The profession must stop ‘excluding women from all available areas of practice’

21 March 2022 By Lauren Croft
Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC

Whilst there are currently more women in the legal profession than ever, the industry still has a lot of growing to do, according to the NSW Governor.

Last week, the Women Lawyers Association of NSW (WLANSW) celebrated its 70th anniversary, in the form of a gala dinner in Sydney.

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The inaugural meeting of WLANSW was held on 6 March 1952 – and the association, once the first of its kind in Australia, has now grown to over 9,000 members.

Speaking at the celebratory event, her excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of NSW, said that this celebration was a particularly important one post-COVID – and actually the 80th celebration, given that the association was formally constituted over 10 years before it originated.

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“It is a trite observation that at the time there were few women in the law and minimal opportunities for those few women to share their knowledge and experiences with each other and to provide and receive the encouragement, camaraderie and collegiality that comes from interacting with one’s professional peers,” she said.

“Today, the association is consulted by the government, the courts and other sections of the communities on issues that affect women and children and which thus impact on society generally. The association continues its research work, makes submissions and publishes reports on matters that so stubbornly remain issues, including discrimination, the status of women in the legal profession, workplace gender equality, equal pay.

“The aims and objectives of WLANSW as set out in the constitution in 1952 have not changed much in the 70 years since our creation. We remain focused on providing a common meeting ground for women lawyers and to foster the growth of collegiality among women lawyers, and continue to advocate for law reform and the advancement of women in the legal profession and community, more generally.”

The association’s 2020/2021 Report found that the leadership of law firms continues to be dominated by men. Whilst women’s position within the legal profession is improving – change is still too slow, her excellency added.  

“It is up to the profession to adapt and accommodate the needs of its members and not continue, at a functional level, to exclude women from all available areas of practice. We must be a profession where all lawyers do ‘the good work’ and all lawyers have professional non-discriminatory earnings,” she said.

“The impact of research such as this by the association cannot be understated. I have been saying for years that we need solid data to demonstrate where inequality remains and where improvements must be made. The work of the association in this respect has been of huge significance.”

The profession must stop ‘excluding women from all available areas of practice’
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