The release of research showing that female lawyers are greatly under-represented in our highest courts is a call to further action, New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck says.
“The message is very clear. Over the last six years there has been little change in what is an unacceptable low proportion of women appearing as counsel in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. With women now making up over half the legal profession, the fact that they made up just 25% of lead counsel appearances there must be addressed,” she says.
Ms Beck says the New Zealand Bar Association and Law Foundation have produced some important research.
“The legal profession now needs to take proactive action to ensure advancement in the proportion of women appearing in lead roles in our courts. We have the framework in place with the joint NZBA/New Zealand Law Society Gender Equitable Engagement and Instruction Policy. This sets a starting point, but our overall objective must be equality.
“The Court of Appeal made a good start on 1 March when Justice Stephen Kós announced its resolution to encourage greater participation of junior counsel in advocacy before it. Initiatives like this will help open the door to more appearances by women.
“However, more work is needed to address the disparity and close the gap so that women have an equal opportunity to appear. Law firms, corporate clients and corporate counsel can all play a part. As with all things in this area, it is down to each individual taking personal responsibility for change.”