By Fariya Walji, LPP Assistant Director, Professional Development & Work Placements
Imagine walking into a firm and learning that everyone working there was born in the month of February. When you point it out, the managing partner says that the firm has a rigorous hiring process; it could be a coincidence. Further, the firm is running smoothly – why is there a need to re-evaluate the hiring process?
The answer is simple: The firm is missing out on top talent who happen to have birthdays in all months of the year.
The same answer applies when organizations question the need to re-evaluate their hiring process to allow for a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Race, gender, abilities, sexual orientation, etc. – like birthdays – are immutable characteristics. A workforce that is monolithic, even inadvertently, hinders its own ability to grow.
Diversity – of backgrounds, thought, and experiences – have a bone fide impact on revenue, talent retention, and innovation. A diverse organization can better serve a wider range of clients:
“A diverse team is more likely to relate to a particular audience’s wants, needs and pain points, creating greater opportunities to resonate with customers. Also, a diverse staff introduces the potential to reach new demographics in ways that might not have come to light with a homogenous group at the helm.” (Source: “4 Ways Diversity is Directly Linked to Profitability“ by Jana Turner, Enterpreneur.com, February 14, 2020″)
At the Law Practice Program (“LPP”), strengthening the diversity of the legal profession is reflected in the deliberate way we set our Candidates up for success as lawyers:
- Candidate Profile: Half of our Candidates graduate from Canadian law schools; the other half are internationally educated. In the most recent year of the program, 86 Candidates had 37 different Masters Degrees and 1 Ph.D.; 30 candidates had spent an average of 4 years practicing law abroad before relocating to Ontario.
- Teamwork & Mentorship: LPP Candidates spend the first four months of their experiential training in virtual firms where they have the opportunity to work with and learn from others. Candidates work under the supervision of a lawyer who serves as a mentor, and then halfway through the mentors rotate, so the Candidates have the chance to gain diversity of thought and experience even at the leadership level. Lawyers practicing across the province are invited to participate as mentors.
- Training: The training not only involves maintaining carriage of 7 files in criminal law, administrative law, business law, wills and estates, family law, real estate, civil litigation, but also includes building a business plan, completing a negotiations course, intensive corporate counsel programming and more. The training is designed to be well-rounded and help cultivate legal graduates into thoughtful lawyers.
- Work Experience: In the past 7 years, legal clinics, firms of all sizes, government branches, and in-house and corporate organizations across Ontario have partnered with the Law Practice Program to offer work experience positions for 4 months, where the Candidates put their prior training to good use and aid legal counsel in all aspects of their work. These organizations recognize that as the legal profession changes, the way in which we train our licensees also needs to change. If organizations want to continue to innovate, they need to attract top talent who bring unique perspectives that will serve clients effectively.
In the current climate, many organizations have taken a public stance against racism and in support of diversity, accessibility, and inclusion – including updating their social media to show support, making donations, and hiring a “Diversity and Inclusion Officer”. These are wonderful initial steps. To make meaningful and lasting change, these steps need to be backed by policy and monetary changes in order to enhance organizational leadership structure and operational systems.
Legal organizations that are deliberate in their internal review of how they hire, place, and retain top talent will thrive. Recognizing diversity as a necessity for growth, and partnering with institutions like the Law Practice Program that are practicing diversity at all levels, will enable the legal profession to serve and enhance the post-pandemic world with excellence.