Private legal practice strikes gender parity as national legal profession grows


Four years after female solicitors first outnumbered their male counterparts, a new national statistical analysis shows women reaching another important milestone in the legal profession.

Chief Executive Officer of the Law Society of NSW Sonja Stewart says the results of the 2022 National Profile of Solicitors compiled by consultancy firm Urbis reveals the number and proportion of women in the solicitor branch of the profession continuing to grow.

“For some time now, women have made up the majority of government lawyers (69 percent), in-house counsel (61 percent) and solicitors working in the legal assistance sector (70 percent). These new figures show for the first time that in private practice, the genders are now represented equally,” Ms Stewart said.

“Given a substantial majority (67 percent) of Australian solicitors work in private practice, the achievement of gender parity marks a significant chapter in the development of the legal profession in this country.”

As of October 2022, there were 90,329 solicitors practising in Australia, an increase of 32,752 (57 percent) since the first National Profile in 2011 and a near eight percent increase since the last Profile in 2020. Growth was observed across all states and territories.

Ms Stewart said women have been in the majority in the profession since the last Profile was published in 2020.

“Women continue to outnumber male solicitors in all states and territories. They now make up 55 percent of all solicitors in Australia. In 2011 women accounted for 46% of the nation’s 57,577 solicitors.

“The high rate of female entry into the profession continues to be evident with the total number of female solicitors rising 86 percent in the past 11 years, while the number of male solicitors grew by 32 percent over the same period,” Ms Stewart said.

“More than 60 percent of solicitors in their first five years of practice are women. In rural, regional and remote Australia, that proportion rises to nearly 70 percent. The average age of an Australian solicitor is 42, with the mean female age being 39 years and males 46.”

Ms Stewart said more work is also needed to increase the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander solicitors who make up less than one percent of the profession.

“While the raw number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander solicitors has risen from 632 to 749 since the 2020 National Profile, their proportion remains at 0.8 percent,” Ms Stewart said.

“Internships and mentorship arrangements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lawyers are useful and provide good opportunities, but only for a relatively limited number of early career solicitors in this cohort.”

The National Profile of Solicitors provides important demographic data about solicitors in all states and territories, as well as changes observed over time.

There has been little change in the distribution of solicitors in Australia. NSW maintains the largest proportion of the nation’s solicitors with 42 percent, Victoria has 25 percent and Queensland with 16 percent.

Over the past eleven years, the corporate legal sector has grown 104 percent and the number of solicitors employed by governments at all levels is up 108 percent over the same period.

Damien Smith | Director, Media and Public Relations
The Law Society of New South Wales
M: +61 417 788 947 | E:

Key trends

Size of the profession

  • • Growth in total number of practising solicitors in Australia since 2011 – 57 percent
  • • The distribution of solicitors across Australian states and territories remains consistent across reporting years (2011, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020 and 2022).
  • • Since 15 percent growth in the years 2011 to 2014, increases have been relatively stable. Solicitor numbers grew eight percent between 2014-2016, the same between 2016-2018, going up to nine percent between 2018-2020 and coming back to eight percent from 2020-2022.

Private law practices

  • • Number of private law practices in Australia as at October 2022 - 16,514 up 121 from 2020.
  • • Proportion of sole practices or law practices with one principal – 84 percent
  • • Proportion of law practices with two to four principles – nine percent
  • • Proportion of large law practices with 40 or more principals – less than one percent, employing 12 percent of Australia’s solicitors
  • • Number of law practices with 21 or more principals - 70

Almost half (32) based in New South Wales.

Practice sector

  • • Proportion of Australian solicitors working in private practice – 67 percent
  • • Proportion of ACT solicitors working the government legal sector – 49 percent
  • • Government legal sector growth since 2011 – 108 percent
  • • Corporate legal sector growth since 2011 – 104 percent
  • • Private practice growth since 2011 – 40 percent


  • • Increase since 2014 of solicitors aged 65 years and older – 77 percent
  • • Proportion of solicitors aged 65 years and older – 7 percent
  • • Mean age of Australian solicitors - 42 years

This has remained relatively consistent over the past 11 years, due to the growth in the number of younger solicitors entering the profession.

  • • Proportion of Australian solicitors aged between 25 to 39 years – 47 percent
  • • Average age of female solicitors - 39 years
  • • Average age of male solicitors – 46 years

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status

  • • Number of solicitors identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander – 749 (up 117 from 2020)
  • • Proportion of solicitors identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait islander - 0.8%

This trend has remained stable since 2014.

About the 2022 National Profile of Solicitors

On behalf of the Conference of Law Societies the Law Society of NSW commissioned Urbis to prepare a national demographic profile of the practising profession in 2022. This is the sixth such Profile and follows previous reports published in 2011, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2022 reflecting data provided by:

  • The Law Society of New South Wales
  • The Law Society of South Australia
  • Queensland Law Society
  • The ACT Law Society
  • Legal Practice Board of Western Australia
  • Law Society Northern Territory
  • The Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner
  • The Law Society of Tasmania.