Diversity Awareness and Cultural Competency as Core Skills for Canadian Lawyers

Later today, I will have the privilege of participating in a working group of the Chief Justice of Ontario’s Advisory Committee on Professionalism tasked with modernizing the basic principles of professionalism for lawyers.  High in priority is the importance of integrating equity, diversity and cultural competency into the package that lawyers must offer the public.

Historically an afterthought

The equity and diversity file has historically been an afterthought, tucked into the discussion after other ‘Wonder Bread’ aspects of professional merit are given full airing.  This has been a fault of those leading the discussion.  It is time to turn the agenda on its head.  The result is that we have promoted equity and diversity through conventional methods, with negligible effect in the bar and judiciary compared to other sectors of Canadian business and labour.  We have, till now, invoked skills of application more than cognition, policy handbooks more than classroom training, stick more than carrot.

As a point of reference, we have espoused (and imposed) virtues such as tolerance and belonging in order to foster greater participation within an established social order.  “Become one of us” actually implies a one-way benefit to the inductee in being introduced.  While we often follow up the welcome with a belief and/or statement that “diversity makes us better,” we rarely take active steps to achieve this betterment.

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My Choice for “Best New Blog” in the #clawbies2012 Awards

My Choice for CLawBies 2012 Best New Blog?  The Law Society of Upper Canada’s Treasurer’s Blog.

Not because the idea of a Treasurer’s blog is “cool.”  (Do we even want that?  No one outside of Ontario know he is actually the President of the Law Society, and we cling on to the misnomer to prevent the leader from being described with such epithets.)

Not because the Law Society under Tom Conway has embraced social media.  (He’s still a one-man-band.  We’ll wait for the chorus of  “lifer” benchers to sign up on Twitter.)

Not because it reaches out to a new generation of lawyers, who must become engaged.  (I don’t think that generation logs on to the Law Society site, except to record their CPD hours – at least they do that.) Continue reading

What the Québec Tuition Protest Taught Law Students

“The first thing we do, let’s …”

On May 16, 2012, masked protesters invaded a law class in Montréal.  (Protesters target law students at UQÀM, CJAD Radio Blog.)  What was the symbolism of this event?  This, particularly in a city where the invasion of a classroom of polytechnical learning has shaped the sensibilities of a generation.  What did it say about the fact that the event went hardly noticed in the rest of Canada?  What does it say about us, as mentors of future lawyers?  This month’s column, The Accidental Mentor, in Canadian Lawyer (follow link) explores the manifold lessons we learned about ourselves that day.

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« La première chose que nous faisons, nous allons … »

Le 16 mai 2012, des manifestants contre la hausse des droits de scolarité ont pris leur grève dans les classes de droit à l’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM).    (Protesters target law students at UQÀM, CJAD Radio Blog.)  L’article du mois dans la série Accidental Mentor (cliquez ici) du Canadian Lawyer, l’auteur fait l’exploration des leçons multi-directionnelles de cet attentat contre les étudiants de droit et contre la justice.

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Why Option 5 may not be a help to equality-seeking law candidates

(la version française suit)

This follows my earlier post on the articling options.

Following the Toronto stop on the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Articling Task Force Consultation’s road show, it appears many lawyers and stakeholders from equality-seeking groups (ESG) favour Option 5 (practical training course only) over Option 4 (keep articling and provide the practical training course to fill the gap, or accredit a third-year law school practicum in the “Carnegie” model).  (See the Canadian Lawyer report from the meeting.)  ESG members point to the statistic that this group secures articling placements at a 4% lower rate than the group overall.  (Page 11 of the Consultation Report.)  Providing a practical transition to the call to the bar that is the same for all, they say, will standardize candidacy for first-year law jobs. Continue reading

The Economics of articling, our Titanic

Apart from all the stale metaphors about deck chairs etc. …

(la version française suit)

A historical significance of the fatal 1912 maiden voyage of the Titanic was its foreboding of an end of a European social order already seeking a rescue from the New World. When it sank, there were not enough lifeboats. Aristocrats and steerage passengers alike perished, as a result. Had they survived, White Star Line would simply have built another and implemented better iceberg detection. The shortage of lifeboats was a matter of choice. So, too, is the decision the Bar of Ontario has to make about the training requirement for licensure of new lawyers. If we do not get this right, we will fail in our mandate to provide competence and access to justice. We also risk a lost generation of law school grads. We could, as the writer has argued, lose the right to self-regulate. The public would simply take it away.

In order to approach the lack of lifeboats in the context of our impending appointment with the iceberg, we have to understand the nature of the choice. From a transportation safety perspective, it is common to limit the the number of passengers a ship can carry by the number of lifeboats. Increase the capacity of the lifeboats, and you can let more on. There are others who say you should add lifeboats, according to the number of tickets you sell.

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