Law Times

March 18, 2019

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LAW TIMES COVERING ONTARIO'S LEGAL SCENE | MARCH 18, 2019 5 BY ANITA BAL AKRISHNAN Law Times IT has been more than a decade since the Law Society of Ontario voted to enhance the retention and advancement of women, and some candidates for bencher say it's time to tackle the issue again. Voter turnout in the bencher election is consistently lower among female-identifying licens- ees: In 1987, turnout was 58.4 per cent among men and 44.04 per cent among women, and by 2015, turnout was 35.7 per cent among men and 31.3 per cent among women, the law society's election results said. Women and gender- non-conforming candidates also appear to represent less than half of this year's candidates. The Law Society of Ontario did not provide a gendered breakdown by deadline. Still, Kincardine, Ont.-based lawyer Andrea Clarke, who is running in the April 30 election for the law society's new board, says women's issues are a central part of her election platform. She recalled appearing in court five days after giving birth. "I'm a mother of three young boys, all under the age of five. I'm a sole practitioner and I see the challenges for women," says Clarke. "We've done so well for at- tracting more women to the pro- fession over the years, which is fantastic, but it's the retention of these women. The attrition rates are high . . . I'd love to see a great- er support system and network. For a lot of women, particularly in solo practices, if you're going on maternity leave, it just doesn't make sense to return." A law society working group recommended in 2008 that the LSO adopt a multi-year pilot project called The Justicia Proj- ect, which got the support of 75 law firms, to support the reten- tion of women in private prac- tice. In addition to toolkits and guides to help retain women in the profession, the project spawned the Parental Leave As- sistance Program, which gives new parents $750 a week for up to 12 weeks if they are eligible. The project came on the heels of a report that found managing partners of firms were "over- whelmingly aware" that their firms were losing women in dis- proportionate numbers. As of 2014, The Justicia Proj- ect's website said that while women accounted for more than 50 per cent of Ontario law grad- uates, they were less than 35 per cent of lawyers and about 20 per cent of all partners in law firms. There are still issues fac- ing lawyers who are women or gender-non-conforming, can- didates such as Clarke say. She says she would like to see the law society's existing mentorship program expanded to helping women and mothers collaborate on issues such as co-ordinating parental leave. "It's important that the benchers are truly representa- tive of those that they speak on behalf of. So it is important that you have mothers, you have sole practitioners . . . if you want to ensure policies are challenged or are clearly thought through," says Clarke. "There has been progress over the years, but there still needs to be quite a bit more." In the last half of 2018, 61 per cent of complaints to the law society's Discrimination and Harassment Counsel were made by women, a Feb. 28 report to Convocation said. At a March 6 event at the LSO celebrating In- ternational Women's Day, a pan- el lamented the lack of women entrepreneurs in legal technol- ogy companies. Social media debates among lawyers have targeted issues such as dress codes and an ar- ticle suggesting women may not desire careers such as law where they "must start early, work very hard, and make many sacrific- es." After an online campaign about disparate robing areas in courthouses, the law society on Feb. 20 said it would implement a gender-neutral robing area in Osgoode Hall. Lawyers have also played a role in addressing these issues in other professions over the past year, amid landmark 2018 lawsuits around pay equity from the Supreme Court of Canada and Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Shalini Konanur, executive director and lawyer at the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, who is running for bencher, says that, while the conversation has opened on issues such as the unisex barrister's room, there are still larger issues for benchers to confront. She says the law society also plays "a huge role" in issues such as diversity on the bench and improving data collection. The province said in 2017 that it would work with the law society to improve diversity in judicial appointments. "I think the law society could be doing a bit more on this is- sue — they've had a little bit too much of a piecemeal approach to it," says Konanur. "The glass ceil- ing is not gone." LT Andrea Clarke, with her sons Isaac Clarke-Grant (left) and Isaiah Clarke-Grant (right), says women's issues are a central part of her bencher election platform. Divide remains in terms of parental leave, diverse judges LSO could go farther to help women lawyers, bencher candidates say NEWS The Canadian Lawyer InHouse Innovatio Awards is the pre-eminent award program recognizing innovation by members of the in-house bar within the Canadian legal market. These awards celebrate in-house counsel, both individuals and teams, who show leadership by becoming more efficient, innovative and creative in meeting the needs of their organizations. The Innovatio awards program draws on a panel of in-house counsel judges to determine the winners, based on a range of criteria. NOMINATIONS NOW OPEN NOMINATE AN INDIVIDUAL OR TEAM IN THE FOLLOWING CATEGORIES: • Law department leadership • Law department management • Legal operations • Diversity • Best practices in compliance systems • In-house M&A/Dealmakers • Working with external counsel • Litigation management • Risk management • Tomorrow's leader in innovation Accepting nominations from large, small and public sector/non-profit legal departments. NOMINATIONS CLOSE MARCH 29, 2019 For more information or to nominate visit Questions? Contact Jennifer Brown | SIGNATURE SPONSOR BRONZE SPONSOR BRONZE SPONSOR THE E B O L G AND MAIL MEDIA PARTNER GOLD SPONSOR PLATINUM SPONSOR COCKTAIL SPONSOR SILVER SPONSOR Untitled-2 1 2019-03-12 1:46 PM

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