In June 2016, the Law Council of Australia launched a new Equitable Briefing Policy aimed at improving the briefing of women barristers across the country.
The Law Society has adopted the Policy in relation to its own briefing of counsel.
The new Policy encourages all persons or entities who brief or select barristers:
1. to make all reasonable endeavours to brief or select women barristers with relevant seniority and expertise, experience or interest in the relevant practice area;
2. by 1 July 2018:
(a) to brief or select senior women barristers accounting for at least 20% of all briefs and/ or 20% of the value of all brief fees paid to senior barristers;
(b) to brief or select junior women barristers accounting for at least 30% of all briefs and/ or 30% of the value of all brief fees paid to junior barristers;
noting the need to adjust these targets to reflect local conditions; and
3. to provide a confidential report to the Law Council, by 30 September each year, with respect to the measures taken to implement these targets.
In 2018, the targets will be reviewed to reflect the reporting provided by Policy adoptees.
It is intended that by 2020 women are briefed in at least 30% of all briefs and receive at least 30% of the value of all brief fees, in accordance with international benchmarks concerning the retention and promotion of women.
The confidential report should address separately the figures for male and female barristers in respect of:
(a) the number of barristers briefed during the year;
(b) the number of those barristers who are senior barristers;
(c) the number of those barristers who were junior barristers;
(d) the number of those junior barristers who were briefed without a leader; and
(e) the monetary value of the briefs.
The Law Council has developed an online portal for organisations and counsel to provide their annual report by 30 September following the end of each financial year.
The Law Council has published Guidelines to provide practical measures to facilitate the implementation of the Policy and further information on reporting. The Guidelines also include information about the Law Council’s obligations with respect to the security and confidentiality of information provided by those reporting under the Policy.