Latest figures released by the NSW government show that female barristers are receiving proportionately more briefs from government agencies than male barristers.
As part of equitable briefing policy introduced last year, the NSW Government committed to releasing quarterly statistics showing how much government work was being briefed to women.
The first round of statistics, which cover the last quarter of 2008, show that overall, female barristers are receiving a much smaller percentage of Government agency briefs than male barristers. However, taking into account the fact that there are far fewer female barristers than male barristers, female barristers are actually being briefed proportionately more than their male counterparts.
The statistics show that female senior counsel received about 16 per cent of Government agency briefs and 12 per cent of fees, while male barristers received 84 per cent of briefs and 88 per cent of fees. However females account for just 6 per cent of all senior counsel.
It's a similar story in the junior ranks, where female counsel received 28 per cent of briefs and 19 per cent of fees, while male barristers received 72 per cent of briefs and 81 per cent of fees. However females make up only 21 per cent of junior barristers in the state.
However, the fact that women barristers are receiving proportionately less fees for the number of briefs they receive, suggests that male barristers are receiving the more lucrative briefs. The figures also highlight the fact that very few women are choosing careers at the bar, and even fewer are continuing on to more senior positions.
A spokesperson for NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos explained that the equitable briefing policy was introduced to encourage NSW Government agencies to provide more legal work to women.
"While women comprise more than half of honours graduates from most NSW law schools, they are under-represented at the Bar. The promotion of a Government-wide equitable briefing policy is designed to counteract this anomaly," the spokesperson said. "The Government believes that the new equitable briefing policy will ensure the proportion of work referred to women increases over time."
- Zoe Lyon