AG goes public with legal spend

By Justin Whealing|02 November 2012

More than 90 per cent of the Federal Attorney-General Department’s spend on law firms in the last financial year was kept within the public service.

More than 90 per cent of the Federal Attorney-General Department’s spend on law firms in the last financial year was kept within the public service.

The Department used only two private practice law firms.

This week, the Attorney-General’s (AG) Department revealed that it had spent more than $11.8 million on legal fees in 2011-12.

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The majority of that figure ($8.1 million) was paid to three law firms.

Not surprisingly, the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) walked away with the biggest cut of the pie, pocketing almost $7.5 million. Ashurst received just over $570,000 and King & Wood Mallesons collected over $62,000.

For the purposes of government reporting, the 320-lawyer-strong AGS is treated as an external law firm.

Brief victory for female barristers
The AG Department’s legal spend for the 2012 financial year was a decrease of more than $10,000 from 2010-11.

The Department spent more than $2.1 million briefing 109 barristers.

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While the majority of those briefs went to males (56%), women barristers received 59 per cent of that total barrister spend.

When speaking to Lawyers Weekly in September, in the wake of a report that showed less than 10 per cent of Australian silks are female, Caroline Kirton SC, the chair of the gender and diversity committee at the Victorian Bar, said there was a gender bias against briefing female silks from many organisations.

“Until that sort of thing changes within the culture of the profession and women are briefed regularly and are earning enough money and are appearing more regularly; I think that will be the main thing to enable change,” she said.

The AG legal services expenditure report excluded legal spend on international obligations under various bilateral maintenance agreements.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon is pictured

AG goes public with legal spend
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