Law Society promotes business case to keep women in private practice.
Courtesy of the Law Society of British Columbia
An exodus of women from the legal profession and a looming shortage of lawyers has prompted the Law Society of B.C. to build a business case to encourage law firms to take steps to keep women lawyers in private practice.
”We tracked new women lawyers between 2003 and 2008 and found that one third of them dropped out of the profession in that period,” said Kathryn Berge, QC, who is Chair of a Law Society task force formed to address the issue.
“This happened during a time when a record number of women entered the law – in greater numbers than men – yet today they represent only 29 per cent of private practice lawyers in the province.
“The flight of women from law comes when we are facing a looming lawyer shortage,” she said. “Unless something changes, we will see a serious negative impact on public access to legal services as baby boomers retire, particularly in small communities.”
The business case outlines the demographic issues facing the legal profession in B.C. and explains the business advantages of retaining and advancing women in private practice.
“The benefits of retaining women lawyers are significant,” said Berge, who practises in a small firm in Victoria. “Keeping and developing talent increases efficiency, client service, lawyer morale and future recruitment ability. This holds true in both good and bad times. There is also the benefit of a stronger and more sustainable firm culture based on merit, flexibility and diversity.”
One thing the business case does not suggest is that women should receive special treatment. It stresses the competitive advantages of creating firms that retain and advance talented lawyers, with a focus on serving clients in effective ways that make business sense and people sense.
The business case contains reference materials and a best practices toolkit, which will be of value to firms of all sizes seeking to improve their retention rates of women lawyers. The Retention of Women in Law Task Force is one of the initiatives the Law Society has implemented in furthering its strategic plan goal to enhance access to legal services.
A copy of the business case is available at lawsociety.bc.ca.
Photo: The Law Society’s Retention of Women in the Law Task Force, left to right: Jennifer Conkie, QC, Elizabeth Vogt, Richard Stewart, QC, Kathryn Berge, QC (Chair), Gavin Hume, QC, Anne Giardini, Michael Lucas (Manager, Policy & Legal Services), Maria Morellato, QC, Jan Lindsay and Susanna Tam (Staff Lawyer, Policy & Legal Services). Not pictured: Rosanne Kyle.
Photo credit: Brian Dennehy Photography
This article was published in the October 2009 issue of BarTalk. © 2009 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.