The Hon GABRIELLE UPTON MP was NSW’s first female Attorney General and held the portfolio from 2015-17. She argues that we owe it to the profession to work our equitable briefing targets hard.
The issue of how to increase women’s representation in senior ranks of the legal industry has long generated discussion. With more than half the state’s law graduates being female, equity dictates we have to remove the barriers preventing them from securing these senior roles.
The Law Council of Australia, various law societies, bar associations and law firms have all implemented policies, targets and reporting mechanisms to achieve this. Like most effective reform, it requires incremental steps and for everyone to step up. Targets alone do not guarantee success – we must make our targets sweat.
When I took office as the NSW Attorney General in 2015, I wanted to help close the ‘opportunity gap’ for women in law. I was responsible for approving the appointment of Senior Counsel to NSW Government Agency briefs as well as approving rates for their fees. Matters which require Senior Counsel are often complex, high profile and/or highly contentious.
Under the Premier’s Memorandum M2009-17, the Crown Solicitor and Government Agencies must put forward at least one female candidate for the three Senior Counsel required nominations. Where a female Senior Counsel is not nominated, reasons must be given. My role gave me a unique opportunity to increase the appointment of women to Government Agency briefs.