Four years after female solicitors first outnumbered their male counterparts, a new national statistical analysis shows women reaching another important milestone.
The results of the 2022 National Profile of Solicitors, compiled by consultancy firm Urbis, reveals a growing number of solicitors on a national level and a new milestone reached by women in the legal profession.
The trend since 2011 shows that more female than male solicitors have been entering the profession (86 per cent compared to 32 per cent), and in 2018 women were in the majority in the profession, comprising 69 per cent of all government lawyers, 61 per cent of in-house counsel, and 70 per cent of all solicitors in the legal assistance sector.
2022 is the first time men and women solicitors have equal representation in private practice.
“Given the substantial majority (67 per cent) of Australian solicitors work in private practice, the achievement of gender parity marks a significant chapter in the development of the legal profession in the country.”, says Sonja Stewart, Chief Executive Officer of the Law Society of NSW.
According to the 2022 National Profile, there are over 90,000 practising solicitors in Australia, an increase of over 50 per cent since 2011 and close to eight per cent since the last profile in 2020.
Women represent 55 per cent of the profession, while in 2011 they accounted for only 46 per cent of the nation’s 57,577 solicitors.
This increase can be attributed to improved parental leave policies and positive workplace actions that have helped women thrive professionally.
“In regard to maternity leave, parental leave and flexible working, we can see that practices have improved, which makes workplaces much better for women,” Stewart said.
The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander solicitors has also risen since the 2020 National Profile (from 632 to 749), but the proportion remains low.
Stewart said more work is also needed to increase the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander solicitors, who comprise less than one per cent of the profession.
“Internships and mentorship arrangements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lawyers are useful and provide good opportunities,” Stewart said, “but only for a relatively limited number of early career solicitors in this cohort.”
The National Profile of Solicitors presents the data on demographic changes of solicitors in all states and territories.
Forty-two per cent of the solicitors in Australia practise in NSW, a large proportion in the country. This is a change of over 56 per cent since 2011.
At a glance
Size of the profession
- 57 per cent – Growth in the total number of practising solicitors in Australia since 2011
- The distribution of solicitors across Australian states and territories remains consistent across reporting years
- Eight per cent – Growth in the past two years
Private law practices
- 16,514 – Private practices operating in Australia as of October 2022
- 84 per cent – Proportion of sole practitioners or law practices with one principal
- 67 per cent – Proportion of solicitors working in the private sector
- 7 per cent – Proportion of solicitors aged 65 and older
- 77 per cent – Increase of solicitors aged 65 and older since 2014
- 42 years – Mean age of Australian solicitors
- 39 years – Average age of female solicitors
- 46 years – Average age of male solicitors
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Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status
- 749 – Number of solicitors identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
- 0.8 percent – Proportion of solicitors identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
- This trend has remained stable since 2014