Women barristers will have greater opportunities through a new Victorian Government Legal Services Panel.

Legal firms can apply to be appointed to the new legal services panel for an initial fixed term of 3 years, starting on 1 July. The Department of Justice and Community Safety will appoint the panel through an open tender.

The panel allows government departments and agencies to purchase legal advice and representation from private law firms at competitive rates.

Areas of law to be covered by the panel include administrative, employment, property, contracts, general commercial, and planning and environmental law.

Firms on the new panel will be required to provide an increased portion of barrister briefs and counsel fees to female barristers, with a new target of at least 50 per cent of briefs to women barristers, and will be required to report to government on diversity policy and practices as well as gender pay gaps.

The Government is also committed to recognising and encouraging the provision of pro bono services for vulnerable Victorians.

Community legal centres will benefit from these pro bono services arrangements, strengthening and supporting social outcomes for Victorians. This will include requiring large firms to contribute legal staff to community legal centres.