Diversity in the Legal Profession
David R. Allgood, Executive Vice-President and General Counsel for Royal Bank of Canada speaking on behalf of the “A Call to Action: Diversity in the Legal Profession” seminar.
Leveraging diversity is hard work, it requires having concrete goals and plans of action, and it requires a persistent focus and an appreciation for the fact that many living a diversity is a personal and an emotional experience. It’s not about “let’s do diversity today” it is about embedding diversity in our every day business and making it an intrinsic part of our people and our client’s strategies.
In the legal groups, I am going to be talking to my fellow GC’s, and I have talked to them once and I will continue to talk to them about joining “The Call to Action” and getting behind the initiative.Continue reading
Thomas Fagan, the Director of Diversity and Inclusion with the Ministry of the Attorney General for Ontario, is one of two recipients of the 2011 Hinton J. Lucas International Award for Promoting Diversity in the Legal Profession.
The award, presented by A Call to Action Canada, will be presented to Fagan at ACTAC’s fourth Annual Conference in Toronto on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. Fagan shares the honour with Yolanda Coly, the Senior Director of Advocacy and Development at the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms, which is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
ACTAC was co-founded by Joy Casey and Nicky Huq to encourage in-house counsel to take a leadership role in advancing diversity and inclusiveness in the legal profession. More information is available by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 416-368-3847.
A Call to Action Canada held a symposium in Toronto on Sept. 15. Co-founder Joy Casey talks about why it’s important for companies and law firms to move beyond discussion and take real action.
A Call to Action Canada, which aims to promote diversity in the legal profession held a symposium September 15, in Toronto. Lawyers attending had the opportunity to hear from a number of speakers address issues such as the challenges facing aberrational lawyers and how the entire of the attorney general has worked to create an environment of sustainable diversity. and inclusion, key note speaker John Tory, who is co-chair of Diverse City opened the event. He spoke to the audience about the importance of diversity in legal departments.
A Call to Action co-founder and organizer of the symposium, Joy Casey, acknowledge that there is a sense of diversity fatigue in the profession as such firms haven’t done enough to make diversity a priority.
Watch more of the video, to hear Joy Casey’s passion for change, and why change is happening for a greater need.
Joel Stern, Legal Consultant and Board Member, NAMWOLF, on a Call to Action Canada: Women and Minority Owned Law Firms
The Call to Action in Canada, in the United States there is two separate call to actions basically. There’s the Call to Action United States, Legal, which is we commit as in-house counsel to give more business to law firms who are doing a better job with diversity and inclusion programs, and I call that “Big Law firm Diversity Inclusion” and its a very political organization and there’s a lot of general counsels behind it, it has a lot of history, I personally call it “the In-Action” , no offense to anybody because it’s top down and doesn’t have bottom up in middle things are not getting done, and that is just a personal observation.
So that is aimed at that. NAMWOLF for the states is aimed at minority and women owned law firms. Joy made a decision with the help of a lot of legal counsel and a lot of folks that have been through this to make the Call to Action in Canada really two elements. One, we need to do a better job with the big law firms in getting them to be more diverse and inclusion, not only at the bringing in but at the promotion and partners and everything else. And number two, to look at giving business to minority and women owned law firms, like Janet’s law firm, so it was combined. And the reason it was combined, in my view, it was complimentary not in conflict with each other.
It’s a complex question, because there are a lot of people that have a different view, that it should be one of the other, and it should be separate. Personally I think believe they are very complimentary and once again it’s not about us, it’s not about the law firms, its about the societal benefits of doing what we are doing and doing the right thing.Continue reading
When Janet Bomza started her own immigration firm in the mid-1990s, she put her father’s name on the letterhead.
Bomza felt she needed the name of her father, a sole practitioner himself, to lend legitimacy to the firm on both its letterhead and its web site.
She has since removed his name. “We’ve come a long way,” she said. “There really was an assumption that male lawyers could do it better.”
About 16 years later, the largely women-dominated Bomza Law Group has carved out its niche in the business immigration field. But getting there wasn’t easy, particularly since many of the traditional venues for networking with clients — a drink after work, a golf game or a sporting event — aren’t as easy for women lawyers.
“It was really hard,” she said, noting the firm got a big break when a colleague recommended it to a large corporate client and then set about establishing a reputation for cost consciousness.
Bomza was speaking at the conference on diversity in the legal profession organized by A Call to Action Canada in Toronto last week. She was part of a panel on promoting women- and minority-owned law firms, an area where the U.S. legal profession has been significantly more active.
