Focus On

CGCA Tomorrow's Leader winner calls on bar to mentor junior diverse lawyers

Thursday, July 06, 2017 @ 12:23 PM | By Paula Kulig

Ingrid Minott, who was named Tomorrow’s Leader at this year’s Canadian General Counsel Awards, has a challenge for veteran members of the bar.

Ingrid Minott

Ingrid Minott, Deloitte LLP

"I would challenge every senior lawyer to actively mentor and/or sponsor a junior lawyer from a diverse background,” the legal counsel at Deloitte LLP told The Lawyer's Daily.

"Building a mentorship/sponsorship relationship with a diverse lawyer would not only assist with the knowledge and skills development that is necessary for career growth, but ... would also go a long way toward addressing the unconscious biases and perceptions that continue to exist about the abilities and qualifications of diverse lawyers — in particular, black female lawyers."

Minott said that as a director of the Black Female Lawyers Network, “I see it as my responsibility to be a source of support and encouragement for young black female lawyers entering the profession who are struggling with some of the same issues that I struggled with when I started to practise law.

"Yes, the legal profession has come a long way and I have seen improvements to black women gaining entry to the profession. However, change is slow and some of the same issues that existed 10 years ago continue to exist today as it relates to career progression for black women, notwithstanding the push for a more diverse and inclusive legal profession."

Minott obtained her bachelor of law and juris doctor degrees in 2009 through a three-year program offered jointly through law schools at the University of Windsor and the University of Detroit Mercy. She’s been called to the bars in Ontario, New York and the District of Columbia. She joined Deloitte’s in-house legal department in 2015 after working as an associate at Stikeman Elliott LLP since 2010, practising commercial litigation.

At Deloitte, she manages complex litigation and risk matters involving the company’s audit, tax, advisory and consulting lines of business, and is responsible for the delivery of legal services by external counsel.

"I left private practice because I wanted a new challenge that would allow me to build new skills and continue my career progression. When you’re in private practice, there’s a perception that by leaving private practice, you’re closing doors and losing out on the potential opportunities behind those doors. There’s also the perception that the opportunity to engage with complex legal issues disappears when one leaves private practice,” she said.

But Minott said her experience has been quite the opposite, giving her greater responsibility and encouraging her to expand her skills.

"As an in-house lawyer, you become a key adviser to your client and are expected to foresee and manage potential issues before they become large-scale problems. As a result, you have to become entrenched in your client’s business and develop industry knowledge,” she said. "The role of an in-house lawyer requires you to take responsibility quickly and make more decisions than a law firm associate would be expected to make."

Minott said the award was “particularly meaningful to me because it validates the choices that I made and the risks that I’ve taken professionally."

But it brings responsibility to encourage and support students and junior lawyers, she added. “This includes being accessible to students and lawyers of diverse backgrounds who often don’t have access to mentors at all, let alone mentors that are in leadership positions.”