Diversity and the Law – valuing equal access

30/11/2021 - 10:32


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Diversity and the Law – valuing equal access

If Australian enterprise needs convincing that equity and diversity are good for business, it only has to look at the legal profession which has done the analysis and makes a strong case.

First, there’s the case for justice that shows diversity is important in the law because it creates a better reflection of society, stimulates different ideas and enables legal firms to better serve their clients.

Then there’s the pragmatic case, backed by research, to show that organisations that value diversity and have a culture of inclusion are better able to recruit and retain high performing staff, improve productivity and performance and increase organisational competitiveness and growth.

Generally, the legal profession is still playing catchup when it comes to diversity and inclusion. More than 50 per cent of Australia’s practising solicitors are women, but they are still well under-represented in senior management positions and there is limited representation from people of colour, Indigenous Australians, and the LGBTQI+ community.[1]

Western Australia is bucking the trend with some of State’s most respected and longest-standing legal institutions driving the push for a more diverse and inclusive legal profession.

Francis Burt Chambers, established almost 60 years ago, acknowledges the challenges faced by early women at the Bar, and women in the law more generally.  Today, it actively promotes not just gender diversity but people from all backgrounds considering a future in the legal profession.

As Access Partner for the Law Society of Western Australia’s Mock Trial competition – which attracts high school students from across Perth into role-playing criminal legal trials – Francis Burt Chambers has made it possible for more schools to enter the competition giving students from very different backgrounds and aspirations the opportunity to share this valuable experience.

For three decades, WA’s high school Mock Trial competition has been showcasing the next generation of legal talent and encouraging young people to develop skills in public speaking, communication, advocating for a position and presenting an argument.

Francis Burt Chambers Board Member, Pip Honey (a former Mock Trials winner) told the 2021 Mock Trial Grand Finalists that “What the profession of law benefits from most is diversity – diversity of ideas, diversity of viewpoints, diversity of interests, which comes from members being from diverse backgrounds.

“Diversity creates greater public trust and confidence in the rule of law and has flow-on benefits for the community as a whole.

“A diverse profession - of any kind - is more just, productive and intelligent. Diversity often leads to different questions being asked, and better analysis, solutions and processes.

“That is why Francis Burt Chambers is such a proud supporter of the Student Access Partnership and what the program seeks to achieve.”

Members from Francis Burt Chambers and other legal professionals support the competition as volunteer judges and coaches for the Mock Trial teams.

(Photo below of the winning team: St Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School in Karrinyup.)

[1] McKeith, Sam  4 May 2019  LSJ Online ‘Building Diversity in the Legal Profession’, https://lsj.com.au/articles/building-diversity-in-the-legal-profession/


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