Girl power as legal world evolves

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Gillian Potts, Gaye Ranson, Lydia Wheatley and Lara Karam from Law Partners

Female solicitors in Australia have reached record numbers, now outnumbering males for the first time.

Of the total 71,509 practising solicitors in Australia, females make up 35,799 or 50.1 per cent.

Chantille Khoury, Principal Lawyer at Law Partners, which operates in Penrith, said that in recent years the industry has shifted and the journey to becoming a lawyer has changed.

“It did start out as very male orientated, but things started to shift and for whatever reason we ended up female orientated,” she said of Law Partners.

“There’s about 70 per cent females here now.

“I think since the pathway to actually becoming a lawyer has opened up other avenues to get in, it’s opened the way for a lot of females to get through.”

From her experience, female solicitors show great attention to detail and empathy with clients.

The changes are drawing the attention of younger students, as Western Sydney University (WSU) enrolments in single and combined law degrees consistently show more females applying than males.

This year alone, there were 1,389 female law students compared to 958 males enrolled in law programs at WSU.

WSU’s School of Law Dean, Steven Freeland, believes the figures follow a steady evolution of the industry as people are interested in more than just traditional commercial law.

“The broadening of the law curriculum and the realisation that law is an empowering degree for a whole range of careers and interests… is attractive to females as it has opened the door to a broader range of people to do law,” he said.

“I think that’s a really good thing because it’s a reflection that law opens up so many opportunities to so many different people.

“We are tailoring the offering of a law degree to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

The Law Society of NSW CEO Michael Tidball said the growth in the number of female lawyers emphasised the need for law firms and law societies to increase their efforts and strategies to boost the number of women in leadership positions.

“The legal profession must assist men and women to better balance their professional and other commitments,” he said.

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