During its upcoming AGM, the SA Law Society will vote whether it is necessary to introduce minimum quotas for male and female representatives. Therefore, the Law Society will set a record as the first Law Society in Australia to introduce quotas on its executive and council. However, that will happen if the proposal succeeds on 26th October when they will be holding their annual general meeting. As a matter of fact, the current situation is that you will find one female out of seven in the executive; hence the majority of the Law Society Representatives are male. The amendment has been put in place to see the number of female Law Society Representatives increase to 2 out of seven on the executive and 9 out of 32 on the council if it gets approved.
There are currently seven women out of the 14 metropolitan council members. In addition, the amendment is expected to embrace the 50-50 gender balance and this applies only to the sixteen metropolitan members. You should take note that the sixteen of the council positions are kept aside for ex-office, junior and country members. Anna Jackson, who happens to be the chair of the Gender Equity Working Group at the SA Law Society, spoke with Aussie Lawyer Blog arguing that the proposal involved little or no mental effort. She said that throughout the 135 years, there has only been one single instance where more than one woman was compromised by the Law Society. In addition, she said that in the history of the Law Society, there have only been three female presidents.
As a matter of fact, the number of female graduates in South Australia has increased since more than a half of the Law Society members are women and this has seen the percentage jump up to 70 percent. However, it has been hard to produce an agreed position to members given that the proposal has faced vigorous opposition within the Law Society of Southern Australia. Instead, a paper produced by the council was used to put into details the arguments for and against the proposal. “When one considers our practical effects, then I don’t believe the proposed changes will actually be that controversial,” said Ms Jackson.
With positions already being allocated for country members, including law school deans and young lawyers, the paper supporting the quotas argues that there are no new reserved positions. The paper states that there is no suggestion that the incumbents have taken a position from a more deserving member of the society; hence these categories are not meritorious. As demonstrated by the strong and active women representation in the Metropolitan category, the paper which is against this proposal argues that genders are already treated equally in the selection process. Recently, the Victorian government committed to 50 per cent quotas for female public board members, magistrates and judges. On the other hand, Rocky Perrotta, the president of the Law Society, said that members hold a range of views about quotas. The SA Law Society president also said that they have shown their commitment to gender diversity and equity in the legal profession regardless of what will come out at the AGM.