The Legal Services Panel commenced on 1 July 2002 and was renewed on 1 July 2009. Twenty law firms participate in the current panel arrangement. Seven government departments and 23 statutory agencies are panel clients. Although not a member of the panel, the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office (VGSO) undertakes work across all areas of panel work and records its activity on the procurement system used by panel members, the Legal Panel Gateway (LPG).
Under the panel arrangement, panel firms must report to government on the use of barristers for government work under the panel contract in accordance with their obligation to adhere to the Victorian Bar Equal Opportunity Model Briefing policy.
Since the panel was renewed in 2009, all legal engagements under the panel must be recorded on the LPG. Direct briefing of barristers by departments and agencies typically occurs when an in-house legal team of a department or agency does not use the services of a panel firm but instead briefs a barrister directly. Direct briefing is not required to be recorded on the LPG system, but some departments and agencies have nevertheless adopted a practice of recording their direct briefs. This data is included in the tables in this report.
Data on Women Barristers Briefing Practices
The Victorian Bar reported that as at December 2014, there were 1,981 Victorian practising barristers, of whom 537 (27%) were female and 1,444 (73%) were male.
Table 1 provides information on the aggregated total of barristers’ briefs from government, sorted by gender, for the period 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2015.
Table 1: Barrister briefings by Gender - 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2015
|Male Barristers||Female Barristers||Total|
|% of total fees||74.6%||25.4%||100%|
|No. of briefs||3,159||1,694||4,853|
|% of total briefs||65.1%||34.9%||100%|
|Average fees invoiced||$7,561||$4,794||$6,595|
The last published report on the Legal Services Panel was in 2008/09. That report provided data on barrister briefings from 2003/04 to 2008/09. There were 21,324 briefs, with fees totalling $59.3M.
The reported fees in Table 1 represent just over half of the fees reported in the previous six years of the former panel while the number of briefs in the current six years of this panel is only 23% of the number reported under the former panel.
It is clear from the differences in the two reporting periods that a large number of barrister briefs have not been entered onto the LPG system during the current panel’s term.
Nevertheless, the number of briefs that have been recorded (4,853) allows some comparisons to be made. In particular, while the proportion of fees paid to women barristers has decreased slightly to 25.4%, the proportion of briefs declined from 46% between 2003 and 2009 to 35% between 2009 and 2015. Given the uncertainty of the data, it is not possible to say whether the decrease of 11 percentage points is an accurate representation of an actual trend.
Table 2 shows briefing by panels and areas of law, sorted by gender. The low numbers of briefs recorded under some panels make the data statistically unreliable (for example, Commercial Projects and Resources).
Table 2 - Female barristers briefed by panel type 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2015
|Component||No. of briefs to female barristers||Total briefs||% briefs to female barristers||Fees to female barristers||Total invoiced||% fees to female barristers|
|FOI & Privacy||11||25||44%||$41,788||$151,148||28%|
|VGSO exclusive matters||143||379||38%||$2,269,544||$5,484,330||41%|
Of the 1694 briefs to women barristers, 917 were direct briefs by in-house government lawyers. The personal injuries panel had the lowest proportion of briefs to women barrister (17%) while the FOI & Privacy Panel had the highest proportion (44%). The VGSO briefed women barristers in 38% of its tied work matters, with women barristers’ brief fees comprising 41% of fees in this category.
Table 3 shows briefing by panel firms and the VGSO on behalf of departments and agencies. It also includes some direct briefs by some agencies. The data is based on previous departmental structures before the machinery of government changes on 1 January 2015.
Table 3 - Briefs to barristers by client agencies 2009-2015
|Department/Agency||Fees invoiced to male barristers||No. of briefs to male barristers||Fees invoiced to female barristers||No. of briefs to female barristers|
|Department of Justice||$4,422,772||406||$1,194,734||224|
|Department of State Development & Business Innovation||$3,975,543||22||$365,761||10|
|Department of Treasury & Finance||$3,236,149||383||$835,042||100|
|Department of Education & Early Childhood Development||$2,140,901||104||$801,941||41|
|Department of Premier & Cabinet||$1,808,335||15||$1,892,695||17|
|Department of Environment & Primary Industry||$1,043,401||88||$436,589||37|
|Department of Human Services||$946,849||899||$932,603||728|
|Department of Transport||$826,396||79||$684,650||99|
|Department of Health||$624,336||10||$6,253||2|
|Department of Planning & Community Development||$167,347||16||$31,991||5|
Note: Agencies with minimal spend on brief fees below $100,000 have been excluded from this table.
Table 4 shows barrister briefing data recorded by the VGSO for the period 2009/10 to 2013/14. This data includes both VGSO panel engagements and tied work.
Table 4 - VGSO Barrister Briefing Data
As part of the Government’s commitment to reinvigorate the application of the Women Barristers Briefing Policy and improve the collection of relevant data, the Department of Justice and Regulation (DJR), at the Attorney-General’s direction, will work with other departments and agencies to ensure that the direct briefing of barristers is properly captured and recorded for reporting purposes.
DJR will also use the opportunity of a new panel, which is currently being established to commence on 1 March 2016, to ensure that briefing data is comprehensively and consistently collected from firms selected to provide services to the government and is published at regular intervals.