01 August 2017


The Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has released its Equitable Briefing Initiative: Aggregate data report - Jul 2017.

The Commission states
 In 2014 the Commercial Bar Association of Victoria, the judiciary and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission began work together to understand and address equity issues for female barristers at the commercial bar. Of specific concern was the notion that women practising at the Victorian Bar in commercial law were briefed less frequently than their male counterparts and received briefs of less value.
The Equitable Briefing Initiative was developed to analyse the briefing practices of law firms and government entities who volunteered to be a part of the initiative by submitting data over a three-year period from 2016–19 on their briefing practices, and to focus on reducing any gender bias apparent in briefing practices.
This report analyses results from the first stage of the Equitable Briefing Initiative. It aims to identify any bias in briefing practices and considers whether the number of briefs to female barristers are proportionate at each level of seniority, and whether the average value of briefs to men and women are equivalent at each level of seniority.
The Commission comments
Overall, the data from this first reporting period allow us to make some interesting conclusions while leaving a number of questions open. There is most evidence of bias in relation to briefing of SC/QCs. Women at that level of seniority tended to receive fewer briefs than men over the reporting period, and there is some suggestion (though not enough evidence to come to any firm conclusion yet) that those briefs to women tended to be lower in value than the briefs that men received. Additional data will help us to determine the extent of any bias experienced by women at the SC/QC level.
Results were more encouraging at the non-SC/QC levels of seniority. Based on CommBar membership numbers, there was evidence that men received more briefs than women, but the discrepancy was not particularly large (the difference between the proportion of women CommBar members and the proportion of briefs they received was only 2.4 per cent); in addition, there was no evidence that the value of briefs to women was lower at either the Junior or Senior level. As previously mentioned, we will be able to make firmer, more precise conclusions as more data are received over subsequent reporting periods.