New gender equity targets encourage federal agencies to brief lady lawyers

By Stephen Easton

July 2, 2018

From now on, Commonwealth agencies are expected to make sure they don’t give all their legal work to men.

New gender equality targets ask federal entities to give at least a quarter of all briefs for senior barristers — either by number or by monetary value — to women. When junior barristers are needed, the goal is at least 30% of briefs.

Statistics for the entire federal public sector show that on average, Commonwealth entities are not far off meeting the targets already.

“In 2016-17, female barristers received 29.6% of all briefs and 26.2% of the value of all briefs for the Commonwealth,” according to the statement.

The targets are now part of the official Legal Services Directions and agencies are “encouraged to make all reasonable endeavours” to meet them, according to a statement from Attorney-General Christian Porter and Kelly O’Dwyer, the Minister for Women and Minister Assisting the PM for the Public Service.

The targets are based on the Law Council of Australia’s Equitable Briefing Policy, which also suggests the flexibility to count up the share of the work going to women on either a monetary or a numerical basis.

Porter and O’Dwyer point out the Commonwealth’s 25% target for briefs to senior barristers goes beyond the Law Council’s proposed policy, which suggests a 20% minimum in that category.

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