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Increasing Diversity in Legal Profession

By 250 News

Monday, July 09, 2012 03:55 AM

Prince George, B.C.- The Law Society of B.C., which regulates the legal profession in British Columbia,  has produced a report aimed at encouraging law firms in the province to increase their ethnic diversity. 

The report “Towards a More Diverse Legal Profession: Better practices, better workplaces, better results” points out  that in B.C., Aboriginal peoples represent only 1.5% of the legal profession, yet they represent 4.6% of the total population in the province. The report also details how the proportion of Aboriginal lawyers did not change between 1996 and 2006. 

There is also disparity between the percentage of the population which is considered a “visible minority”, (particularly in the lower mainland) and the percentage of visible minority lawyers in that region.  Statistics Canada data indicates, visible minority lawyers represented 18% of all Vancouver lawyers in 2006, while the overall visible minority population that same year was 42%. By 2031, that overall visible minority population is projected to reach 59%. 

“We believe that we can do better and we need to do better” says Law Society President Bruce LeRose, “A more diverse legal profession is better for clients, better for firms and better for lawyers.” 

The report puts forth some suggestions for law firms to assist them to move towards greater diversity: 

1. Raising awareness of and correcting unconscious bias:

implementing meaningful workplace equality policies and developing clear processes for addressing discrimination and harassment.  Lawyers should also be sup­ported in developing skills and competencies in addressing bias, and responsibility for dealing with discrimination should be shared by everyone 

2. Developing bias-free performance evaluation and work assignment systems

revise evaluation systems to focus on competencies and behaviours rather than subjective impressions: for example, “can conduct dispositions with minimal supervision,” instead of more ambiguous attributes, such as, “shows initiative.” 

3. Promoting flexibility

more inclusive work environments are not likely to be developed without balanced hours programs and more workplace flexibility, particularly for women and women of colour lawyers, who often carry disproportionate family and community responsibilities.

4. Promoting mentoring and sponsoring

Mentoring can be a powerful tool for lawyer retention. Mentors can provide advice and sup­port related to practice management, meeting client needs and managing workload. Mentors can also provide critical access to informal networks and intelligence regarding the “unwritten rules” in a work environment that can significantly impact advancement. For visible minority and Aboriginal lawyers, mentors can be an invaluable resource for sharing experiences and for seeking advice related to navigating the racism and unconscious bias that they encounter in their firms and in the profession. 

“As a regulator, the Law Society cannot effect change on its own,” adds LeRose. “We hope this report will help lawyers and law firms start – or in some cases continue – down a path that will enable them to represent the diverse population of British Columbia.” 

The full report can be accessed here.  

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Shouldn't we stop calling it a visible minority if it represents 59% of the community? Greater than 50% and minority just doesn't sound like correct.....
In related news, by 2062, 105% of the population will be either a visible minority or a non-visible minority. LOL.
Hmmm ... non-visible, eh? Does that have anything to do with the quality of eyesight?

BTW, I believe that those over 65 are a relatively visible minority. Do we have a good representation of lawyers there?

And, by the way, I am not kidding about that. In case you wonder why, consider the case of abuse of the elderly.

How about children. How many lawyers are there for those under the age of majority?

And, let us not forget that there are not enough female lawyers either.

Can we discuss a little about what we should be concerned about as opposed to what really should not be that much of a concern and why that is so, if that is the case.

Of course, all this begs the question whether bald men are a minority and are visible. I think the answer to the first one is very likely ... and the second one, most definitely.

And then the next question as the must have follow up - should those men only be represented by male lawyers who are bald and driving a BMW?