There is no point in denying it: the legal profession has moved at a much slower pace than other industries in executing diversity and inclusion initiatives. But at the same time, more people are starting to pay attention to the subject. Close to a year ago, Hadiya Roderique’s Globe and Mail article, “Black on Bay Street,” was circulated widely throughout most large law firms. The article, published the weekend before in-firm interviews, had a ripple effect across Bay Street, casting a spotlight on the pervasiveness of unconscious bias throughout the profession. Meanwhile, the Law Society of Ontario has also taken action by requiring every lawyer in the province to write and abide by a statement of principles, in which they promise to promote diversity and inclusion in the profession.
We have been pleased to see this spotlight on the unique barriers that certain members of our profession face in securing and sustaining employment. But there is more we can do to drive change.
Bay Street is about to enter the on-campus interview season. This means that law students all across the country will have an opportunity, in their job interviews, to ask recruiters about the diversity and inclusion initiatives at their firm. We know it can be difficult to broach this subject, but it’s important. It not only helps students identify which firms take diversity seriously; it also puts pressure on firms to do better. So we have prepared a list of 10 questions that all students should consider asking during their on-campus interviews. At the end of your next interview, ask one or two of them to help you truly understand a firm’s approach to diversity and inclusion.
Firms are competing for top talent and students should feel empowered to ask these questions:
- What does diversity and inclusion mean at your firm — and how does your firm measure it to ensure its progress?
- Does your firm provide unconscious bias training to lawyers before they conduct job interviews, annual employee reviews and partnership-admission meetings?
- Does your firm have a work-allocation policy for students and associates? How is it administered?
- What incentives or initiatives does your firm have in place to ensure diverse lawyers are included in revenue-driving activities, such as business development?
- One leading Toronto firm recently announced that it will be implementing name-blind hiring. Is this a process that your firm may consider?
- Does your firm collect and track diversity statistics of its lawyers? How is the data used?
- How did the lawyers at your firm react to Hadiya Roderique’s article, “Black on Bay Street”?
- Does your firm have a diversity and inclusion officer and/or a diversity committee? If so, what is their mandate?
- Does your firm have affinity groups or an affinity-group policy?
- What role does senior management play in promoting diversity and inclusion at your firm?
Suhuyini Abudulai is a partner at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP. Atrisha Lewis is an associate at McCarthy Tétrault LLP. Mariam Moktar is an associate at Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP.