New report highlights gender pay gap at Bar
18 December 2023
The release today of the Law Council of Australia’s 2022-2023 Equitable Briefing Policy Annual Report shows that targets are being met in terms of briefing rates, but much work remains to address the significant gender pay gap faced by women barristers.
“The good news is that the briefing rate of women barristers has exceeded the target the profession set for itself when the Equitable Briefing Policy was launched in 2016. The goal was 30 per cent and briefing rates in 2022-23 were 31 per cent.
“What is most significant about these figures, is that throughout the seven years we have been collecting data, the value of brief fees to women barristers, while up from 2016, has never matched the briefing rate. “For example, in the 2021-22 year, briefing rates were 30 per cent, but the value of brief fees to women barristers was 26 per cent.
“This year the value of brief fees has fallen compared to 2021-22 and is just 20 per cent. This makes the percentage of brief fees going to women barristers the lowest in four years.
“Feedback suggests potential reasons for the discrepancy between briefing rates and fees, include the types of clients, calibres of briefs, and areas of work more commonly offered to women. These structural issues of gender inequality will require further examination and effort to address.
“We also note that this latest report showed briefing rates of senior women barristers (those with 10 or more years’ experience as a barrister) declined between 2021-2022 and 2022-23 and is below the 30 per cent target. However, briefing rates for junior women barristers was maintained at 41 per cent. This indicates that innovative and inclusive strategies to support career retention, development and progression for all barristers will continue to be important.
“The Law Council will be undertaking its second review of its Equitable Briefing Policy in 2024 and will consider whether its scope should be broadened, or its terms and thresholds strengthened. This will include consideration of additional questions posed to Policy adoptees to help fill some of these gaps in the structural picture behind briefing practices.”
The 2022-23 Equitable Briefing Policy Annual Report represents the aggregated data from a total of 189 briefing entities and barristers about their briefing practices.
“We are grateful for the continued reporting efforts of Policy adoptees and commend them on their own individual voluntary efforts to achieve equitable briefing outcomes,” Mr Murphy said.
“It is very encouraging to hear the range of initiatives barristers and briefing entities are proactively taking to improve briefing practices and the fact a number reported having exceeded the Policy targets on an individual basis.”
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