Initiative aims to provide equality of opportunity in the profession and to benefit consumers of legal services through the wider availability of diverse expertise
Panel discussion on equality in the legal sector to feature contributions from the President of the High Court and the Attorney General.
The Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality with responsibility for Law Reform, James Browne TD, will officially launch The Bar of Ireland’s Equitable Briefing Policy at an event in Dublin this afternoon.
At the launch, attendees will hear from a range of leaders across the legal sector on the importance of equality of opportunity for all genders, including.
- The Hon Mr Justice David Barniville, President of the High Court
- Rossa Fanning SC, Attorney General
- Sara Phelan SC, Chair of the Council of The Bar of Ireland, and
- Caoimhe Clarkin, Partner and Head of Litigation and Regulatory, DLA Piper.
The Policy was approved by the Council of The Bar of Ireland in June 2022, and seeks to ensure the wide areas of legal practice benefit from the contribution of all genders. In addition, the Policy seeks to address the underrepresentation of female counsel at senior levels (currently 20% of senior counsel are women) and before the senior courts.
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality with responsibility for Law Reform, James Browne TD said;
“I welcome the Bar Council of Ireland’s leadership in introducing this Equitable Briefing Policy, which seeks to make equality of opportunity in the legal profession a reality rather than an aspiration. One of my Department’s key priorities is improving access to justice, which means widening access and removing barriers to the justice system, so it meets the needs of the public, society and business. The Bar’s Policy published today speaks to the other side of ensuring access to justice which means giving all people access to legal practice as a profession. It is important that this profession is representative of the people it serves.”
Speaking in advance of the launch, Sara Phelan SC Chair of the Council of The Bar of Ireland said;
“We believe that the benefit of this Policy will be delivered right along the value chain of legal services – from the practitioners, to the clients and to members of the public who procure our services. We’ve examined similar initiatives overseas, and while it is a step change for the sector, we’re confident it will provide a dividend for the administration of justice, as well as sustainable careers for those in the profession. The adage that while talent is variable, the equality of opportunity to develop talent should be made available to all, applies here.”
The Policy invites briefing entities – solicitor firms, in-house legal departments & State bodies, as well as counsel – to use their best endeavours to consider gender when presenting or constructing panels of counsel, once satisfied that requisite standard of expertise, skill and seniority has been met.
By becoming a signatory, briefing entities will be required to collate data on an annual and anonymised basis to assist with the onward evolution of the Policy. It is intended to review the scope of the Policy within 3 years, to assess its application to other areas.
Sara Phelan SC added:
“The wider economic and business context is noteworthy. Clients are hugely cognisant of their Environmental, Social & Governance obligations, and how stakeholders are stepping up to the issue of gender participation and the value of diversity. The recent Gender Pay Gap Reporting cycle also points to the need to policies such as this. Today’s Policy launch is focussing on gender, however we recognise that the work required to achieve equality in the profession goes beyond gender. As such, we are advancing a number of initiatives contained within our Equality Action Plan.”
Caoimhe Clarkin, Partner and Head of Litigation and Regulatory, DLA Piper said: “
We are delighted to support this Policy. It’s an important driver of cultural change in the legal profession, and it aligns with DLA Piper’s commitment on diversity and inclusion. Any policy which encourages the attraction, retention and progression of female members of The Bar should be welcomed and endorsed. It also responds to the needs of our clients who are demanding that we are accountable for providing advice which encapsulates the diversity of thought critical to our clients’ complex needs, both nationally and internationally.”
For more information on the policy see https://www.lawlibrary.ie/equitable-briefing/ or contact firstname.lastname@example.org