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 New South Wales 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%), in-house counsel (61%) and solicitors working in the legal assistance sector (70%),” Ms Stewart said. “These new figures show for the first time that in private practice, the genders are now represented equally.
“Given a substantial majority (67%) 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%) since the first National Profile in 2011 and a near 8% 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,” she said. “They now make up 55% 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% in the past 11 years, while the number of male solicitors grew by 32% over the same period.
“More than 60% of solicitors in their first five years of practice are women. In rural, regional and remote Australia, that proportion rises to nearly 70%. 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 was needed to increase the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander solicitors who make up less than 1% 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%,” 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%, Victoria has 25% and Queensland with 16%. Over the past 11 years, the corporate legal sector has grown 104% and the number of solicitors employed by governments at all levels is up 108% over the same period.
See the full 2022 National Profile of Solicitors.