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No meaningful change in government work for female barristers

No meaningful change in government work for female barristers

Male barristers maintained their advantage in the distribution of federal government briefs last year, receiving almost three quarters of all legal work.

Government briefs to female barristers held steady at 27.5 per cent in 2013-2014. This figure was practically unchanged from 27.3 per cent in 2012-13, according to the Legal Services Expenditure Report released by the Attorney-General's Department.

The split of government work between male and female barristers continues to reflect the proportion of female barristers in Australia. At the Victorian Bar, for instance, 25.1% of members are female. The NSW Bar Association has an even lower proportion of female barristers (20.87%) and only 9.87 per cent of silks are women in NSW.

The Law Council of Australia found in 2009 that, while female barristers appear in court in statistically the same proportions as they exist at the Bar, they appear for shorter periods of time (2.8 hours for female barristers, 3.8 hours for male barristers).

Female barristers also find it difficult to secure commercial work and, when they do, are often given less prominent cases.

Justice Ruth McColl AO of the NSW Court of Appeal recently told Lawyers Weekly there were ample numbers of talented female barristers at the Bar and that the disparity in the workflow to male and female barristers was disappointing.

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