Women Lawyers Concerned about Decrease in Briefing of Female Counsel

The Women Lawyers’ Association of NSW (WLA NSW) says that members of the profession and the community should not be too quick to celebrate the announcement of the release of the Legal Services Expenditure Report 2009-2010, which sets out the facts and figures on spending by commonwealth government departments on legal services in 2009-2010.

The Report reveals that in 2009-2010, 736 of a total of 2821 briefs, or 26.1% of commonwealth briefs, went to female counsel. In the previous reporting year, 2008- 2009, women barristers were briefed in 625 out of 2280 matters, or 27.4% of commonwealth briefs. This represents a 1.3% decrease in the number of briefs where women have been instructed in commonwealth matters.

“It is not good enough to rest on our laurels simply because women received 24 percent of fees rendered in commonwealth expenditure on counsel, a proportionately greater percentage than the 19 percent figure for women at the Bar federally,” says Rebecca Barry, President of WLA NSW.

“The increased transparency and accountability that has come with the mandatory reporting requirements for equitable briefing, is only part of the solution. More needs to be done to ensure that the figures and percentages increase with every report that is released,” says Ms Barry.

With the number of women graduating from university law schools being equal to or greater than the number of men for more than two decades, many have expected that it is inevitable that the statistics in relation to women will improve over time.

It is highly concerning that an overall increase in total spend on legal services federally has not come hand in hand with an improvement in the figures for briefs going to women.

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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