Some of Australia’s top women in law have for the first time taken part in a historic photograph, capturing 21 women leaders in law in the 21st century.

The Law Institute of Victoria commissioned the unique image for its flagship Law Institute Journal, featuring women who lead, administer and represent the judiciary, the courts, the crown, government, professional organisations and associations, and law schools.

The Law Institute Journal cover shows Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria Marilyn Warren, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia Susan Kiefel and Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia Diana Bryant, and then folds out to reveal the other women legal leaders.

For the first time, women hold many of the most senior roles in the legal profession and justice system in Victoria in 2017.

There was a time when women were not allowed to study law and the Melbourne Law School, the city’s only law school for a time, was a men-only domain from 1857 until 1880. Seventeen years later Victorian Flos Greig became the first woman in Australia to enrol to study law. In 1905 Ms Greig was admitted, becoming the first woman to practise as a lawyer in Australia. At her admission ceremony, then Chief Justice John Madden described it as “the graceful incoming of a revolution”.

In the following 112 years, women in the law have come a long way in Victoria. There are women solicitors, partners, barristers, associates, magistrates, judges, registrars, deans, chief executives, presidents, attorneys general and a governor.

The women legal leaders were photographed by award-winning photographer Michel Lawrence and their images are displayed in a Vanity Fair style composite image to capture a moment in legal history.

Law Institute of Victoria Chief Executive Officer Nerida Wallace said: “We took the photograph to acknowledge and celebrate how far women have come since Flos Greig, but it is also recognition of the number of women who have risen to the top in the most demanding of professions.” Ms Wallace said it was a privilege to spearhead the historic photograph project with Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Warren.

Ms Wallace said: “It’s crucial for young women lawyers to have role models to look to, so that when they aim high they know it can be done. Young women lawyers can be inspired and motivated by this photograph, but in reality, so can everybody. Men and women and those from culturally diverse and other backgrounds can be encouraged by it equally.”

Law Institute of Victoria President Belinda Wilson said: “It has been such a remarkable period to have so many brilliant women hold the most senior roles in the legal profession and justice system. These women have been and continue to be outstanding role models and great leaders in our profession.”

Photographer Michel Lawrence said the women were photographed and the images grouped together to create the historic women leaders in law image. “This photograph has captured some incredibly talented women with the sharpest legal minds in the nation and will hopefully inspire the next generation of women lawyers to aim for the top and achieve their absolute best in the legal profession.”

Today, women graduate in higher numbers from Victorian law schools than men, and are admitted in greater numbers than men. The result is their growing population of law’s executive ranks.

Both Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria Marilyn Warren and Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia Diana Bryant will retire later this year.

The 21 women legal leaders in the group photograph as they appear (L-R) are:

Marilyn Warren AC, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria
Susan Kiefel AC, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
Diana Bryant AO, Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia
Fiona Bennett, Chair, Victorian Legal Services Board
Nerida Wallace, CEO, Law Institute of Victoria
Samantha Hauge, CEO, Coroners Court of Victoria
Sarah Fregon, CEO, Victorian Bar
Professor Rocque Reynolds, Dean of Law, Australian Catholic University
Keryn Negri, CEO, Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
Judge Amanda Chambers, President, Children’s Court of Victoria
Fiona McLeod SC, President, Law Council of Australia
Belinda Wilson, President, Law Institute of Victoria
Fiona Chamberlain, CEO, County Court of Victoria
Samantha Burchell, CEO, Judicial College of Victoria
Jennifer Batrouney QC, President, Victorian Bar
Marlo Baragwanath, Victorian Government Solicitor
Louise Anderson, CEO, Supreme Court of Victoria
Judge Sara Hinchey, Victorian State Coroner
Bronwyn Lincoln, Chair – Melbourne Commercial Arbitration and Mediation Centre
Professor Carolyn Evans, Dean, Melbourne Law School
The Hon Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria