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NSW silk numbers drop, women hit plateau
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NSW silk numbers drop, women hit plateau

FOURTEEN barristers have been appointed to senior counsel in New South Wales in 2008, the lowest number in more than a decade. A total of 127 barristers applied for silks in 2008, compared with…

FOURTEEN barristers have been appointed to senior counsel in New South Wales in 2008, the lowest number in more than a decade.

A total of 127 barristers applied for silks in 2008, compared with 123 appointments applications in 2007. Twelve men and two women have been appointed to senior counsel in the state.

The selection protocol states that the bar shall, by invitation, chose at least 30 senior counsel each year, but this figure includes both queen’s counsel and senior counsel appointments.

While 25 per cent of female applicants were appointed, the total number of female applicants dropped to eight from 10 in 2007. The total percentage of women silks at the NSW bar remains steady at just more than 5 per cent.

Despite the relatively high percentage of women among the latest round of appointees, the announcement may come as a source of disappointment for some.

Justice Margaret Beazley expressed her desire to see more women appointed to silk at an event held by the Women Lawyers Association of NSW in August 2008. “I still remember when I got the call when I was appointed silk, and I hope many of you will get that call,” Justice Beazley said at the event.

Both female NSW appointees joined the bar in the 1990s — Julia Baird in 1992 and Donna Woodburne in 1997.

Baird specialises in intellectual property, contract law, trade practices and competition law. She has also taught at the University of Technology in Sydney, and been a member of the Bar Association’s Equal Opportunity Committee since 2004.

Woodburne is a criminal law expert, and has rapidly climbed the ladder at the NSW Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). She was appointed as Acting Crown Prosecutor in 1997, Crown Prosecutor in 1998 and Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor in June 2008. She is currently briefed to appear as counsel for the Crown in the inquiry into the conviction of Phuong Ngo for the murder of John Newman MP.

Commercial law practitioners outweighed the number of criminal lawyers appointed.

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