Legal profession launching unprecedented national initiative to counter unconscious bias
17 February 2017
The Law Council of Australia is launching a major new program to help lawyers understand and address unconscious bias.
The Law Council has been working with diversity and inclusion specialists, Symmetra, to construct an unconscious bias program customised for the legal profession. It will be offered to all lawyers and legal practices via face-to-face workshops, train-the-trainer modules, and online courses from March 1 2017.
Law Council of Australia President, Fiona McLeod SC, said a series of national diversity and equality projects had been embraced by the legal profession and this program was an essential element of the whole strategy.
"Human beings are hardwired to notice personal characteristics and to prefer those with attributes or experiences similar to our own without conscious awareness,” Ms McLeod said.
“Research demonstrates that this can lead to skewed decision-making concerning recruitment, promotion and allocation of work and entrench inequity.”
Ms McLeod said that addressing unconscious bias could be the key to unlocking future diversity that would advantage the Australian legal profession – in terms of gender, and also in other fields of diversity.
"Addressing unconscious, or implicit bias encourages better decision making and new approaches to problem solving. A deliberate focus on diversity enables organisations to better attract and retain top talent, allows for the use of a greater talent pool and can boost productivity," Ms McLeod said.
The Law Council's new unconscious bias initiative follows a series of major national diversity and equality projects that have been led by the Law Council and embraced by the legal profession, including: the Diversity and Equality Charter and an Equitable Briefing Policy for barristers.
Last month, the International Bar Association announced it would be using the Law Council of Australia's landmark National Attrition and Retention Survey of lawyers as a template for its global investigation into the reasons why so many women lawyers are leaving law firms.