Victorian Bar Media Release - The changing face of the Victorian Bar

27Mar2018

  • Women now comprise 29% of Victorian barristers compared to 5.5% in 1980.
  • More than 40% of barristers under both 10 and 15 years’ call are women.
  • 2020 equitable briefing target of 30% exceeded.
  • New measures introduced to promote equality, inclusion and diversity.
  • Changing work practices reflect greater competition with law firms for work.  

The Victorian Bar has released a survey which shows significant improvements in gender equality and diversity among its 2062 practising members. "The State of the Victorian Bar", the most comprehensive study of the Bar ever conducted, provides detail on the changing demography of the Bar, its increasing cultural diversity, progress on equitable briefing, income levels and changing work composition and practices. 

"The Victorian Bar has made important progress in increasing diversity and inclusion, including gender equality," said Dr Matt Collins QC, President of the Victorian Bar. 

"We are an independent association of specialist advocates—proud of our heritage, but at the same time modern, accessible and committed to principles of diversity and inclusion. We are pleased to be able to report significant progress, and to point to the introduction of further programs and measures to maintain our momentum." 

Key findings of the survey include:

  • Women now comprise 29 per cent of all Victorian barristers, compared to 5.5 per cent in 1980.
  • More than 40 per cent of barristers under both 10 and 15 years’ call are women.
  • More women barristers are earning higher incomes.
  • The Bar is increasingly culturally diverse—15 per cent of Victorian barristers were born overseas in more than 30 countries; members speak more than 37 languages with 9 per cent speaking a language other than English at home.
  • The 2020 equitable briefing target of 30 per cent has already been exceeded.
  • Barristers are spending more time in Court and less time on Court-related matters, reflecting increased competition with law firms for work.
  • The Victorian Bar continues to have a strong culture of pro bono and volunteer work with 44 per cent of members undertaking more than 20 hours of pro bono work in the past six months.

The Victorian Bar has had an Equality and Diversity Committee for nearly 20 years. The Bar’s commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession is demonstrated through its endorsement of the Law Council of Australia’s Equality and Diversity Charter and Equitable Briefing Policy. More barristers have adopted the Equitable Briefing Policy in Victoria than in the rest of the nation combined. 

Existing initiatives to support the retention of women at the Bar include our parental leave policy (the first of its kind, in place for more than 20 years), unconscious bias awareness training, return to work programs, regular reporting on demographics and exit surveys. 

The Victorian Bar also has a range of measures designed to assist Indigenous Australians entering the legal profession, including a Reconciliation Action Plan, Indigenous Clerkship Program, Student Mentoring Program, Student Work Experience Program, Indigenous Barristers’ Fund, Indigenous Barristers’ Development Fund and chambers subsidies for Indigenous barristers. 

"This year the Victorian Bar is introducing further initiatives to progress diversity and inclusion. In particular, we have reviewed and strengthened our policies and procedures on discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment, which make it clear that this is unacceptable conduct. 

"We have a solid foundation on which to drive further improvements in diversity and inclusion. We have made substantial progress and have real momentum. It is pleasing to see that we are increasingly reflective of the community we serve," Dr Collins said. 

 


 

The State of the Victorian Bar survey 
The survey drew on objective data for the whole membership of the Bar, and survey responses completed by 627 members, representing 31% of the Victorian Bar’s practising members. 61% of survey respondents were men and 39% were women.

 

Media Enquiries: 

Michelle Hindson on +61 414 207 049 or by email to michelle@hindsonconsulting.com

Sarah Fregon on +61 3 9225 7990 or by email to ceo@vicbar.com.au

News Category: 
Media Release