The ACT legal sector is leading the nation when it comes to having more experienced and career-focused solicitors with women representing the majority, a new report has found.
The 2020 National Profile of Solicitors released on July 14 shows the territory had the largest proportion of lawyers admitted for 15 years or more at 46 per cent followed by NSW at 42 per cent.
Women now make up 60 per cent of the profession in the territory with the average age being 40 years compared with 53 per cent and 43 years nationally.
In most states, private practice represents just under 70 per cent of the profession compared with a balance between private practice (46 per cent) and government (49 per cent) in the territory.
ACT Law Society president and IP Australia's chief legal counsel Elizabeth Carroll said the report highlighted "the diversity of the Canberra legal community and shows that our lawyers tend to stay in legal practice longer".
"With the local and federal governments employing as many solicitors as the private sector, our lawyers have more career options and can move between vastly different roles without having to change cities," Ms Carroll said.
"This is a vibrant profession that I'm proud to be a member of."
Ms Carroll, who is the 2020 government lawyer of the year, said highlights of her career so far included starting a new legal team when she worked at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and being president of the society.
"That's a real honour to represent lawyers across the ACT and the opportunity to help the community as well," she said.
The law society's vice-president Sarah Avery, who has had experiences in commercial firms and criminal proceedings, began a private firm last year prompted by Covid.
"I really like representing my client and getting good outcomes," Mx Avery said.
"I work for a lot of Legal Aid clients even though I am a private firm to make sure they get proper representation and a fair hearing - that's always important."
Mx Avery said the ACT having the youngest cohort was surprising but the split between men and women was not.
"The downside to that is people who are a bit older leaving the profession other than retirement and we should probably look at what those reasons might be," Mx Avery said.
Accenture's cybersecurity legal counsel Annie Haggar said there was "no such thing as a typical legal career anymore".
"In house isn't an unusual career path but cybersecurity and technology focus have been less common," Ms Haggar said.
"You don't have to follow a traditional path of getting admitted and going to work for a law firm. There are so many avenues for people to take a law degree."
The 2021 in-house lawyer of the year said getting elected to the law society's council last year was a career highlight.
Farzana Choudhury, fellow law society vice-president and senior solicitor at Canberra Community Law, said while it was positive more women were represented in the sector, more work was needed to reflect the range of diversity.
"Looking at the report, we don't have the statistics about how many legal professionals with disabilities there are, for example," she said.
"There are still challenges for women from non-English speaking backgrounds and from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities."
Ms Choudhury has helped establish a number of inclusion initiatives, including a series of legal information sessions and advice clinics for women in prison, said her advice for anyone looking to enter the industry was to make sure they looked after themselves.
"Having a legal career is really rewarding, but at times it can also be exhausting and quite challenging," she said.
"Especially when you're working in human rights and with clients facing significant barriers to justice."
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