The aggregate major findings from this second year (2017/18) of reporting are as follows:

  • Female barristers received 5,739 or 25% and male barristers 17,431 or 75% of the total 23,170 briefs reported by briefing entities.
  • Female barristers received $85,286,520 or 17% and male barristers $425,154,123 or 83% of the total $510,440,643 in fees reported by briefing entities.
  • In other words, as a group, male barristers received approximately 3 times as many briefs and 5 times the value in brief fees as their female counterparts from equitable briefing entities.
  • Barristers (senior and junior combined) reported that 274 (55%) of the junior barristers who appeared with them were female and 226 (45%) were male; while 109 (23%) of the senior barristers who appeared with them were female and 371 (77%) were male.
  • Barristers (senior and junior combined) recommended female barristers in 409 or 61% of current matters and male barristers in 265 or 39%, and female barristers in 607 or 60% of new matters and male barristers in 407 or 40%.
  • Increases were seen in the representation of female barristers in all four of these major reporting categories between the first reporting year and the second reporting year. Briefs to female barristers increased by 5 percentage points and fees to female barristers increased by 2 percentage points between the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 financial years, as reported by briefing entities. In the same time period, barristers reported a 3 percentage point increase in appearances with female barristers and a 1 percentage point increase in recommendations for female barristers overall.

Female barristers are starting to receive more briefs and are more often recommended for work by their colleagues in new or current matters, according to new Law Council of Australia data.

But the Law Council’s Equitable Briefing Policy Annual Report 2017-18 shows female barristers still lag behind male colleagues when it comes to the number and value of briefs.

It found female barristers received a quarter of the 23,170 briefs reported by the 44 briefing entities for the period. During the reporting period, male barristers received 83 per cent of the total reported fees.

Chair of the Law Council’s Equal Opportunity Committee, prominent female barrister Kate Eastman SC, said while there was obvious room for improvement, the report set a foundation for the profession to continue to build upon.

“It’s early days for the Equitable Briefing Policy but we’ve already seen a change in briefing practices, with firms and clients actively identifying a barrister who is best for the job rather than just the barrister they always use,” Ms Eastman said.

“This benefits all barristers, shifting the focus to a barrister’s expertise and experience. The firms have told us they welcome a deeper and wide pool of talent of Australian barristers.

“Importantly, the work of experienced and talented female barristers is receiving more coverage, highlighted in big cases and in a string of recent royal commissions.

“We know the legal profession is changing – the majority of Australian law students and solicitors are women. So if Australian bars want to remain relevant in the future, they also need to change.

“But change doesn’t happen by accident. We need to embrace diversity and provide real opportunities for female law students and practitioners at the bar. The legal profession has the opportunity to lead by example in ensuring equal opportunity in our workplaces and developing effective strategies to eliminate the gender pay gap.”

Law Council President, Arthur Moses SC, said while the report did show some gains for female barristers, the results illustrated a lot more work needs to be done.

“The fact is that male barristers, as a group, received about three times the number of briefs and five times the value of briefs than their female counterparts. This is not acceptable and as a profession we can do much better,” Mr Moses said.

“It is good to see that in junior ranks targets are being met for female barristers, who received 30 per cent of the total briefs. This is a trend we must support and nurture.

“It is also interesting to note female barristers are more often recommended to take on new and current matters than males.”