Back to Publication

General Issue

Who Cares? The Conundrum for Gender Equality in Legal Practice


Margaret Thornton

Although women comprise the majority of practitioners in legal practice in Australia, the question of who cares remains an enduring challenge for gender equality. Against the backdrop of social and policy changes resulting from the feminisation of labour, this article pays particular attention to the role of flexible work in legal practice. It draws on two empirical projects – one involving corporate law firms and the other involving NewLaw firms. As the results were somewhat ambivalent, the article then turns to the feasibility of shared parenting regimes by drawing on studies from Scandinavia. These studies show that the unencumbered worker ideal is nevertheless resistant to sustained absences from work even though the norms of fatherhood are changing. The competing narratives of the ‘new father’ and the unencumbered worker who devotes himself to work therefore produce a paradox that underscores the ongoing elusiveness of gender equality in legal practice.

Please access full article here or via PDF link to the left.

(2020) 43(4) UNSWLJ 1473: