There are now more women solicitors than men in each Australian state and territory for the first time, according to the latest national snapshot of the legal profession.
The 2020 National Profile of Solicitors, produced by research firm Urbis and commissioned by the Law Society of New South Wales, shows there are 83,643 practising solicitors in Australia and 53% of them are women.
This compares to 46% of solicitors being female in 2011. The proportion of women working as solicitors has gradually increased from that point, to 48% in 2014; 50% in 2016; and 52% in 2018.
Overall, the number of solicitors in Australia has grown by 45% over the past nine years, with the growth rate of women solicitors (67%) outpacing the growth rate of male solicitors (26%) as more women enter the profession.
The report also shows women solicitors overtook men for the first in Western Australia in 2020, which means women are now in the majority in the profession in all Australian states and territories. Women overtook men in most of the other regions in either 2016 or 2018.
The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory recorded the highest number of women solicitors in 2020, at 60% and 61% respectively, which the Australian Financial Review suggests may reflect a higher proportion of government solicitors in those areas.
Female representation is much higher in the government legal sector at 68%, compared to 48% at private legal firms — although most Australian solicitors (67%) work in private practice.
Female representation in the corporate legal sector is at 60%, while women account for 71% of solicitors in the community legal sector.
The report also shows New South Wales is home to the most practising solicitors, at 43%. A quarter of solicitors are registered in Victoria and 16% are registered in Queensland.
The majority of Australian solicitors (53%) work in city locations, while a third (34%) work in a suburban location and 10% work in a country or rural location.
The mean age among Australian practising solicitors is 42 years and this has remained steady for the past nine years. The number of solicitors working beyond the age of 65 has increased by 59% since 2014; however, the report notes that this group make up only 7% of the total number of registered solicitors in Australia.
There are 632 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practising solicitors in Australia, which represents 0.8% of the industry.