Championing Equity and Diversity: Frank Walwyn Receives 2019 Law Society Medal
Called to the Bar in 1995, Frank Walwyn has been a leader in the legal profession and a trailblazer in the Black legal community in Ontario.
He is the longest serving President of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers and has championed equity and diversity in the legal profession, making invaluable contributions to the legal community as a whole. Throughout his involvement with various organizations such as the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee, The Advocates’ Society and Community Legal Education Ontario, Frank has always encouraged and promoted diversity in the profession, both on the bench, and in the legal community writ large.
He is currently a partner at WeirFoulds LLP where he was the first Black associate at one of Canada’s oldest law firms, and one of few Black partners on Bay Street.
Frank is one of this year’s recipients of the Law Society Medal which is awarded to Ontario lawyers who have made a significant contribution to the profession.
What does this award mean to you?
It is hard to put into words the significance of this award to me. It is easy to say I feel honoured and humbled. But it is much more than that. To be one of the Law Society Medal recipients picked from over 52,000 lawyers is an indescribable tribute and one that I will cherish all of my life.
What drives you (or has driven you) in your legal career?
I view my legal career not just as the practice of law, but as including the way I interact with society and my community. I truly enjoy the practice of law and that drives me forward. The intellectual challenge in practicing law is phenomenal. But what is critical to my enjoyment is the people I work with while practicing law. All of my colleagues at WeirFoulds, whether they be assistants or managing partners, have provided a work environment that allows me to grow in the profession while enjoying every minute of it. When I couple that enjoyment with the ability to give back to my community, the “drive factor” is complete. I love what I do and I enjoy being able to give back.
What piece of advice do you have for new legal professionals beginning their career?
It is important to take the profession seriously, but yourself less seriously. What we are allowed to do as legal professionals is a real privilege. But it is not about us – it is about our clients. They often come to us at their most vulnerable times and we must always remember that in our interactions with them. Also, learn from those who have gone before. Do not be afraid to approach the leaders of the profession to ask for career advice. I have done it myself with complete strangers and I have never been rebuffed. It is important not to just hear their advice, but to listen to it. Listen critically and distill from what is said that essential lesson that will help shape your path. Finally, enjoy the profession. It is a true joy when practiced properly.
The Law Society Medal is given for outstanding service within the profession, whether in the area of practice, in the academic sphere, or in some other professional capacity where the service is in accordance with the highest ideals of the legal profession. It may be awarded for devotion to professional duties over a long term or for a single outstanding act of service.
This year, 12 outstanding members of the legal professions will be honoured with Law Society awards on May 22nd.