find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Women opting out of law

Women opting out of law

FOR MORE than a decade, the majority of law graduates have been women. But they are failing to move up the profession’s ranks as it was once assumed they would. Clare Buttner reportsSince the…

FOR MORE than a decade, the majority of law graduates have been women. But they are failing to move up the professions ranks as it was once assumed they would. Clare Buttner reports

Since the 1990s women have made up the majority of law graduates, yet the percentage of female partners in Australian law firms remains at around 20 per cent.

In the UK it is 23.4 per cent and the rates in the US it is a low 17.3 per cent. A survey carried out last year found that in Australia’s largest law firms the highest proportion of female partners is 26 per cent and the lowest proportion is six per cent.

In a speech prepared for the Australian Financial Review Legal Reform Summit held this week, Sparke Helmore partner Gillian Davidson explain the trend, noting that women are disappearing.

“The suggestion is not that there is a pool of capable women who are sitting around in law firms being overlooked for promotion, rather it seems that they are not there,” she said.

Lee-May Saw, president of the NSW Women Lawyers Association agrees, and said that while the profession has opened up to women, it now it needs to look at keeping them — especially at the senior levels.

“Change is and has been happening. We are now at a stage where the discussion is focused on the number of women at the senior levels of the profession. It is extremely positive to see that most of the firms are generally doing what they can to support the advancement of women. But the discussion about how to advance women still needs to continue because it is essential to furthering change at senior levels,” Saw said.

Davidson told Lawyers Weekly that the business case for ensuring that women are adequately represented in the workplace is so strong that law firms should be alarmed at the numbers that are leaving.

“In my view these issues need to be discussed at the board level because it’s really business critical stuff”. Davidson said.

Studies have found that the benefits of having women in the workplace include that mixed groups are better at problem-solving than like minded ones. They have also suggested that companies with more women in senior management earned a higher return on equity. Also, women are better investors and consistently earn higher returns than men.

Aside from the benefits that law firms could be missing out on, it’s a well-documented fact that losing employees costs businesses money. It is estimated that the cost to business of losing a staff member is equal to the per annum salary expense of the role.

Davidson believes the three key things firms need to address to prevent this loss are: networking opportunities for women, adequate mentoring and the perception of flexible work practices.

“Mentors are essential for lawyers’ advancement in the firm, but women do not find mentors as readily as men do. One reason is that men, who represent 80 per cent of partners, are often reluctant to mentor women. Some are simply uncomfortable or feel that they lack the perspectives necessary to give women career guidance. Some worry about misperceptions that the relationship is more than professional or that comments they make might be misconstrued and lead to claims of sexual harassment,” Davidson said.

Davidson also believes that many flexible workplace policies have no real impact because firms marginalise the lawyers who use them.

“Our attitudes to flexible work are what need to change, and fast. But flexible work practices alone won’t deliver enough. We need to change the way we view people’s contribution to being less about hours/visibility, to being fundamentally about contribution and their impact on the business — this is the real challenge. There are so many ways to contribute. I think we will see greater deployment and utilisation of technology in more flexible work arrangements, which interestingly can also mean cost saving and improvement in efficiency,” she said.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Women opting out of law
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Scales of Justice
Oct 19 2017
‘Ego status’ compelled ex-lawyer to defraud $2.97m, court told
Debarred lawyer John Gordon Bradfield told an NSW District Court that he was driven by “ego status...
Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA), Queensland’s new industrial manslaughter legislation,
Oct 19 2017
ALA welcomes ‘tough’ Qld manslaughter laws
The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has welcomed Queensland’s new industrial manslaughter legisl...
Legal podcasts, tune in, microphone
Oct 19 2017
Legal podcasts you have to tune in to right now
The rise of the internet has hailed in a new dawn for storytelling. Here’s our top pick of podcast...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...