THE AUSTRALIAN Government is continuing to lead by example on equitable briefing policies for female barristers, according to figures released by the Attorney General.
The need to address equal opportunity imbalances was further addressed by the Law Council of Australia at its meeting of directors last weekend. The Law Council agreed to adopt a national model briefing policy for female barristers and advocates, which was the first of a series of moves by the Law Council to ensure a level playing field for the Australian legal profession.
Only 18 female barristers were briefed in litigation involving the Attorney General’s Department in 2002/03, the figures revealed, compared to 34 male barristers. Similarly, the total fees paid to male barristers was $445,000 compared to $320,000 for women. Figures from this financial year to February 2004 reveal a similar trend.
Appearing to acknowledge the Government’s apparent gender inequity, A-G Philip Ruddock said “the figures reinforced the Government’s firm view that there should be no gender-based barriers for suitably qualified barristers. The Government will continue to consider whether its record on equitable briefing could be further strengthened.”
The release of an issues paper earlier this month was part of a general review aimed at refining the Government’s Legal Services Directions — the rules governing the provision of Commonwealth legal services.