Hearsay ... the Journal of the Bar Association of Queensland
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Issue 19: August 2007
I'm Average. Almost Print E-mail

average1.jpgAndrew Sinclair of the Sunshine Coast Bar opens a discussion on how the Queensland Bar, as a professional organisation, should be responding to its ageing membership and related issues.

The average barrister is male, in their mid-40’s and has been at the Bar for 10 or more years having started in their mid-30’s. They practice from chambers in the Brisbane CBD.

I don’t quite make average as I was admitted at 24 and have practiced mainly at regional bars. I am also fortunate enough to have spent some time in my legal career outside the private Bar both in government service and academia. It was these experiences that gave me an interest in demographics and led me to question how a professional organisation like the Bar should be responding to our aging membership. How can we remain an attractive profession for younger people and how do we retain our longer serving members as the Baby Boomers approach retirement?

The ever efficient Bar Association staff have kindly provided me the data for analysis (with identifying particulars removed). Time invested in learning IT skills enabled me to extract some basic facts and graph them.1 I will mostly let the findings speak for themselves but there are some interesting and perhaps unexpected results.

  • There appears to be a significant number of practitioners approaching the time when most barristers retire with another ‘hump’ following in 10 years.
  • Barristers who have Chambers outside of Brisbane account for about 13%.
  • About 12% of all barristers are not in a Chambers in a major court town near the registry.
  • Female barristers still make up only about 16% of the total.
  • The Bar remains popular with as many people joining each year as ever.
  • Members leave the profession at a fairly steady rate after their second year.
  • Most of the new members join in their thirties suggesting they have had earlier work experiences, perhaps as solicitors.
  • Silks are admitted as Juniors, on average, 7 years younger than the average Junior who is still practicing as such.


 Counsel  All  Male  Female
 Junior  782  646  136
 Senior  59  56  3
 Queens  31  31  0
 Totals  872  733  139

 A Class 757
 B Class 115

 Blank 19
 Brisbane  648
 Cairns 24
 Ipswich 10
 Mackay 6
 Maroochydore 14
 Rockhampton 10
 Southport 20
 Toowoomba  5
 Townsville 24
 Other 92

 Average Age at Call
 All 33
 Men 33
 Women  34
 Junior 34
 Non-Juniors 26

 Average Age
 All 46
 Men  48
 Women 42
 Junior 46
 Non-Juniors 54

 Seniority Group
 All  Male  Female
 1-3 151
38 113
 236 53
 Unknown  17 2
  872  139  733

Caveat Lector

“Lies, damned lies, and statistics” was a catchphrase of Benjamin D'Israeli. It should be borne in mind that we do not have critical data to validate many of the theories that the statistics suggest. In particular there is no way at present of comparing admissions during a calendar year to people now holding membership. This means any apparent drop in numbers such as women in their 8-11th years of admission could be because very few joined our ranks 8-11 years ago or because that age group have temporarily left full-time practice.


average2.jpgIt is also difficult to account for the large numbers of barristers in government or corporate employ (sometimes without individual practicing certificates) or indeed those on the rolls who do not practice extensively.

Equally, Chambers addresses are a poor way method of distinguishing members with more than one chambers, those practicing in a city without a Registry, those working from home, door tenants and squatters.

I propose to re-examine the data for a future edition of Hearsay in relation to the major areas of practice nominated compared to Gender, Location, Age and Years at the Bar. If any member has a suggestion for other statistical research, please contact me directly.

Andrew Sinclair

Telephone (07) 5479 2940

Comment on this article in the Hearsay Forum


  1. For the obsessive footnote readers, data was extracted in CSV format, manipulated with
    PERL and graphed in Excel.

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