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Women and Millennials now dominate profession

12 December 2019 - By Geoff Adlam

Women now make up 52.1% of all New Zealand-based lawyers, information held by the New Zealand Law Society shows.

At 10 December 2019, 13,765 New Zealand-based lawyers held practising certificates. Of those, 7,167 were women, 6,596 male and 2 gender diverse.

The number of women lawyers in New Zealand overtook the number of men in January 2018. This was just under 121 years after the first woman, Ethel Benjamin, was admitted as a barrister and solicitor on 10 May 1897.

The number of women admitted as barristers and solicitors overtook the number of men for the first time in 1993.

The gender power imbalance in the legal profession remains, however. At 10 December 2019 women made up 55.6% of all lawyers working in law firms, but just 39.0% of partners and directors.

Generational groupings

Accepting that generational labels are not definitive, if they are used, 44.4% of New Zealand-based lawyers can now be defined as "Millennials".

The analysis uses the rough boundaries of pre-1946 birth for the "Silent Generation", birth between 1946 and 1964 for Baby Boomers, 1965 to 1980 for Generation X, 1981 to 1995 for Millennials, and 1996 onwards for the now-emerging Gen Z.

New Zealand-based lawyers at 10 December 2019 by generation
GenerationWomenMenAll
Silent0.1%2.1%1.0%
Baby Boomers10.8%27.5%18.2%
Gen X37.1%33.6%35.6%
Millennials50.9%36.1%44.4%
Gen Z1.1%0.7%0.9%

The breakdown is a good illustration of the changing gender make-up of the legal profession, with just over half of women lawyers being Millennials, but just over one-third of men. Gender diverse lawyers are included in the details for all lawyers.

Looking at New Zealand-based lawyer generations by role, Gen Xers run the law firms, with over half of all partners and directors ("P&D" below) being Gen X. A high proportion of Millennials work as employed lawyers ("Emp") (with a some Baby Boomers and Silent Generationers having moved from partnerships to employed consultants), and sole practitioners ("SP") are most likely to be Baby Boomers. Most barristers ("Bar") are Baby Boomers or Gen X, and in-house lawyers ("IHL") are most likely to be Gen X or Millennials.

New Zealand-based lawyers at 10 December by type of practice
GenerationBarIHLEmpP&DSP
Silent2.5%0.2%0.7%1.1%4.1%
Baby Boomers42.4%9.8%7.3%28.3%59.2%
Gen X43.1%44.7%21.5%53.5%32.7%
Millennials12.0%45.1%68.6%17.1%4.0%
Gen Z0.0%0.3%1.9%0.0%0.0%

Last updated on the 12th December 2019