In that country, the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) has been working to bring together companies that use legal services and its member firms in order to open up new opportunities.
The goal is to have companies commit to spending five per cent of their outside legal budget at women- and minority-owned firms, said Yolanda Coly, NAMWOLF’s senior director of advocacy and development.
So far, the organization has signed up 200 Fortune 500 companies and public entities. It also has almost 100 women- and minority-owned firms that benefit from networking opportunities at NAMWOLF’s annual meeting in order to grab a share of the corporate legal work available.
NAMWOLF’s work differs from that of the U.S. Call to Action organization, which focuses on efforts by in-house counsel at large corporations to direct their legal budgets to firms with better records on diversifying their legal staff.
In Canada, A Call to Action is working on both aspects and is currently planning activities around creating a list of women- and minority-owned firms here, a task that co-founder Joy Casey said is taking time “because there’s no easy way to find them.”
Canada is also catching up to the United States in terms of organized efforts around diversity in the legal profession, a fact evidenced by the significant presence of U.S. lawyers from companies like Accenture Inc. at the conference last week. But things are happening.
As the keynote speaker, Ratna Omidvar of the Maytree Foundation, pointed out, Toronto’s DiverseCity research project is wrapping up a study of 20 law firms, Crown prosecutors, judges, and law schools to look at the representation of diverse groups in senior leadership positions in the legal profession.
She wasn’t yet able to release the results but said, “I can tell you that there’s lots of room for improvement.”
At the same time, a group of 40 general counsel in Canada came together this month to sign onto Legal Leaders for Diversity and Inclusiveness, a pledge to promote diversity by considering it in their hiring and purchasing practices.
But Casey, who welcomes the new effort, nevertheless points out the lack of “teeth” behind the pledge through consequences for law firms that aren’t doing enough on diversity.
The idea is that companies would terminate their relationship with those firms, something Casey acknowledges has been an issue as A Call to Action works to expand beyond the seven signatory companies it currently has.
There really was an assumption that male lawyers could do it better,’ says Janet Bomza.
To me, it’s fundamental,” she says, adding the idea is that such consequences would be a “last-step measure.”
In the meantime, while diversity is a popular notion in Canada, there are controversial aspects such as questions around quotas and whether allocating work to women- and minority-owned law firms takes away from lawyers of diverse backgrounds already working at the big Bay Street institutions.
It’s a question that offends Coly. “How dare they?” she responded when panel moderator Joel Stern mentioned how that question came up at a recent U.S. discussion. “All we’re asking is for the opportunity to fairly compete for your outside legal dollar,” she said.
“We’re not even charging you as much,” she added.
For his part, Stern noted that part of the issue is what he called the big firms’ atrocious record of hiring women partners and those from minority groups in the first place.
At the same time, he said that under a framework of allocating five per cent of companies’ legal budgets to women- and minority-owned firms, there’s room for both them and their traditional counterparts to thrive.
Omidvar, too, addressed the question of quotas for achieving diversity. She differentiated, for example, between quotas and targets, something she said is more about setting a goal that firms can measure themselves against. “A target is not a quota,” she said.
Nevertheless, many of the participants at the conference, including Omidvar, Bomza, and Coly, noted that despite the many efforts going on, real progress takes time. “We haven’t gone as far as I would have hoped,” Coly said.
Kevin Derbyshire guest speaker at A Call to Action Canada
Former Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel, E.I. DuPont Canada Company
Speaking on behalf of diversity
I just wanted to Segway into this comment, what we need to do, and what I am doing, and what David Allgood at RBC is doing, and what we are going to have a series of discussions after this, is to let you guys know, is we are pushing the message amongst the GC community, so I sit on the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association Board with GC’s across Canada, and I am putting on the agenda “Diversity”. What does it mean, and in our commitment as GC’s to it and are we prepared to move our money with it or against it. Right, and those kinds of questions, I think, have to be raised and those kinds of discussions have to be had and that kind of ground well is so important, and I guess the last thing that I would say is, while we all have to do our part, I think that the in-house bar is really the one that really needs to set an example in this regard and when I in the push that I have been doing with my fellow GC’s, I have been asking, you name the large company and I have been speaking to the GC, “Why aren’t you involved in this”.
Many say “well, we’ve got our own” initiatives and we’re comfortable with those initiatives.” And my comment is “Well, why can’t we coleus and link those initiatives.” There is a fair amount of my backyards ok, so I don’t need to get involved in any other organizations. I just wanted to offer that to the group as well hearing directly from my colleagues from the GC community. You know making these kinds of comments or the one that we had when I spoke at the last session here in November, and the economic times have really got us, you know, prioritize different things. Well that’s just not good enough. That’s just not an answer to the significant issue.Continue reading
In his online article for Canadian Lawyer in January of this year, Joel Stern, deputy general counsel and director of legal services North America for Accenture’s legal group, issued a challenge to Canadian lawyers.
