Diversity in the legal profession: Are we there yet?

June 27, 2017

As Canada celebrates its 150th birthday this year, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the advancement of diversity in the legal profession. I am also proud to be celebrating the 25th anniversary of my call to the Bar, which in no way compares to the epic celebration of our nation’s birthday, but it has caused me to pause and reflect on how far diversity has progressed in the last 25 years.

  1. Diversity is an open conversation– 25 years ago, there were no conversations around diversity in legal professionals recruitment. The word was never spoken, let alone discussed at conferences, meetings or in the hallways of legal departments and law firms. Today, empowering conversations are taking place throughout the legal profession – let’s keep the conversations going!
  1. Becoming aware of unconscious bias– Many of us have now heard of unconscious bias – it refers to a bias that happens automatically, triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations. Unconscious bias is influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. If you haven’t already, take the Harvard University’s Implicit Association Test and make it a habit to call people out on their unconscious biases – after all, they are unconscious.
  1. Cultural competence– As a knowledge-based profession, some of us have started to move along the cultural competence continuum from cultural blindness to cultural knowledge but we have a lot of ground to cover before we can achieve the goal of cultural competence and proficiency – to achieve this, we must learn towork together effectively.
  1. Diversity as a strategic goal– Diversity goals make good business sense, not good philanthropy. Creating a link between a law firm’s diversity goals and business goals is critical to the success of every organization. (Take a look at David Namkung’s recent article, Diversity is good for a firm’s bottom linefor further reading on the subject).

Clearly, work still needs to be done, but for now let’s celebrate having moved the needle in the right direction. As a leader in legal recruitment services in Canada, The Counsel Network is committed to promoting diversity both within our own team and the greater legal community. Around the world, we promote diversity as Canada’s strength, it’s incumbent upon each of us to now make diversity the legal profession’s strength!

Dal Bhathal, Managing Partner