The 2016 National Profile of the Profession has revealed that of the total 71,509 practising solicitors in Australia, 35,799 (or 50.1 per cent) are female while 35,710 (or 49.9 per cent) are male.
The 2016 National Profile of the Profession is the only report of its kind and captures a demographic profile of practising solicitors around Australia. Data is compared to the first national profile which was released in 2011.
In the past two years, the number of women entering the profession has doubled, increasing by 34 per cent compared with the number of men at 16 per cent.
The Law Society of NSW Chief Executive Officer Michael Tidball says the growth in the number of female lawyers emphasised the need for law firms and law societies to increase efforts and strategies to boost the number of women in leadership positions.
We have made significant advances in all areas of practice to assist the retention and career progression of women in the profession, however, impediments still remain,” Mr Tidball said.
Mr Tidball says that most employers now have policies for flexible working but a failure to translate those policies into reality was often cited as the main barrier to the advancement of women in the legal profession.
The legal profession must assist men and women to better balance their professional and other commitments.”
The report has also revealed significant changes in employment trends in the legal industry with a fall in the proportion of solicitors working in private practice (from 75% to 69%) in the past five years.
This is a result of significant growth in the number of solicitors working in the corporate sector and government,” Mr Tidball says.
Between 2011 and 2016, there was a 59 per cent increase in the number of solicitors working in the corporate sector, compared to a 17 per cent increase working in the private sector.”
Other key trends from the report include:
- a 24% increase in solicitors in the past five years (from 57,577 in 2011 to 71,509 as of October 2016)
- the largest proportion of solicitors registered in New South Wales (42.2%) followed by Victoria (25.4%) and Queensland (15.3%)
- that 69% of practising solicitors work in private practice, 15.9% work as corporate solicitors and 10% work in government
- the average age of Australian solicitors is 42.4 years with 1 in 12 solicitors being 65 years or older. The youngest age cohort (24 years or younger) decreased by 14.9% between 2014 and 2016
- that between 2011 and 2016 the number of private law firms increased by 46.2% from 10,632 to 15,539 firms
- in 2016, a total of 621 solicitors (1.2%) identified themselves as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Of all 621 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners, 53.1% were female compared with 46.9% who were male
- the Northern Territory (1.8%) and New South Wales (1.6%) have the highest proportion of solicitors identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
The 2016 National Profile of Solicitors in Australia was commissioned by The Law Society of NSW on behalf of the Conference of Law Societies and was undertaken by Urbis.
View the full report here.