As he had done in his keynote speech at A Call to Action Canada’s Summit in November 2009, Stern challenged Canadian law departments and law firms to build on the successes achieved in the U.S. and leverage what they have learned about promoting diversity and inclusion in the profession.
His message was reinforced during Accenture’s presentation at our second annual conference a couple of weeks ago, when he also encouraged us to learn from mistakes made in the U.S. and improve on the U.S. Call to Action by breaking new ground.
We fully intend to take Joel and others up on their generous offers to help us do just that.
A Call to Action Canada is an initiative started in early 2009 to advance diversity in the legal profession. ACTAC is inspired by the Call to Action, which was set in motion in the U.S. in 2004 by several chief legal officers at some of the largest U.S. and international corporations. Frustrated with the lack of progress for women and minority lawyers, they drafted a mission statement directed to senior in-house counsel, encouraging them to use their economic power and leverage as clients to ensure that their legal services suppliers demonstrate real progress on diversity or risk losing the business. Approximately 100 chief legal officers became signatories to that commitment on behalf of their organizations.
ACTAC’s mission statement has been adapted from the U.S. version. Corporate signatories pledge to:
(a) make decisions regarding which law firms represent their companies based in significant part on the diversity performance of the firms;
(b) look for enhanced opportunities for those firms which positively distinguish themselves in this area and end or limit retainers with firms who consistently show a lack of meaningful interest in being diverse; and
(c) look for opportunities to direct work to firms which are controlled by, or have a substantial number of, partners who are women or minorities.
Our mission statement is supported by such progressive corporations as Accenture, Deloitte, DuPont, and Royal Bank of Canada.
In response to Stern’s challenge and the valuable input from many others already involved in this effort, ACTAC is driving a number of initiatives to encourage and promote direct and strategic action by:
With the help of the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) in the U.S., whose managing director Yolanda Coly was also a presenter at the April 2010 conference, we encourage companies and law firms to direct a percentage of their work (including co-counsel, referral, and conflict work from law firms) to firms controlled by women and minorities.
The Canadian women and minority law firms web site will help ensure organizations can find experienced and diverse lawyers to suit their needs.
The advice from our colleagues in the U.S. is that, to be effective, diversity and inclusion programs need to have a buy-in from all levels of the organization, have clear and measurable personal and organizational goals, that progress must be tracked and measured, and that success should be rewarded.
Measuring success inevitably raises the issue of metrics and collecting law firm demographics. The October 2009 issue of Canadian Lawyer had a focus on diversity. In her column from the editor’s desk in that edition, Gail Cohen challenged law firms to “be brave” and show their numbers. The response to the challenge has been resounding silence. The idea of disclosing their demographics sends shivers through the major firms — and with good reason.
However, as our U.S. supporters know, programs that get measured get done and metrics are an essential part of measuring progress. It will not be a surprise to anyone in the profession in Canada to learn that the demographics of women and minorities at the upper levels of major firms are still dismal at this point.
ACTAC holds that we need to start the process of collecting data now and is working with others who are developing tools designed to gather and analyze such information. The purpose is not to attack firms on their current numbers but to establish benchmarks so progress can be tracked.
Moreover, how can any organization really understand its people and create a truly inclusive environment to attract and retain the best talent if it does not try to know who its people are?
Speaker after speaker at ACTAC’s conferences have argued eloquently and passionately that fostering diversity and creating an inclusive culture are not just the right things to do but are also smart business practices.
We encourage Canadian in-house counsel to become signatories to ACTAC’s mission statement and we welcome the active support and commitment of all lawyers in making sustainable change a reality.
Joy Casey is an independent practitioner, focusing on commercial litigation and employment law and also general counsel to Aurora Holdings Co. Ltd. and is the co-founder of A Call to Action Canada. For more information on the initiative, go to acalltoactioncanada.com.
Originally reported by the Canadian LawyerContinue reading
The MCCA network extends its congratulations to board member Hinton J. Lucas, DuPont Company’s vice president and assistant general counsel, upon being recognized by A Call to Action Canada for his leadership and advocacy to advance diversity efforts in law firms outside the U.S. The group has established an annual award that is named in his honor, and the inaugural awards were presented to both Mr. Lucas and Kevin Derbyshire, general counsel of DuPont Canada.
