The new Victorian Bar chair plans to increase the number of women applying for silk in Victoria, with female barristers representing just seven per cent of the state’s applicants in the recent round of silk appointments, compared to 27 per cent in NSW.
Fiona McLeod said that, as chair, she will do more than simply encourage women at the Bar to apply for silk. She aims to increase the pool of female candidates by investigating why women leave the Bar and legal practice at a younger age than their male counterparts.
“I believe we need to do more ... [which] will no doubt involve working with solicitors and others,” she said.
Briefing opportunities and return-to-work schemes are two areas McLeod will examine. Another is how the Victorian Bar can support barristers to advance their careers.
“Part of the equation might be looking at ... how we support everyone to take on leadership roles,” she said.
Women represented five out of a total of 71 applicants in Victoria, compared to 32 out of 117 applicants in NSW. Three out of the 20 Victorian barristers appointed silk this week (27 November) were female; 17 were male.
The Victorian Bar revamped its silk appointment process in 2012 to provide support to Chief Justice Marilyn Warren and also give candidates greater clarity with regard to the criteria. A new feature was a committee of senior members of the legal profession who made preliminary assessments of candidates.
The Victorian Bar will now review the process to discover whether it has achieved its aims, said McLeod.