NSW Government Equitable Briefing Policy for Women Barristers

The Attorney General and the NSW Government implemented a revised Equitable Briefing Policy for Women Barristers which came into effect on 1 July 2018. This replaces the former NSW Government Equitable Briefing Policy for Female Barristers and Advocates.

The NSW Government Equitable Briefing Policy for Women Barristers (the Policy [PDF,397kb]) operates to entrench equitable briefing practices in all NSW Government agencies that brief barristers. NSW is committed to supporting the progression and retention of women barristers who are engaged with NSW agencies and across the legal profession more broadly. 

The NSW Policy applies to all NSW Government sector agencies that brief counsel.

The NSW Policy is modelled on the Law Council of Australia’s Equitable Briefing Policy and reflects the key objectives and aims of that Policy. It also implements the Law Council Policy’s aspirational targets for briefing women barristers. Accordingly, in selecting barristers, each NSW Government agency must now make all reasonable efforts to:

  • Brief or select women senior barristers accounting for at least 20% of all briefs and/or 20% of the value of all brief fees paid to senior barristers; and
  • Brief or select women junior barristers accounting for at least 30% of all briefs and/or 30% of the value of all brief fees paid to junior barristers.

The Policy is designed to promote opportunities for women at the Bar. It is founded on equity principles. Under the Policy, when government agencies engage barristers or advocates, they are to take reasonable endeavours to:

  1. Identify female counsel in the relevant practice area
  2. Genuinely consider engaging female counsel
  3. Monitor and review the engagement of female counsel, and
  4. Report annually on the nature and rate of female counsel engaged.

It is acceptable to indicate that there are no female Senior Counsel practising in the relevant area, if this is the case. 

For further information on what agencies are required to do when engaging Senior Counsel please refer to the Briefings to Senior Counsel webpage and Fact Sheet. 

Reporting

The Attorney General is responsible for monitoring compliance with the Equitable Briefing Policy. The Policy is a positive attempt to address the imbalance in briefing male and female members from the New South Wales Bar. The Attorney General is also responsible for confirming that Senior Counsel is required for a particular matter, approving the proposed Senior Counsel and approving the appropriate rate of remuneration.

Transport for NSW, who are responsible for the Whole-of-Government management of the NSW Legal Services Panel, are responsible for collection and collation of data regarding compliance with the Equitable Briefing Policy. NSW Government will be considered a single briefing entity for the purposes of tracking against the targets.

At the end of each financial year, each briefing agency in the NSW Government is to prepare a report covering that financial year, for submission to Transport for NSW. Prior to the 2018/19 reporting year, the Department of Communities and Justice collected the data. 

The revised reporting template (at page 7 of the Policy) is due by 31 October each year and must outline, in respect of each agency:

  1. The number of barristers who were briefed by:
    a. gender
    b. seniority; and
    c. total value of brief fees paid to a barrister. 
  2. Also required, is the Attorney General’s approval date for engagement of Senior Counsel (for more information see the Briefing of Senior Counsel webpage).

Please note: the Attorney General’s Rates should be applied to all barristers unless otherwise approved. For more information see the Attorney General’s Rates webpage and Fact Sheet.

The Policy provides clear definitions on what is considered to be a ‘brief’ for the purpose of the report. 

Please refer to the NSW Government Equitable Briefing Reporting Sheet and Guidance note [excel 63 KB] for more information.

If you have any further questions about the Policy please contact Department of Communities and Justice Legal on nswlsc@justice.nsw.gov.au

View a copy of the NSW Government Equitable Briefing  Report 2018/2019 Financial Year [PDF, 397 KB].