In 2009, Mr. Lucas and MCCA general counsel Brandon Fitzgerald traveled to Ontario to speak at a diversity summit organized by a group of Canadian lawyers who wished to launch their own equivalent to the Call to Action, which was set in motion in 2004 by senior corporate legal officers in the United States. Its mission is to encourage and support in-house counsel in taking a leadership role in advancing diversity and inclusiveness in the legal profession. Signatories insist that their outside law firms demonstrate a true commitment to the full participation and advancement of women and minority lawyers within law firms. They also limit or terminate relationships with firms that demonstrate a lack of interest in being diverse and inclusive.
These efforts have been ongoing; so far, three corporations have signed A Call to Action Canada—DuPont Canada, Royal Bank of Canada, and Accenture LLP. For more information, visit www.acalltoactioncanada.com.
Hinton Lucas, Assistant General Counsel for DuPont speak on the “Call to Action” in many corporations and law firms in the United States.
We talked about the Call to Action in the United States starting out and around the year 2004, even prior to that time many corporations and law firms were doing an awful lot of work in this particular area in this arena. But as a Call to Action has demonstrated there is so much more that needs to be done. In our company, we are committed to diversity and to inclusion. If you will take a look at in the United States, the question was asked, we talked about affirmative action, we have evolved from affirmative action to the word diversity to now most people use the terms more and more of inclusion.
It was mentioned earlier, that we are talking more about just minorities, we are talking about all kinds of different inclusion by having a breath of input, and breath of knowledge of all people you do get a better product. Now we know that any advances in this particular area that all of us have been working on for years and years, are incremental at best. We talked about the standpoint of the business case and we have all mentioned that it is very difficult to measure. And I will tell you being a member of a science company, DuPont we have just celebrated our 206th year in existence and that’s a long time I know, we have attempted to take advantage of the diversity on a world wide basis.
The DuPont company as I have mentioned, as we have celebrations our 206th anniversary, and over the last two decades, of the 20th century, enormous demographic change have swept the United States. With minorities becoming the fastest growing segment of the population, and somewhat acan to that currently women make up over 50%, plus of all the law school graduates in the United States, so we start to talk about what happens to all these law school graduates but the demographics folks are changing. DuPont embraced the changes over the last couple of decades of the 20th Century, to focus on diversity and people as a core value for our company.
From DuPont’s prospective, to continue to be globally competitive our company must have and employee base that is as diverse as the customer that buys our products, the shareholder who buys our stock and the vendor that supplies us with goods and services and by all means the communities in which we operate. The business case that we have mentioned in fact have normally comes at you this way, an attorney asks you the question and said “I know that it may be the right thing to do, but please tell me Lucas why is so important to your company and why should it be important to my firm.”
Now instead of me just basically saying “Are you kidding, I don’t believe that you asked that question,” we take it positive look at this and say ”alright, let’s talk about this”. And as I have mentioned, the member of the law department of a science company, I know that there are very few empirical
studies that basically make the business case.
To hear more about diversity and inclusion in corporations and law firms, make sure to watch the video above.Continue reading
Law departments urged to terminate relationships with firms that show no interest, or lack of compliance – in support of their commitment to legal diversity
(Toronto, ON) November 18, 2009: Managing partners of several Toronto-based law firms, and senior legal officers of several major global corporations, will congregate on November 19th, in support of A Call to Action Canada’s initiative, Promoting Diversity in the Legal Profession. Beginning at 8:30 AM, the summit will be taking place at the The University Club of Toronto, 380 University Avenue.
This event is being held “in an effort to promote diversity in law firms, and encourage legal practitioners to raise the bar and change the way business is conducted,” says Joy Casey, a Lawyer and founder of A Call to Action Canada. “We intend to actively seek out opportunities to direct work to firms which are controlled by, or have a substantial number of partners who are women or minorities.”
The mission of A Call to Action Canada is straightforward – to provide a forum designed to support in-house counsel in taking leadership roles to advance diversity and inclusiveness.
The commitment of this group is exemplary, as their message is demonstrated by their mandate; to terminate relationships with outside law firms which show a lack of interest or commitment to being diverse and inclusive.
Delegates participating in this event include representatives from corporations such as Accenture, Dell, Dupont, and RBC, in addition to representation from prominent law firms, which include Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, Fraser Milner and Heenan Blaike LLP, and others. Other participating organizations include The Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council, CAMSC; an organization that facilitates procurement opportunities between major corporations and aboriginal and minority suppliers.