2013 Law Firm Comparison Data Updated by Women Lawyers’ Association of NSW

The Women Lawyers’ Association of New South Wales (WLANSW) has updated its consolidation of publicly available information about law firms and the gender profile of solicitors in these firms into one readily accessible table to monitor the progress of women in leadership positions in the profession, particularly private practice.

For the first time this year, WLANSW also asked firms to disclose details of their paid parental leave schemes. The data disclosed has shown that:

Despite women making up 41% of the legal profession overall, women as a percentage of partners has not moved significantly from 2012, and the top firms still have under 35% female partners;

–   When compared against the NSW benchmark of 23.3% of female partners, as determined by the Law Society of NSW statistics, the 12 firms in the table that are above the average are on general improving their level of female representation;

–   Unfortunately the 30 firms in the table that are below the average are not showing marked improvement, (with a few exceptions) with 8 firms showing a lower percentage of women partners than in 2012;

–   Almost all firms offered paid parental leave, with all having some service qualification, and none imposing a means test. Most schemes are in addition to the Government paid parental leave.

WLANSW accepts that the data is not perfect or complete, and that an assessment on only one measure is not a guarantee of how any individual would fare at any particular firm. However, the table shows how firms are tracking over time with female representation at the partner level.

With the growing number of women in the profession it is expected that over time the level of female representation in senior positions in law firms will also increase. WLANSW was interested to see the statistics contained in the Advancement of women in the profession Progress report issued by the Law Society of NSW on 30 June 2013 that showed that contrary to popular belief, there is little difference between the rate at which male and female solicitors leave the profession overall, although when more detailed analysis was undertaken, more young female solicitors are leaving private practice than young men.

That data makes interesting reading, and shows that while in general, women lawyers are becoming first time principals in the same proportion as women in the profession generally (41%), they are over-represented as first time principals in sole practices (61%), and rural and regional practices (43.9 and 57.1% respectively), with city firms of more than 2 partners having the lowest rate of new female private practice principals (38.5%).

While the signs are encouraging that as more women become principals, the overall percentage of female partners will increase, it has to be said that progress is painfully slow. Even the best firms have not reached the general level of 41% female representation.

WLANSW commends those firms that have beaten the benchmark, and particularly those that are still increasing their levels of female representation. We look forward to the day when female representation at every level reflects the gender composition of the profession generally.

Firms that do not appear in the list, or have incomplete data available are welcome to contact WLANSW so that the data can be included.

For further information and enquiries please contact Kathryn McKenzie, Executive Officer at executive@womenlawyersnsw.org.au or on 0466 157 087.

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