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5.1 Judges, barristers and partners principals of law firms

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Current position

In March 2013, 34 percent of judges and magistrates in NSW were women.

In NSW in October 2012, women made up 23 percent of partners and principals of private law firms.

Women made up 20 percent of all barristers certified to practise in NSW in 2011-12.

Gender gap

  • Judges and magistrates in NSW are twice as likely to be male as female; partners and principals of private law firms in NSW are three times as likely to be male as female; and barristers in NSW are four times as likely to be male as female.
The direction of
change over time

The percentage of NSW judges and magistrates who are women has not changed since March 2012, when it was also 34 percent.

The percentage of women who work as partners and principals of law firms has not changed since October 2010, when it was also 23 percent.

In the 12 months to 2011-12, there was a slight increase in the proportion of junior barristers who were women (from 21 to 22 percent), and a slight decrease in the proportion of Queen’s Counsel or Senior Counsel who were women (from 7 to 6 percent). See Figure 5.10.


In the 12 months to October 2012, the number of female solicitors in NSW increased by 5.2 percent, a larger increase than the male rise of 2.7 percent.

While women make up around 50 percent of solicitors (all levels) in private law firms with 21-39 partners, only 23 percent of partners in these firms are women. The same is true in firms of 11-20 partners, where women account for 47 percent of solicitors but only 20 percent of partners. See Figure 5.9.

Overall, since 2000, the proportion of women barristers (junior and senior) has increased by 8 percentage points, from 12 to 20 percent.

The Governor-in-Council appoints judicial officers on the recommendation of the Attorney General. Vacancies for judges of the District Court and Local Court magistrates are advertised. Barristers are lawyers who work as independent and sole practitioners. They specialise in court work and also provide specialised legal advice. Practising certificates for barristers in NSW are issued by the NSW Bar Association. Principals and partners hold senior positions within their law firm. A partner is entitled to a share of the profits of the business. Barristers, principals and partners form a feeder group for judicial service.

Year collected: Multiple years.
Data source: Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration (2013) Gender Statistics,; The Law Society of New South Wales (2013) 2012 Profile of the Solicitors of NSW Final Report; The NSW Bar Association (2012) Annual Report. More information is available at;;

Figure 5.9 Women partners in private law firms, NSW, 2005, 2010, 2012

Fig 5.9

Population: Solicitors in NSW who held a current practising certificate on October 2012.
Source: The Law Society of NSW (2013) 2012 Profile of the solicitors of NSW: Final Report.

Figure 5.10 Women barristers, NSW, 2000 to 2012

Fig 5.10

Note: ‘Queen’s Counsel’ and ‘Senior Counsel’ are barristers of seniority and eminence in their areas of practice.
Population: All barristers who held a NSW practising certificate as at 30 June 2012, including barristers based interstate and overseas.
Source: NSW Bar Association, Annual Reports from 2000 to 2012.