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Analysis: Equal briefs for the fairer sex
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Analysis: Equal briefs for the fairer sex

CLAYTON UTZ’S strategic implementation of the Law Council of Australia’s equal opportunity briefing policy marks a major success for all women in law in this country.As firms gradually accept…

CLAYTON UTZ’S strategic implementation of the Law Council of Australia’s equal opportunity briefing policy marks a major success for all women in law in this country.

As firms gradually accept the policy and begin to adopt it into their businesses, increasingly offering females the same chances as their male counterparts, women barristers will be handed more briefs. As well, through this culture of equality, solicitors will find the usual grind up to the top positions more like a trip in a shiny new elevator.

Equal opportunities for women are bound to the future of Australian law firms. Those firms that are determined to keep a film of tradition on the way things are done, and refuse to wipe away the discriminatory dust, will be left behind as bright young female things make their way through more dynamic and modern firms.

As more women enter the legal profession, those firms that are not pro-active in addressing problems of female staff retention will be left behind in the labour market. Those firms will lose the competitive edge, no matter what successes they have in each practice area. Firms will begin to be identified as not having what it takes to keep women in their jobs.

Women and the Bar will similarly benefit from moves such as the one Clayton Utz has taken. The Law Council’s model briefing policy for female barristers was applauded when introduced, and Australian Women Lawyers’ president Jennifer Batrouney SC said it was good to see the Law Council take a leadership role on the issue of women in law.

Batrouney argued in April last year that an important step for the Law Council would be to promote the policy and encourage law firms to implement the measures in their day-to-day practice. She said her organisation would work closely with the Law Council to encourage law firms to implement the policy, “particularly those with national practice groups”.

Australian Women Lawyers last year adopted a similar policy with Mallesons Stephen Jaques across the firm’s practice groups. But Batrouney was supportive of the Law Council’s model. “We are confident that with the endorsement of this policy by the Law Council, other firms, like Mallesons, will follow suit.”

As law firms, leaders in business across Australia, take serious steps to polish up their briefing policies and bin the nepotism, sexism and traditionalism that has for so long haunted their business practices, women in this country will begin to enjoy better working lives. And firms will subsequently see their businesses sparkle.

Kate Gibbs

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