ACT Bar Association National Equality of Opportunity Briefing Policy
OBJECTIVES OF THE POLICY
Equitable briefing practises maximise choices for legal practitioners and their clients, promote the full use of the Independent Bar, and optimise opportunities for practice development of all barristers.
The adoption of equitable briefing practices can play an important role in the progression of women in the law, the judiciary and the wider community.
APPLICATION OF THE POLICY
This policy is formulated for adoption by both clients and legal practitioners throughout Australia. Whilst acknowledging that the selection of counsel (barristers or solicitor advocates as the case may be) is ultimately the decision of the client, referring legal practitioners exercise significant influence in making that selection. Consistent with that acknowledgement, the policy applies not only to briefing firms or agencies, but also to the recommendation of counsel to legal practitioners and clients by barristers’ clerks and senior counsel.
EQUITABLE BRIEFING POLICY
In selecting counsel, all reasonable endeavours should be made to:
(a) identify female counsel in the relevant practice area; (1) and
(b) genuinely consider engaging such counsel; (2) and
(c) regularly monitor and review the engagement of female counsel; (3) and
(d) periodically report on the nature and rate of engagement of female counsel. (4)
NOTES TO ASSIST IN IMPLEMENTING THE POLICY
1. Female counsel may be identified through searches of the relevant bar or women lawyer association websites; and/or by maintaining internal referral lists that are regularly updated; and/or through eliciting expressions of interest.
2. A genuine consideration would have regard to the skills and competency of a barrister, regardless of gender and should avoid inappropriate assumptions about the capacities and aptitude of female and male counsel. Where there are equally meritorious male and female counsel available, arbitrary and prejudicial factors should not operate to exclude the engagement of female counsel.
3. Internal records should be maintained by briefing agencies to identify the nature of engagement, that is, the number, type, stage and gross dollar value of legal services provided by all counsel by gender.
4. The objective of monitoring and reviewing the proportional rate of engagement is to ensure that female counsel are briefed at least at the prevailing percentage of female counsel in the relevant practice area, which statistics are available from the bar association or law society in that jurisdiction. The review and periodic report should have regard to the success or otherwise of the implementation of an equitable briefing policy, and initiate steps to redress inequity where it is identified.