Women in the Legal Profession: Challenges and Opportunities

women lawyers, challenges, legal profession, law students, opportunities


  • PKR Ranasinghe
    romaranasinghe@hotmail.com (##journal.primary_contact##)
    Attorney-at-Law, Colombo, Sri Lanka


In recent years women have been making great strides in the legal profession with female law students outnumbering male students in law faculties in Universities as well as the Law College in Sri Lanka. However, despite the high numbers of women entering the legal profession in Sri Lanka, this is not reflected in the number of leadership positions and high-profile roles taken on by women Attorneys-at-Law. The legal practice is largely dominated by male attorneys in Sri Lanka. In addition, women comprise almost one-third of the total number of judges and have served as Chief Justice. This under-representation of women in the legal profession can negatively affect women’s rights and access to justice as well as detract from the justice system’s overall effectiveness. It is apparent that the majority of women law graduates do not pursue careers as practicing lawyers, prosecutors or judges but tend to seek employment in the private sector companies and other financial institutions and organizations. The aim of this article is to discuss the challenges and women’s experience in entry and retention in the legal practice. The paper is focused on two-panel discussions conducted in two districts in Sri Lanka, during my tenure as a gender specialist in a justice project. The discussion is based on the experiences shared by the Panellists and the feedback collected from the women attorneys and the female law students who attended the panel discussions held in the two districts. This paper explores the experiences shared by the women attorneys and suggests new approaches in overcoming the barriers.