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Paul Schabas sm

LSUC implements reporting requirements for diversity and inclusion

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 @ 9:27 AM | By Amanda Jerome

The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) has implemented new annual reporting requirements that lawyers and paralegals must comply with before the year ends. The mandatory actions include creating a statement of principles and a human rights and diversity policy.

Paul Schabas image

LSUC treasurer Paul Schabas

“We set out five strategies in our report from the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees [working group] and one of the main ones, and one of the first ones we want to do, is to accelerate a culture shift,” said LSUC treasurer Paul Schabas about the inspiration behind the new requirements.

According to the LSUC, the creation and adoption of an individual statement of principles is to encourage legal professionals to acknowledge their responsibility to promote equality in the profession and also in the public.

“Legal professionals should have a statement recognizing their obligations as lawyers. That they are committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion. I think it holds them to account to themselves as a reminder to their obligation to demonstrate leadership in this area,” said Schabas, adding that this was something that Convocation debated about and decided to include in the reporting requirements.

The creation of a human rights and diversity policy is only mandatory for legal workplaces that have 10 or more licensees. The policy is meant to address matters such as fair recruitment, retention, and advancement.

Schabas said that the LSUC implemented the human rights policy to ensure workplaces take tangible steps going forward to promote and implement their obligations to diversity.

“We want to create lasting change and we want them [legal professionals] to lead the change. So any workplace of a meaningful size needs written policies that they will comply with and lead to progressive change,” he added.

The LSUC would also like licensees to complete an inclusion survey, so they can measure the profession’s progress in implementing inclusive practices. The survey is not mandatory, but participants are encouraged to complete the survey by Oct. 2. An independent research firm, Strategic Communications, will be conducting the survey and all responses will be kept confidential and can be submitted anonymously.

Schabas said the LSUC did an extensive study of the professional legal climate in Ontario, which revealed systemic racism throughout the profession.

“We don’t want to tolerate systemic racism. We want to avoid that. We want to turn the page and be a profession that truly reflects the population of the province and makes sure that legal workplaces are inclusive of all Ontarians,” he said.

Schabas explained that at this stage, people who don’t comply with the new requirements will be sent a written notice stating that they’re noncompliant and they will be encourage to comply.

“We want to set them up for success. We’re not there to be punitive. We’re there to be compliance oriented,” he said.

“I think our members should be embracing this. This is about doing the right thing for everybody. It’s also doing the right thing for them for business because I think this is something that the business community and the broader population are all recognizing that it’s important for us to remain a progressive, inclusive society,” Schabas added.

Diversity and inclusion will continue to be a topic of discussion at the law society’s upcoming September Convocation as the benchers will be considering a motion to change the society’s name to promote a more inclusive and modern image.