The legal industry needs to change in order to stop losing talented women, according to Justice Rachel Pepper, Judge-in-Residence at The ANU.
Justice Pepper, of the NSW Land and Environment Court, said employers need to do more to provide working conditions that help retain female staff.
“The reality is that in the early years it’s women who bear the brunt of raising children,” Justice Pepper said.
“They need to be away from their jobs, require flexible working conditions and still today, regrettably, not all of those are on offer if you are employed as a practicing lawyer.
“There need to be more part-time jobs and employers need to make sure that opportunities for advancement and flexible working arrangements are available.”
Justice Pepper said the demanding nature of legal work makes it hard for women to balance a career with family.
“It would be completely naive to say that there are no additional pressures facing women in law,” she said.
“Law demands long working hours, it just does. And that tends to make family life difficult.”
Justice Pepper is the first visiting judge to take part in the Judge-in-Residence program at the Centre for International and Public Law (CIPL), aimed at fostering a closer relationship between the ANU College of Law and the judiciary.
She said she was delighted to have to opportunity to give back her alma mater.
“I think I’m a good example of the wonderful type of education you get here at ANU. I came to the law knowing no-one. I’m the first person in my family to go to university, and yet I was able to go through with this excellent education courtesy of the College and some fabulous support from some excellent teachers,” she said.
Professor Kim Rubenstein, Director of CIPL, said the program was not only a way of bringing visitor expertise to the College, but also for academic expertise to be fed back to those who are visiting.
“Law is both a creature of theory and practise,” Professor Rubenstein said.
“It will allow students to mix with individuals who are expert practitioners and it gives us as academics the opportunity to encourage our ideas to be thought about in the context of the practice.”
During her time as the ANU Judge-in-Residence, Justice Pepper will hold meet-the-judge sessions for students, give a number of talks and take part in an ANU research project.
The ANU Centre for International and Public Law will also be managing a Government Visitor Program to give government officers the opportunity to be part of the ANU research community.
Both programs will be run on an on-going basis providing regular professional visitors to the ANU College of Law. More information can be found here.