55 percent of Australian Lawyers Are Female
The women lawyers have overtaken men in the Australian legal profession, according to a new survey.
According to the 2022 national profile of solicitors, women now make up 55 percent of the legal profession in Australia, up from 53 percent in 2020, and for the first time, women now dominate all sectors of legal practice outside the Bar.
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The number of women in private practice has also risen from 48 percent to 50 percent, with NSW Law Society CEO Sonja Stewart predicting a clear majority by the time the 2024 report is released.
The report, compiled by research group Urbis for the law society, shows that the number of female solicitors has risen 86% since 2011, while the entire cohort of solicitors has grown from 32,272 to 90,329.
Although the corporate legal and government legal sectors have seen strong growth of 104 percent and 108 percent, respectively, over the past decade, the majority of solicitors (67 percent) still work in private practice.
Female solicitors outnumber male solicitors in the community legal (70%), government legal (69 percent), and corporate legal sectors (61 percent). In contrast, Bar associations across the nation are only about 25-30 percent female.
Stewart attributes the shift in the legal profession to the fact that law firms are working harder to be more family-friendly and retain talent.
She said, “The law is rewarding career for women – and has been ever thus. But the community sector, the in-house corporate sector, and the government sector have been employers of choice for women for many years – particularly around more progressive paternity and maternity leave policies. Now private practices are seeing the talent and wanting to retain that talent.”
The mean age of the profession has remained unchanged at 42 years over the past 11 years, but with many more women among graduates, the average age of a female solicitor is now 39, seven years younger than males.
Women are over-represented in younger age groups, with 40 percent of female solicitors aged 34 or younger, compared with 29 percent of men. Of those aged under 24, 71 percent are women.
Stewart said that it is inevitable that the numbers will shift even more in favor of women, given the pipeline of university graduates.
With four of the big six firms having female leaders after July 1 when Emma Covacevich takes over as chief executive of Clayton Utz, changes are also happening at the top, reflecting the true benefit of diversity and inclusion in terms of employee engagement, productivity, and competitive value.
This trend not only exists in the legal profession but also in other industries where diversity and inclusion are becoming more important for success.