Year in Review: 2018 Equity Events

Posted: 12/12/2018

2018 was a busy year for the Law Society’s Equity Initiatives Department. Equity partnered with various legal and community organizations to host 11 events throughout the year as part of its equity legal education series. It has been a very successful year with a host of innovative program offerings and record-breaking levels of attendance.

This year’s events have addressed pressing equity issues in the legal professions including unconscious bias, intersectionality, and sexual harassment. Many of this year’s events have been delivered through novel formats instead of being presented as lectures and panel discussions. For example, on the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, the Law Society partnered with Human Rights Watch and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada to host an interview-style event featuring a conversation between an Egyptian lawyer and Farida Deif, the Canada Director of Human Rights Watch. Other events have been structured as workshops providing practical skills training. For example, Keya Dasgupta facilitated a workshop on networking from the perspective of a racialized person, and Tana Turner of Turner Consulting Group led a workshop about countering the effects of unconscious bias on recruitment, retention and advancement. For those attending in person, programs were followed by a reception where attendees were encouraged to meet representatives of partner organizations, and to speak with representatives of Law Society programs such as the Coach and Advisor Network (CAN) and the Discrimination and Harassment Counsel (DHC) Program, both of which provide important supports to licensees.

Unconscious Bias event

Unconscious Bias workshop speakers. From left: Jocelyn Tatebe, Tana Turner and Jacquelyn Stevens. (Nov 14, 2018)

The Law Society has been hosting regular events as part of its equity legal education series for over 15 years. The series seeks to promote awareness, education and discussion among members of the public and the legal professions on the challenges and opportunities that exist for Francophone, Indigenous, and equality-seeking communities in law and the legal profession. All series events are free and open for lawyers, paralegals and members of the public to attend. The events are held at Osgoode Hall, with most taking place in the evening. Those who are not able to attend the events in person have the option of participating by live webcast, or viewing an archived webcast after the program has concluded. This ensures that the reach of the equity legal education series is broad and provincial in scope. In 2018, approximately 5,800 people attended our programs.

Over the past year, almost all of the series events have been accredited for the new category of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Professionalism hours. Beginning in 2018, all lawyers and paralegals in Ontario are required to complete continuing professional development training on EDI issues. The introduction of this requirement was one of the recommendations of the final report of the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group. The Equity Initiatives Department has sought to make it easy for licensees to fulfill this new CPD obligations by offering free programs that are accredited for EDI professionalism hours, and by making archives of these programs available for free online. In total, there were 14.5 hours accredited towards the EDI requirement in 2018.

Heading into 2019, the Law Society intends to build on the successes of the past year by continuing to focus on timely EDI topics and to develop programs that are accredited for EDI professionalism hours. We will also continue to experiment with innovative and interactive formats to deliver these equity events. The equity legal education series plans to create more networking and mentoring opportunities, particularly for licensees from equity-seeking groups. The Law Society will continue to develop new partnerships in order to ensure that its programs are inclusive and have a wide reach and impact.