Model policies updated

The Law Society’s Women in the Legal Profession Task Force, chaired by Vancouver Bencher Gavin Hume, QC, has completed updates to existing Law Society model policies on flexible work arrangements and workplace harassment. The policies are intended to assist firms in developing their own documents by either choosing to adopt them in their entirety or using them as models to create their own policies.

The members approved creating the original model policies at a Special General Meeting in 1992, following recommendations by two Law Society studies — Women in the Legal Profession (1991) and Gender Equality in the Justice System (1992) — that examined why women were leaving the profession.

The Task Force updated the two model policies to ensure they incorporated best practices in use throughout North America. The Workplace Harassment Policy was revised to have more inclusive language, while changes to the Flexible Work Arrangement Policy were partly prompted by advances in technology that make it easier for people to work effectively and efficiently away from the office.

The updated Flexible Work Arrangements Model Policy recognizes that individuals may, for reasons such as work-life balance or family responsibilities, prefer flexible work arrangements, which can take many forms and have the effect of restructuring or reducing time devoted to work. The policy is intended to encourage and support lawyers in BC, with a view to increasing productivity and enhancing a law firm’s ability to recruit and retain lawyers with diverse perspectives. In drafting the policy, the Task Force recognized that some firms may choose to implement a detailed policy, while others may want to adopt broad statements of commitment and deal with requests on a case-by-case basis.

The updated Workplace Harassment Model Policy is intended to assist law firms to provide a healthy and respectful workplace free of harassment and discrimination. It serves as an example of steps to maintain a work environment where all firm members treat each other with mutual respect. The policy recognizes that what works for larger law firms may not work for all firms; accordingly, it includes a section to specifically assist sole practitioners and small firms in adapting the policy to suit their unique needs.

The revised policies can be found in the Practice Support/Articles section of the Law Society website at www.lawsociety.bc.ca.

In addition, the Task Force plans to bring forward for Bencher approval new policies and update other existing Law Society model policies before its mandate expires in December 2006.