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Gains made but gender gap in briefings remains, Aust report finds

15 October 2019

Female barristers in Australia are beginning to receive more briefs and are more often recommended for work by their colleagues in new or current matters, according to new Law Council of Australia data.

But the Law Council’s Equitable Briefing Policy Annual Report 2017-18 shows female barristers still lag behind male colleagues when it comes to the number and value of briefs.

It found female barristers received a quarter of the 23,170 briefs reported by the 44 briefing entities for the period. During the reporting period, male barristers received 83% of the total reported fees.

Chair of the Law Council’s Equal Opportunity Committee, barrister Kate Eastman SC, says while there was room for improvement, the report set a foundation for the profession to continue to build upon.

“It’s early days for the Equitable Briefing Policy but we’ve already seen a change in briefing practices, with firms and clients actively identifying a barrister who is best for the job rather than just the barrister they always use,” she says.

“This benefits all barristers, shifting the focus to a barrister’s expertise and experience. The firms have told us they welcome a deeper and wide pool of talent of Australian barristers.

“Importantly, the work of experienced and talented female barristers is receiving more coverage, highlighted in big cases and in a string of recent royal commissions.

“We know the legal profession is changing – the majority of Australian law students and solicitors are women. So if Australian bars want to remain relevant in the future, they also need to change.”

Law Council President, Arthur Moses SC, says while the report did show some gains for female barristers, the results illustrated a lot more work needs to be done.

“The fact is that male barristers, as a group, received about three times the number of briefs and five times the value of briefs than their female counterparts. This is not acceptable and as a profession we can do much better.

“It is good to see that in junior ranks targets are being met for female barristers, who received 30% of the total briefs. This is a trend we must support and nurture.”

Last updated on the 15th October 2019