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Equitable briefing policy adopted by Human Rights Law Centre

The Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) has adopted an equitable briefing policy for the new financial year to ensure its briefings are offered to barristers of diverse backgrounds. 

user iconJess Feyder 03 August 2022 The Bar
Equitable briefing policy adopted by Human Rights Law Centre
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The HRLC developed the policy after a review of internal data in the financial year 2020–21 found that out of 66 briefs to counsel by the HRLC, only 9 per cent of briefs were to people of colour.

The review also found that the HRLC did not brief any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander barristers and that 62 per cent of all briefs and 71 per cent of briefs to senior counsel were to men.

The new policy was developed in consultation with stakeholders across the profession and aims to guide the HRLC to improve its briefing practices.


The policy recognises that, as a community legal centre, briefing on a pro bono basis, the HRLC’s approach to equitable briefing is more complex than simply providing more briefs to women barristers, barristers of colour and barristers with a disability, who may already experience a pay gap at the bar. 

The policy commits the HRLC to offer briefs to barristers that are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, people of colour, or people with a disability in at least 15 per cent of all matters in this financial year. It also commits the HRLC to offer briefs to barristers who are female or gender diverse in at least 50 per cent of all matters and in at least 40 per cent of briefs to senior counsel.

The HRLC also aims to increase the number of briefs accepted by diverse counsel in comparison to briefing data from the previous financial year. 

The policy sets out a range of other initiatives to ensure the HRLC is contributing to fostering greater diversity within the legal profession. 

Josephine Langbien, senior lawyer and pro bono coordinator at HRLC, commented: “The legal profession does not currently reflect the community that it serves, and as a human rights organisation we have a responsibility to work to address this.”

“We developed our own policy because we found that existing equitable briefing frameworks were largely oriented towards paid briefs, and didn’t account for public interest or pro bono work which is often unpaid. 

“This is why our targets are focused on offering the opportunity to be involved in our work to a more diverse range of counsel, who will then make their own choices about whether they can take this work on.

“A lot of inequality in the legal profession isn’t visible or easy to measure,” Ms Langbien continued.

“As well as briefing targets, this policy sets goals for the Human Rights Law Centre to support diversity at the bar in other ways, and to encourage our peers in the non-profit sector to improve their briefing practices too.

“We hope to continue improving this policy as more data becomes available and as we assess our performance against our targets.

“Working with counsel who have a diversity of perspectives, experiences and backgrounds is good for our clients and good for the profession.”

Tim Goodwin, board member at the HRLC and barrister at the Victorian bar, commented: “The Human Rights Law Centre is involved in important, high-profile, strategic litigation and often represents the most marginalised in our community. 

“By introducing an equitable briefing policy, the centre ensures that persons with lived experience are supported professionally and recognised appropriately as experts in their field.

“That’s good for diversity in the profession and it’s good for clients.”

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