Needham steps down as bar association president

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NSW Bar Association president Jane Needham has announced she will not stand for re-election after 18 months in the job.

The announcement follows a period of controversy for the Bar Association with tensions high over a range of issues including the restoration of the QC title.  Now, various candidates for the association’s leadership are battling for control in two factions, circulating emails to secure votes, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

“I'm trying hard not to be distracted by it and so, as I can see, are the majority of councillors and barristers,” Needham told the the Herald, saying she is happy to be stepping down as president.

Needham said that while it had been a valuable experience; she would never do it again, explaining recent shots fired over the association’s knitting club and commissioning of childcare centre.

“It was interesting that the two things that were picked out in that email were two things that might be thought to interest women rather than men,” she said.

“There is no criticism, for example, of the bar having a soccer team.”

An equitable briefing policy has been Needham’s latest controversial move, a policy including best practice guidelines on bullying and an equitable briefing policy to give a greater share of work to women.

“The statistics show that while we have 20 per cent of women at the bar, they're not getting 20 per cent of the work and you cannot tell me that our women are less competent, or less effective, or less anything,” she said.

But the policy has been criticised by members, stating the association should not be expressing public views on current issues.
Needham, who has eight-year-old twins and a teenage daughter, said she is not the only one to be celebrating her departure.

“The joy on my boys' faces when I told them that I would be able to read Harry Potter to them in the very near future was just worth it,” she said.
  • William on 3/11/2015 3:06:37 PM

    Nikita Robertson states:

    “william, If she were a man would you be saying that??”

    Yes and I have said the same thing in an earlier contribution to the Australasian Lawyers forum. (Refer “Parental Leave is the Kiss of Death for Female lawyers”)

    In that article I made the following comment:

    “If you have the opportunity you should view a documentary by Shand QC made sometime in the 1990's and see him grieve for the loss of time with family as he unrelentingly chased the dollar because he loved his work. He made millions of dollars every year but never thought of reducing his work load until it was far too late. His family suffered due to his absence.”

    Alec Shand’s documentary is a must view for every person who prefers to chase the big buck and neglect their own children. It should be a mandatory inclusion in the Legal Workshop course undertaken by prospective Australian Lawyers.

    You might care to read the bloggist submissions in that article and discover that the fundamentalist feminist view is destructive to the family. You might analyse how the fundamentalist feminists have presented their case and to whether or not there is any substance in their views or whether it is anti-family and anti-man provocation.

    The feminist push for female parents to place their own career aspirations above the needs of their own children is clearly an abomination. This is demonstrated by Needham’s attitude when she preferred spending time making political and wrong at law statements about the Prime Minister instead of the correct option of taking the time to read Harry Potter to her own children.

  • Louise Steer on 2/11/2015 12:37:57 PM

    This is awful news. She has been bullied out of her role. Needham has been progressive and spoken out on the decline in human rights under the Liberals. She has been criticised as this is not a lawyer's job. Well what other job has a lawyer to do than stand up for the rule of justice? Not laws, but justice, where everyone can expect to be treated fairly in accordance with laws and precedent developed to protect human rights.

    I couldn't care less about knitting, but it's a good way for women to relax and chat. Probably what the men were afraid of.

    And the legal profession in general has not come to terms with maternity leave or childcare, even though these are facts of life for working women.

    It's a sad day for the NSW Bar Association and lawyers. I wonder if Needham will be appointed to the Supreme Court Bench, as all her predecessors have been? Let's hope so! The Bench needs progressive thinkers to apply justice.

    As for her kids, I suspect they are probably a bit too old for her to be reading Harry Potter.

  • Nikita Robertson on 29/10/2015 10:45:17 AM

    william, If she were a man would you be saying that??

  • william on 28/10/2015 3:55:38 PM


    Needham states:

    “The joy on my boys' faces when I told them that I would be able to read Harry Potter to them in the very near future was just worth it,” she said.

    Quite clearly Needham has been neglecting her children. It is a disappointment that rich mothers should prefer to work for a boss instead of taking the time with their children.

    It is clear that she hasn’t been destitute and has been chasing the big buck in preference to taking the time to look after her children.

  • Jillian on 27/10/2015 3:36:04 PM

    What a terrible shame that Jane Needham was not more supported in her important role as President of the NSW Bar Association. We need more women who want to take on such roles, not shy away from them because they are not supported. Gender inequality is clearly still rife at the Bar.

  • Georgie on 26/10/2015 12:09:24 PM

    I agree with Brett's comments and would add that it is concerning to think that issues such as childcare and equitable briefing would be controversial in an organisation such as the NSW Bar Association.

  • Brett on 26/10/2015 10:14:54 AM

    Whatever Jane Needham does, she does with professionalism and grace.

  • Mark on 26/10/2015 10:04:12 AM

    Jane Needham is a fine barrister. The silver lining of her stepping down is she will be able to appear more in Sydney courts as one of the states best barristers

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