CBA guide joins other legal initiatives in encouraging diversity

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) just announced at its annual general meeting in Vancouver that it has launched an online “Measuring Diversity in Law Firms” guide. This guide joins a growing list of initiatives that aim to encourage more diversity in the legal profession in Canada.

In a press release, the CBA outlined the goal of its guide:

Aimed at law firms that are looking for ways to assess their diversity performance, the guide explains two aspects of diversity measurement: self-identification surveying – where employees self-identity their membership in specific diversity groups, by characteristics such as gender identity, language, religion and ability – and diversity climate surveying, where employee perceptions of fairness, discrimination and attitude are gauged.

“There is a growing recognition within law firms that if they make diversity and inclusion key parts of their strategic plan, they will have an advantage in accessing a broader talent pool of articling students and new lawyers,” says Level Chan, Vice-Chair of the CBA’s Standing Committee on Equality.

“Firms will be better able to profit from new sources of legal work in opening markets around the world, and respond to growing calls from clients that their lawyers embrace the same values of diversity and inclusion as they do,” adds Level Chan.

Lexpert ran a feature on diversity in its latest issue. Our issue focused on two other initiatives that are also attempting to encourage diversity at law firms – although they take different approaches:

So we have two groups pushing the same goal, but by different means: Legal Leaders for Diversity and Inclusiveness wants to draw in-house counsel into the fold to work cooperatively to increase inclusivity; Call to Action Canada seeks to encourage companies to deal with law firms that are inclusive, to the economic detriment of those who won’t embrace diversity. While the general agreement is that corporate counsel are driving change, how that change is accomplished and advocated for has become the subject of a friendly tension between these two groups.
Lexpert also quoted Level Chan, Vice-Chair of the CBA’s Standing Committee on Equality, about diversity in the legal profession:

For firms wondering how they can go about making changes for themselves, the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) will be launching tools through its website for measuring diversity in about six months, says diversity committee member Level Chan of Halifax’s Stewart McKelvey.

Chan says the initiative involved canvassing firms and CBA members and it determined that clients were ahead of firms in recognizing the diversity of their customers. But, he adds, it hasn’t been Canadians behind that push. Rather, he says, it has been American companies, with the ultimate drivers being corporate counsel.

But that is also starting to change. Chan points out that with the increasingly globalized nature of Canada’s large companies, the pressure on law firms to be diverse is coming from Canadian in-house counsel and companies as well. “Certainly, the leading legal professional is a leader in the world. Part of it flows from businesses such as Bombardier and BMO. If they have expanded their scope, then business expands. That leads to expansion in diversity elsewhere…Our clients are ahead of us. Our clients are more diverse, especially given globalization, and they recognize the diversity of their clients.”

One comment on “CBA guide joins other legal initiatives in encouraging diversity

  1. jonny
    August 13, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    think it’s ridiculous that this story doesn’t mention that Deloitte departed Call to Action Canada

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