Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

The Law Society supports equality, diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.  As community leaders and advocates for justice and equality, lawyers are well placed to advance the cause for equity and set an example for the community and employment sector.

 

On 2 June 2015, the Law Society adopted the Law Council's Diversity and Equality Charter.

The Charter states: 


The Australian legal profession is committed to promoting diversity, equality, respect and inclusion consistent with the principles of justice, integrity, equity and the pursuit of excellence upon which the profession is founded. We recognise that diversity benefits the legal profession and the community as a whole. 

Accordingly, the Australian legal profession and its members: 

  • treat all people with respect and dignity regardless of sex, sexuality, disability, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or other arbitrary feature 
  • create and foster equality through a supportive and understanding environment for all individuals to realise their maximum potential regardless of difference 
  • promote and support a strong and fair legal profession comprising, accommodating, encouraging and respecting a diverse range of individuals and views

The Law Council has launched a diversity and equality action plan, which includes a centralised platform for parental leave, flexible work and return to work resources, as well as equitable briefing policies and unconscious bias training

Please click here for a copy of the policy.

Sign up for the Charter

Click here for further information on signing your firm up to the Diversity and Equality Charter. In doing so, you will receive the charter logo to put up on your website and other correspondence, and your firm logo will appear on the Law Council’s website signifying that your firm is a supporter of diversity and equality in the workplace.  
The Society believes that as well as being a matter of equality and freedom from discrimination, there is a strong business case for gender equity. Studies have shown that businesses that have strong female representation in senior levels achieve higher levels of productivity, profitability, and talent retention, as well as minimising liability and enhancing the reputations of the business read the Federal Government's business case for gender equality.
The Law Council has developed a helpful resource on how to make your workplace LGBTI+ friendly. The resource can be accessed here.
In a national first, the Law Council of Australia has launched a customised unconscious bias training program aimed specifically at the legal profession.

Diversity and inclusion specialists, Symmetra, have developed the unprecedented program offered to lawyers and legal practices via face-to-face workshops, train-the-trainer modules, and online courses.

The CPD accredited workshops include an interactive exploration of unconscious cognitive biases and how they affect all decisions.

Numerous examples of its impact on legal and ethical decisions will be discussed, and participants will learn to identify and counteract different types of bias.

The training is a clear indication of the profession taking practical steps towards greater inclusion and diversity.

You can learn more about the program, as well as accessing the online course here

 

The Law Society has adopted the Law Council’s National Model Gender Equitable Briefing Policy, which promotes the briefing of women barristers in all courts, and seeks to redress the proportionally fewer women appearing in trials.

The Society encourages legal practitioners and firms to sign up to the Policy.


About the Policy

 On Friday 24 June 2016, the Law Council launched its landmark National Model Gender Equitable Briefing Policy to achieve a nationally consistent approach towards bringing about cultural and attitudinal change with respect to gender briefing practices.  

The Policy is a product of ongoing consultation by the Law Council with its Constituent Bodies over the past several months following an Equitable Briefing Roundtable held by the LCA in October 2015.   

The Law Council has advised that the Policy is now available for adoption online. The Society recently adopted the National Model Gender Equitable Briefing Policy and it encourages all practitioners and firms to do the same. 

The Policy is formulated for adoption by any person, corporation, firm or other entity that recommends or briefs Australian barristers to advise or appear in Australia or overseas. The Policy may be adopted by clients and legal practitioners (including in-house counsel and barristers) operating in Australia. 

The Law Council recommends that clients, firms, barristers or briefing agencies review their current briefing practices and consider the following questions: 

  • Are your briefing practices based on the principles set out in the Policy?
  • How do you maintain a record of your briefing practices?
  • Do you regularly review the panel of barristers you brief?
  • How do the members of your firm receive ongoing training in best briefing practices?
  • Do you foster and encourage women barristers?

The Policy includes, for the first time, interim and long term targets with the ultimate aim of briefing women in at least 30 percent of all matters and paying 30 percent of the value of all brief fees by 2020.

The Policy is intended to drive cultural change within the legal profession, support the progression and retention of women barristers, and address the significant pay gap and under-representation of women in the superior courts.

The Law Council is currently developing a standard form for reporting, as per the National Model Gender Equitable Briefing Policy.     

Your entity can adopt the National Model Gender Equitable Briefing Policy by emailing mail@lawcouncil.asn.au with your:

  • full name;
  • job title;
  • email address;
  • company name;
  • confirmation on agreeing to the terms and conditions; and 
  • company logo (if signing up on behalf of an organisation).

The National Attrition and Re-engagement Study (NARS) was commissioned by the Law Council of Australia in 2013. Almost 4000 practitioners from across Australia were surveyed about their experiences and challenges in the legal profession. A report was released on in 2014. 

Key findings of the report included:

  • Flexible work options were important to both men and women

  • A third of female respondents said there was limited access to mentoring and career development opportunities

  • Almost half of female respondents (and 13% of male respondents) said they had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace

  • Lack of flexible work arrangements and barriers to promotion were key factors in women leaving their roles

  • Some female respondents undertaking flexible work arrangements experienced bias

 
Read the full report, factsheets and discussion paper here

The Law Society established a Gender Equity Working Group in 2014. The Group made recommendations to Council on matters relating to gender equity, which resulted in a number of initiatives, such as those reported on the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion webpage. The Working Group ended at 31 December 2016. Some remaining elements of its work were included in the Society's Strategic Plan. Others are the preserve of the Women Lawyers' Committee.

This online resource was commenced as an initiative of the Gender Equity Working Group.
The Courts Administration Authority has established a “Step Up to the Bar” program for female lawyers wishing to join the Independent Bar. Every year, one female candidate will be selected to take part in the program. 

The participant will be appointed within Chambers of the Supreme Court of South Australia. She will gain experience and exposure to complex legal cases and will work closely with the judiciary and an appointed Judicial Mentor.  The participant is also expected to engage with the Justices of the Supreme Court, Barristers, and other legal practitioners at an advanced level.  

The program is designed to promote equality of opportunity for female legal practitioners who wish to pursue a career at the independent Bar and is specifically tailored to prepare participants for the Bar Readers Course and subsequent practice. 

The participant will be engaged as a Legal Officer on a 12-month temporary contract and appointed to multiple Justices of the Supreme Court on a rotation basis.  The remuneration will be commensurate to years of post-admission experience and equivalent classification level within the Legal Officer stream of the Classification Standards.

The Program supports a range of initiatives arising from the strategic response to the NARS Report by the Chief Justice of South Australia and the SA Bar Association.

An exemption from Section 30 of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 has been granted for this program for an initial period of three years commencing 13 April 2015.

For more information, contact: Dianne Mifsud, Executive Assistant to the Chief Justice / Email: dianne.mifsud@courts.sa.gov.au  / Phone: 8204 0390  /  Go to the CAA’s Step Up to the Bar webpage.
Click here to view a searchable list of barristers in SA, which can be filtered by gender and areas of practice.