Natalie Adams … elevated.DIAMONDS might be a girl’s best friend, but for a record number of Sydney’s female barristers, silk has come a satisfying second.
Nanjing Night Net

The Bar Association yesterday announced a record number of female barristers would take the honour of Senior Counsel this year, far eclipsing previous years.

There are 12 women among the 26 being elevated to the senior ranks of the bar.

Last year there were just two females appointed out of 24; in 2010 there were four out of 20.

From the field of 117 applicants this year, 85 were men – but 37.5 per cent of women who applied were successful, compared with 16.5 per cent of the males.

Among those celebrating yesterday was Chrissa Loukas, SC, a public defender who joined the bar in 1989.

She once ran against Tanya Plibersek for preselection in the federal seat of Sydney, backed by Gough Whitlam. While she was unsuccessful in that endeavour, she has now scaled the heights of the legal profession.

Ms Loukas said this year’s silk list represented ”a watershed moment” for women in the law.

”I think it’s fantastic, and I really hope it encourages more women to aim higher,” she said.

Ms Loukas spent three years as trial counsel before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague.

”Practicing at the international level certainly gets you out of your comfort zone and really tests your metal,” she said.

The state’s Crown Advocate, Natalie Adams, SC, was also given the nod, having taken over the job from Lloyd Babb, SC, when he was appointed the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In the lead-up to her elevation, the long-serving Crown Prosecutor ran the prosecution of the former Comanchero Mahmoud ”Mick” Hawi and other bikie gang members over the fatal airport brawl.

Ms Adams said she was pleased to be taking silk with women she considered great friends. And with more women than men now studying law, it was encouraging that the number of female barristers was also rising.

”Every year slightly more women are going to the bar, and it’s the follow-through of that which has seen such a strong list of candidates for silk,” she said.

Also collecting silken robes yesterday were Jacqueline Gleeson, the eldest child of the former chief justice of the High Court Murray Gleeson; Elizabeth Cheeseman; Kylie Nomchong, a former president of the NSW Young Lawyers; Carol Webster; Julia Lonergan; Katherine Eastman; Kelly Rees, and Sarah Pritchard.

The state’s Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, John Pickering, said it was an honour to be appointed silk among so many women, including two of his Crown prosecutor colleagues, Nicole Noman and Jennie Girdham, and Ms Adams, who was largely recognised for her work as a prosecutor.

”I think it’s an incredibly positive step, a fantastic achievement and a great recognition, particularly for an office like ours,” Mr Pickering said.

The executive director of the Bar Association, Philip Selth, said the list of silk appointees was often the subject of conjecture among legal practitioners, and this year would likely be no different. But he said there was not a deliberate attempt to elevate women, and that it just happened that way.

”I’m sure there will be lots of different views but it’s simply just a really good list,” he said.

A full list of the appointees with biographies can be seen at /bios.pdf.

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