Bar associations across the country are having their say on the federal government’s move to have all Commonwealth agencies reach specific targets for briefing senior and junior female barristers moving forward.
Attorney-General Christian Porter and Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer have prescribed that all Commonwealth entities bound by the Legal Services Directions will be required to make “all reasonable endeavours to brief or select senior female barristers for at least 25 per cent of all briefs and junior female barristers for at least 30 per cent of all briefs”.
The Directions will specifically encourage those agencies to make their selections based on relevant seniority, expertise and experience in the relevant practice areas.
“The Turnbull government strongly supports the progression and retention of female barristers for Commonwealth legal work, as well as across the broader profession,” Mr Porter and Ms O’Dwyer said.
“The government is confident that the new targets will put the Commonwealth in a strong position to further increase the briefing of female barristers in future years to ensure a more equitable, diverse and inclusive legal profession in Australia.”
The Australian Bar Association (ABA) welcomed the news, with ABA president Noel Hutley SC saying it was a positive move for the future.
“The announcement is a positive step to drive cultural change within the legal profession and support the progression and retention of women barristers,” he said.
New South Wales Bar Association president Arthur Moses SC also welcomed the announcement: “As the Attorney General said, it is appropriate that the government use its leverage to promote an inclusive and diverse profession,” he said.
Victorian Bar president Dr Matt Collins QC said his association was “pleased” to see the new requirements.
“[Our] members recommend[ed] that women barristers, and particularly junior women barristers, be briefed in higher numbers, and in significantly higher numbers than the Law Council of Australia’s equitable briefing target of 30 per cent,” he said.
“There is more work to be done across the profession to support the briefing of women barristers [but] the Bar is very pleased to see the federal government recognising and supporting the increased representation of women, and we congratulate the Attorney-General and Minister for Women on this initiative.”