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Female lawyers now make up majority of profession in Vic

New data from the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner has shown that female lawyers are still growing in numbers in the state, with the profession becoming more diverse year-on-year.

user iconLauren Croft 04 December 2023 Big Law
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The number of women practising law in Victoria has topped 54 per cent of all registered lawyers, according to new data published in the latest annual report from the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner (VLSB+C). The report, which was tabled in Parliament last week, includes a range of demographic information to build a picture of the Victorian legal profession in 2022-23.

The Victorian legal profession grew by 3.8 per cent over the course of the past year to 27,661 lawyers, with women making up the majority.

While the report shows that those who have been in the profession the longest (25 years or more) were still predominantly men (71 per cent), women make up a majority of lawyers who have been practising for 25 years or less (60 per cent). Though small, a growing cohort of lawyers also identify as non-binary.


Newly admitted lawyers are helping to diversify the profession in Victoria. For example, India is one of the top five countries of birth among first-year lawyers, compared with the whole profession (Australia, UK, China, New Zealand and Malaysia). Collectively, Victorian lawyers come from 175 different cultural backgrounds and speak 171 languages. However, despite 77 per cent of the state’s lawyers being born in Australia, First Nations lawyers still make up less than one per cent of the total.

More lawyers are taking on government and corporate roles, with both types of practice recording significant growth in the past year (6.8 and 6.6 per cent respectively). The profession overall is mostly concentrated in Melbourne and its suburbs, with just over 11 per cent of lawyers working in other parts of Victoria.

In their report message, VLSB+C chairperson Fiona Bennett and chief executive officer and commissioner Fiona McLeay said that this year, the board chose to highlight the work they had undergone in terms of putting their customers first.

“Our ‘customers’ are consumers of legal services and the lawyers who provide those services. Consumers come to us for information about their rights when using a lawyer, or to raise concerns about their experiences with the legal profession,” they said.

“As the regulator, lawyers deal with us for a range of matters, including renewing their annual licence, accessing information and guidance on their professional obligations, and – for some – responding to complaints about their conduct.”

Only 3.6 per cent of solicitors and 2.6 per cent of barristers received a complaint against them – and tended to work in the areas of family, probate, commercial, conveyancing and criminal law.

Of the 969 complaint files the board opened, the majority were consumer matters involving disputes over costs or service quality – an increasing portion of which they resolved through alternative methods such as mediation. Other complaints related to lawyers’ professional conduct, though not all of them warranted an investigation.

In several cases, the VLSB+C took disciplinary action against a lawyer. This included deciding to prosecute 16 matters at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). The body also wrapped up two investigations into fraud and theft offences within law practices that led to police prosecutions, with both offenders pleading guilty. Other focuses included stopping unqualified legal practice and intervening early at signs of poor lawyer practice.

“This year, we have embraced a continuous improvement approach to the way we conduct our activities and are progressing a body of work to improve how we deliver our customer services,” Ms McLeay said.

“There have been several firsts for us. We launched a major public education campaign to help consumers understand their rights and how they can work with their lawyers, a Risk Outlook for the legal profession and our policy statement to support access to justice for Victorians.”