Joint Law Society/Women Lawyers of WA

2016/17 Annual Report

The Joint Law Society/Women Lawyers Committee is a liaison group between Women Lawyers of Western Australia (Inc) and the Law Society.

In April 2015, the Law Society established a Working Group to respond to Chapter 2 of the Women Lawyers of Western Australia’s 2014 20th Anniversary Review of the 1994 Chief Justice’s Gender Bias Taskforce Report which dealt with career issues facing women lawyers. This work continued over the course of 2015 and 2016 and concluded with the preparation of a report which identified the gaps between what the Law Society was then doing and the recommendations in Chapter 2. It made practical proposals for the Law Society to address those recommendations. A Final Directions Paper was finalised in mid-2016 and endorsed by the Law Society’s Council on 23 August 2016. The timeframes for implementation by the Law Society of the various Chapter 2 recommendations was later approved by Council in December 2016. Those timeframes operate over 2016/17 and 2017/18.

One of the first recommendations arising out of the Final Directions Paper, which has been recently implemented by the Law Society, was the establishment of a new ‘Advancement of Women in the Legal Profession Working Group’. The new Working Group now meets bi-monthly to support the work of the Law Society in implementing the other recommendations of the Final Directions Paper.

In November 2016, the Convenor chaired a Law Society CPD seminar as part of the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion strategic campaign entitled Gender equality – a business issue. The headline for the seminar was that “Gender equality in the workplace is not just a women’s issue – it also makes hard economic sense for employers with further benefits to the profession and the community generally.”

During 2016/17, the Committee recommended to the Law Society’s Honours Committee practitioners for:

  • candidates for interview for the Old Court House Law Museum’s oral histories project, the theme of which for 2016/17 was ‘Women in law’; and
  • candidates for the 2017 WA Women’s Hall of Fame, Women Lawyers of Western Australia and other awards.

The Committee compared the Law Council of Australia’s National Model Gender Equitable Briefing Policy and the Law Society’s Equality of Opportunity Briefing Policy and considered the reporting template and guidelines for the Law Council’s policy and made recommendations to the Law Council for amendment of those documents. The Committee endorsed the Law Society publicising the availability of unconscious bias training by the Law Council.

For more information about this committee please email General Manager, Advocacy – Mary Woodford, advocacy@lawsocietywa.asn.au