Gender Equitable Briefing Policy

Introduction

Statistics Speak …

A recent survey conducted by the Australian Corporate Counsel and reported in its 2021 In-House Counsel Trends Report identified that among the survey respondents, there was “limited knowledge and understanding of the Equitable Briefing Policy”.  Only 13% said their organisations have an equitable briefing policy and consciously aim to brief out this way.

To the extent that lack of information is the cause of these alarmingly low statistics, it is timely to set out the nuts and bolts of the Gender Equitable Briefing Policy.

Nuts and bolts of the Gender Equitable Briefing Policy

What:  National Model Gender Equitable Briefing Policy

When:  Released June 2016

Author: Law Council of Australia

Intention: Aims to drive cultural and attitudinal change in the legal profession with respect to gender briefing practices and support the progression and retention of women barristers and address significant pay gap and underrepresentation of women in superior courts.

For:  Available for adoption by any briefing entity (i.e., law firms, corporations, government).

Selection of Barristers:  All reasonable and genuine endeavours should be made to:
(a) identify women barristers in the relevant practice area; and
(b) engage women barristers.

Examples of types of briefs:  Pre Trial, Hearing, Appeal, Mediation, Legal Advice, Briefs to Settle documents.

How can you brief a barrister? 

There is no strict “formula” that dictates how a barrister must be briefed.

Generally, the brief (i.e., the instructions) should include a short description and/or chronology of the background issues and relevant background documents.

The Bar Association of NSW has prepared a toolkit that contains precedent documents to assist solicitors and in-house counsel to prepare a brief for a barrister (either in hard copy or electronic format). The toolkit contains the following documents:

How to find the right barrister

It is sometimes said, “I do not know any women barristers so I do not brief any”. This  “explanation” is one I have heard said more than a few times by men and women old and young. Regardless, there is a simple and practical solution which is facilitated with the ease of just a button or two!

Finding the right barrister is easier now than ever with the online database, Find a Barrister.

It contains the contact details of barristers who are members of the New South Wales Bar Association with current practising certificates.  It has filters that enable a sophisticated search to be performed (for example, practice area of law, seniority, gender, location etc).  It is free to use and publicly available.

Many barristers work from sets of chambers or ‘floors’, with a clerk who is the general point of contact. The clerk can answer questions about areas of practice and answer questions about a barrister’s experience, rates and availability.

Chambers Directory

This list (above) contains Chambers in New South Wales, for example, Black Chambers.  It provides contact details for barristers’ chambers including contact details of the clerks of chambers. If in doubt, the clerk is the go to person who will know his or her barristers, their areas of practice, their availability and their rates.

Talk to People! 

If you prefer word of mouth, just ask someone. Chances are you will be given a list of names too long to remember!

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