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
Firms fail to promote Asian Australian lawyers

Firms fail to promote Asian Australian lawyers

Reynah-Tang

A new report by the Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA) has found that a ‘bamboo ceiling’ may be preventing lawyers with Asian heritage from rising to senior levels in the profession.

The study found that six large law firms in Australia have no partners with Asian backgrounds and that only 0.8 per cent of the judiciary have Asian heritage.

“[Our] main findings were that there is a level of under-representation in the legal profession, which increases as one looks at the more senior levels,” president of AALA Reynah Tang (pictured) told Lawyers Weekly.

Mr Tang would not disclose the names of the large firms (greater than 40 partners) with no Asian Australian partners but said that the numbers overall were “promising”, with an average of 3.2 per cent of large law firm partners having Asian cultural backgrounds.

The proportion of Asian Australians at the partner level in medium-sized law firms (10-40 partners) was slightly lower at 2.7 per cent, with 44 firms having no partners with Asian heritage.

Lavan Legal came in first out of the medium firms with 20 per cent of partners having Asian backgrounds. Johnson Winter Slattery scored the best out of large law firms, with Asian partners comprising 8.2 per cent of senior lawyers.

According to the Diversity Council of Australia, Asian Australians account for 9.6 per cent of Australia’s population, but only 1.6 per cent of barristers.

The AALA report, The Australian Legal Profession: A snapshot of Asian Australian diversity in 2015, is the first of its kind and was based on publicly available information such as names and photographs of lawyers and judges on websites.

“We actually haven’t had any information about the level of Asian Australian participation in the legal profession before,” said Mr Tang.

“There could be error margins around whether someone was Asian Australian or not so it is not a perfectly accurate study at this stage. I’d like to do a proper survey of the legal profession [in the future].”

Mr Tang said there was limited information about the proportion of law students and lawyers with Asian heritage but that statistics from the Law Society of NSW indicate that more than 10 per cent of solicitors in NSW were born in Asia.

“So I imagine that the number [of lawyers] with Asian cultural origins is actually even higher than that,” said Mr Tang.

Studies of the business sector more generally show that the barriers to progress for Asian Australians include cultural biases, stereotyping, Westernised leadership models and a lack of relationship capital, he continued.

“I would expect that similar barriers could apply in the legal profession and, in fact, may actually be exacerbated because the legal profession is quite conservative in nature,” said Mr Tang.

Mr Tang said law firms had a lot to gain from recruiting lawyers with Asian cultural experience and language skills.

“If we really are serious as a legal profession about engaging with Asia then we need to make sure when we do so we don’t present with a largely monocultural face," he said.

“If this is the Asian century as many believe, it is obvious that having people with … Asian experience is going to help us engage with Asia.

“I think also that when one looks at the courts the benefits are that you will have different perspectives being brought to bear on issues before the courts rather than a system that is driven by one cultural mindset.”

 

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

Firms fail to promote Asian Australian lawyers
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
microphone
Oct 20 2017
Podcast: One of law’s most infamous alumni – in conversation with Julian Morrow
In this episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, Melissa Coade is joined by The Chaser’s Julian Morrow....
protest
Oct 20 2017
High Court overturns ‘excessive’ anti-protest legislation
Bob Brown’s recent victory in the High Court over the Tasmanian government was a win for fundament...
Blocked
Oct 20 2017
Changes to Australian citizenship laws blocked
Attempts to beef up the requirements to obtain Australian citizenship were thwarted this week, after...
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 & ...