristers received 29.6% of all briefs and 26.2% of the value of all briefs for the Commonwealth.

New Zealand Policy

The New Zealand Law Society and New Zealand Bar Association launched a Gender Equitable Engagement and Instruction Policy on 5 December 2017. This asks adopters to commit by 1 December 2018 to use reasonable endeavours to have women lawyers with relevant expertise take a lead on at least 30% of court proceedings, arbitral proceedings, and major regulatory investigations.

The New Zealand Government has not made any commitments to adopting the Policy, which has been adopted by 36 signatories. Three government agencies have adopted the Policy: the Human Rights Commission, the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the New Zealand Superfund.

Last updated on the 16th September 2019