Equity and Diversity
The Law Society values the principles of equity, diversity, accessibility and inclusiveness. Our commitment to these principles is demonstrated in our regulatory policy and internal processes.
In addition, the Law Society recognizes that discriminatory behaviour by lawyers may be professional misconduct (Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia, Chapter 2, section 2.2).
In November 2012, based on a recommendation in the Law Society’s 2009 Report of the Retention of Women in Law Task Force, the Justicia Project was officially launched in BC. Justicia, which means justice in Latin, is a voluntary program for law firms to identify and implement best practices to retain and advance women lawyers in private practice. It was created in response to evidence that women leave the profession at a higher rate than men in the first 10 years of practice. The program originated in Ontario and was the first of its kind in the country. The Ontario project has brought together more than 50 law firms committed to sharing best practices, developing resources and adopting programs to support women lawyers.
Participating law firms will commit to achieving goals in four areas:
- Tracking gender demographics
- Reviewing/introducing flexible work arrangements and parental leave policies
- Adopting initiatives to foster women’s networking and business development
- Promoting leadership skills for women
Read more on Justicia.
The business case for keeping women lawyers in the profession
The Law Society urges firms to consider The Business Case for Retaining and Advancing Women Lawyers in Private Practice. The business case does not suggest that women should receive special treatment. It stresses the competitive advantages of creating firms that retain and advance talented lawyers, with a focus on serving clients in effective ways that make business and people sense. The business case contains reference materials and best practices that will be of value to firms of all sizes.
Timeline: Milestones for BC women in the law (Benchers' Bulletin, 2011 No.3 Fall)
Aboriginal Lawyers Mentorship Program
The Aboriginal Lawyers Mentorship Program is intended to enhance the retention and advancement of Aboriginal lawyers, who are currently underrepresented in the legal profession in BC. This program is the first of its kind in North America, and pairs experienced lawyers with Aboriginal lawyers of up to three years of call. The goals of the Aboriginal Lawyers Mentorship Program are to:
- support the development of the knowledge, skills and attributes needed by Aboriginal lawyers to be successful in their legal careers;
- assist Aboriginal lawyers in developing strategies to mitigate common issues that arise for many Aboriginal legal professionals.
- promote collegiality to expand and strengthen the professional networks of Aboriginal lawyers; and
- foster the retention and advancement of Aboriginal lawyers in BC.
Go to Aboriginal Lawyers Mentorship Program for more about the program, including the criteria for mentors and mentees.
Beginning in 2013, the Law Society is offering a scholarship for Aboriginal graduate students in a field of law. The $12,000 annual award aims to enhance the retention of Aboriginal lawyers by supporting the development of Indigenous leaders and role models in the legal academic community. The Aboriginal Scholarship is open to Aboriginal students who are proceeding to a full program of graduate studies in a field of law. Candidates must be graduates of the University of British Columbia or University of Victoria law schools or be able to demonstrate a real or substantial connection to BC.
Read more on the Aboriginal Scholarship.
Supporting Aboriginal and visible minority lawyers
The Law Society has identified the retention of Aboriginal lawyers in the profession as a key objective. In support of that, the Society released its report Towards a More Diverse Legal Profession: Better practices, better workplaces, better results in June 2012. It makes a case for diversity, including the retention and advancement of both Aboriginal and visible minority lawyers and provides, for the consideration of the legal profession, best practices and tools to enhance diversity. The report also includes demographic data to better understand the participation of both Aboriginal and visible minority lawyers in the legal profession. The hope is that this report will form the foundation to get the legal community working together to create effective solutions. The Law Society is committed to the principles of equity and diversity and believes the public is best served by a more inclusive and representative profession. Read the report.
Reports and studies
Towards a More Diverse Legal Profession: Better practices, better workplaces, better results (June 2012)
Report of the Retention of Women in Law Task Force (June 30, 2009)
Lawyers with Disabilities: Overcoming Barriers to Equality, a report of the Disability Research Working Group (October 2004)
Model policies have been created and designed to help law firms achieve equity and diversity in the workplace. Policies include:
- Flexible Work Arrangements
- Guidelines – Recruiting, Interviewing and Hiring Practices
- Pregnancy and Parental Leave
- Respectful Language Guideline
- Workplace Accommodation
- Workplace Equality
- Workplace Harassment
Legal services society list of Aboriginal lawyers and students
In support of the Benchers’ strategic objective to retain more Aboriginal lawyers in the legal profession, the Law Society is assisting the Legal Services Society in creating a list of Aboriginal lawyers and articled students who are interested in supporting each other and improving access to legal services for Aboriginal people in BC.
According to research commissioned by the Legal Services Society, First Nations people prefer to speak with an Aboriginal person and, if they are unable to do so, may not seek the legal help they need. Pamela Shields, the Aboriginal Services Program Manager for the Legal Services Society, says, “one of the tools we need to improve legal services for First Nations people is a list of Aboriginal lawyers. We’re looking for people with either practising or non-practising status who are willing to, now or in the future, work with Aboriginal communities or individuals and consider being part of a network to support each other and possibly mentor other Aboriginal lawyers, articled students and law students.” The list is voluntary and there is no obligation to take on legal aid clients or articled students if you choose to sign up.
To join or get more information, contact Pamela Shields at 604.601.6298.
The bottom line for law firms on diversity and Making the case for diversity (Benchers' Bulletin, 2012 No. 1 Spring)
We've come a long way baby ... or have we? (Benchers' Bulletin, 2011 No. 3 Fall)
Judge Scow’s inspiring story (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2010 No. 2 Summer)
Retaining women lawyers (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2009 No. 2 Summer)
Harassment is a power game (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2008 No. 4 October)
Equity Ombudsperson: A resource for legal professionals (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2008 No. 4 October)
Permissible social contact or sexual harassment? (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2008 No. 2 May)
If it’s unwelcome – it may be sexual harassment (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2008 No. 1 March)
President’s View: A perspective on the role of women in the law today (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2007 No. 5 December)
Advocating for equal opportunities (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2007 No. 5 December)
Fragile freedom (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2007 No. 4 October)
New Equity Ombudsperson initiatives (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2007 No. 4 October)
President’s View: The quest for equality and diversity in the legal profession (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2007 No. 3 July)
Business case for the retention of women in the legal profession (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2007 No. 2 May)
Forum highlights need to look beyond wheelchair access (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2007 No. 2 May)
From the Equity Ombudsperson: Creating a culture of choice – The welcoming workplace (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2006 No. 3 July-August)
From the Equity Ombudsperson: Creating the culture of choice: Part 2 – Would you recognize harassment? (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2006 No. 1 January-February)
From the Equity Ombudsperson: Creating the culture of choice – Sexual harassment: Recognizing it. Dealing with it. (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2005 No. 4 September-October)
Women in the Legal Profession — new initiatives explored (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2005 No. 3 July-August)
Equality initiatives elsewhere may hold promise for BC women lawyers (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2005 No. 2 April-May)
From the Equity Ombudsperson: Show leadership in your firm by making equity a key to productivity (Benchers’ Bulletin, 2005 No. 1 February-March)