Policy Agenda

Court Appearance Survey

On 4 December 2009, the Law Council launched the 2009 Court Appearance Survey. This research was funded by the Law Council in order to obtain robust, reliable and replicable data on the segment of the legal community that appears before Australian superior courts and to set a benchmark against which the nature of appearances in Australia could be considered. The concept for the research was developed in association with Australian Women Lawyers.

The information obtained as part of this research included details regarding the seniority, number and gender of legal practitioners appearing before the court, whether the appearance related to a matter in the civil or criminal jurisdiction, the duration of the appearance, and where applicable, whether a private, government or other briefing entity was involved in selecting the legal practitioner who appeared. The term ‘appearances' was defined as "those occasions in which a legal practitioner raises legal argument or adduces evidence while defending or presenting a case". Therefore, procedural and management aspects of matters that are part of court processes and court statistics generally were not considered in this research.

The study considered appearances before Australian superior courts, namely the state/territory Supreme Courts and Courts of Appeal, the Federal Court of Australia, the Family Court of Australia, the Family Court of Western Australia and the High Court of Australia.

Nationally, there were three main findings of the survey:

  1. Female barristers appear in statistically the same proportions as they exist at the Bar;

  2. On an average, male barristers appear for significantly longer periods of time when compared to female barristers (3.8 hours for males and 2.8 hours for females); and

  3. When compared to other entities such as government agencies, private law firms are more likely to brief male barristers.

The Law Council and Australian Women Lawyers are committed to the principles of equality in the workplace and will continue to devise further policies or strategies to ensure equality for female barristers and advocates. In particular, the strategy to address the findings of the 2009 Court Appearance Survey will focus on further investigation and continuous information gathering, education and promotion of structural and institutional change.  

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