Law Society of NSW statistics reveal majority of solicitors are now women

IN CHARGE: Legal secretary Maree Wilkinson and principal Juliana McArthur in Gunnedah where there's a number of women in law. Photo: Vanessa Hohnke
IN CHARGE: Legal secretary Maree Wilkinson and principal Juliana McArthur in Gunnedah where there's a number of women in law. Photo: Vanessa Hohnke

WOMEN are taking over the law of the land, with new figures revealing there are more female-admitted solicitors than their male counterparts.

It’s only a slight majority for the female legal eagles overall, but the statistics from the NSW Law Society show it is in younger demographics where women far outnumber men.

Regional areas may be taking to trend a lot quicker than the rest of the state.

In Gunnedah, the majority of law firms are already run, or partly run by women.

Stacey Cooke is a director with Walker Beer and while she’s yet to be admitted, she’s seen women takeover a number of workplaces.

MAJORITY: Gunnedah firm Walker Beer directors Stacey Cooke and Alice Weinthal. Photo: Vanessa Hohnke

MAJORITY: Gunnedah firm Walker Beer directors Stacey Cooke and Alice Weinthal. Photo: Vanessa Hohnke

“Jobs are not so gender-specific anymore,” Mrs Cooke said.

“It’s probably reflected in the household too, now you need two incomes.”

At the end of March, this year, there were 31,655 solicitors, with women accounting for 50.5 per cent. 

Mrs Cooke, who is also vice president of the Gunnedah Chamber of Commerce, said women were also in the majority in veterinary and retail industries.

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Gunnedah solicitor, Juliana McArthur, was admitted in 1999 and she said the trend had been building since her university years, where “there were more women”.

Mrs McArthur said it was hard to pinpoint why more women were going into law, but she had a simple reason why she took up the profession.

“I loved an argument,” she said.

“I enjoyed debating and, it might sound trite, but I wanted to help.”

And it’s practicing in the bush where the professional has reaped the most reward for Mrs McArthur.

“It’s more personal in the country ,where you look after clients for most of their lives, as well as their children.

“In the city, it’s more transaction-based.”

Annabelle Walsh from Leyden Legal said she’s noticed a lot more women in law in Tamworth during her relatively brief time as a solicitor and said there was a good “working culture in the country”.

“I found there’s more respect for each other in Tamworth opposed to the city,” she said.

Fellow Tamworth solicitor Natalie Scanlon, who is also the current president of the North West Legal Society, said the industry was growing as a whole, with a 24 per cent increase in admittances over the last five years.

While there are more admitted female solicitors, recent numbers also revealed there’s now more female general practitioners (50.9 per cent) in NSW too.

Calrossy school careers adviser Charles Impey said he’d noticed the trend of girls setting themselves up for careers in these fields as they start thinking about lives after high school.

TRENDING: Calrossy careers adviser Charles Impey has noticed more girls leaning towards careers in law and medicine as they finish high school. Photo: Gareth Gardner

TRENDING: Calrossy careers adviser Charles Impey has noticed more girls leaning towards careers in law and medicine as they finish high school. Photo: Gareth Gardner

“It’s reflected in our numbers,” Mr Impey said.

“Many more girls are considering law and medicine and there’s quite a large gap.”

He said boys were generally looking at “areas like construction management and sports science”.

The trend had been noticed by people within the industry, Mr Impey, too, said it was difficult to pinpoint why women had become the majority.

The senior student cohort at Calrossy is 61 per cent female – figures on career aspirations collated by Mr Impey reflected what’s happening in law and medicine.

More than 72 per cent of students are dreaming of a career in law and 53 per cent of aspiring doctors are girls.

Boys have the majority of interest in fields including, trades (100 per cent), engineering (90 per cent) aviation (64 per cent) and business and finance (53 per cent).