Lawyers and Students

Career integration of Internationally Trained Lawyers

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By Lola Ayotunde

This is the second of 2 articles on Equity and Diversity. The first article “Equity and Diversity Committee Seeks Input by Kara Dawn Jordan was posted yesterday.

In response to this article, the Law Society is offering the following free webinar on May 24, 2018: Integration of Internationally Trained Lawyers. The webinar qualifies for 1 CPD Hour, which also qualifies for Ethics.

To register click here: Integration of Internationally Trained Lawyers

For most professionals who decide to migrate to other countries, one question resonates: “How do I integrate into my profession in my new home country?” As a lawyer planning to migrate to Canada, I found out that the door to my career integration is the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA).

The NCA is the standing committee of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada that assesses the legal education and professional experience of Internationally Trained Lawyers (ITLs). This article focuses on the challenges of ITLs who received their legal education outside Canada.

This is not an attempt to understate the plight of Canadian lawyers who received their legal education outside Canada or immigrants who received their legal education from a Canadian University. However, this article brings to light the challenges of migrant-ITLs who received their Certificate of Qualification from the NCA.

After crossing the rigorous hurdles of the NCA exams, I obtained my Certificate of Qualification. Becoming a lawyer is challenging everywhere but the process of searching for an articling position was one of the most difficult hurdles I have crossed in my career.

Although I received my Master of Laws degree from a Canadian University, I was not prepared for the realities that confronted me in my search for an articling position through countless calls, emails and visitations to law firms. I took the proactive step of applying for articling positions while I was writing my NCA exams, but the lawyers I was fortunate to meet either did not understand my position as an NCA student or were unwilling to commit to an NCA student because they were not sure I would obtain the Certificate of Qualification.

I received responses like “come back when you are qualified”. It was clear to me that many lawyers did not know about the NCA stream of lawyers/applicants and did not understand the  evaluation of foreign law degrees and certificates. I must say, however, that some lawyers spared time to ask questions and showed interest in knowing my capabilities and how my professional qualifications compared to the Canadian legal system, but for the most part, my endeavors to become a lawyer in Canada were met with several obstacles.

ITLs are saddled with unanticipated stumbling blocks in the process of seeking articling positions and, unfortunately, after call-to-the-bar. I found out that different factors worked against me as an ITL/NCAcertified applicant:

1. Recruitment Calendar

Most law firms and government organizations recruit articling students who are in the second year of law school a year before the students intend to commence articling. The process is totally  different for ITLs because of the NCA schedule. I was unable to secure an articling position while writing my NCA exams because the lawyers were not sure of my success in the NCA process and were unwilling to commit to a yet-to-be-certified ITL.

When I completed my NCA exams and received my Certificate of Qualification, I was ready to start articling, immediately. Unfortunately the big law firms had already recruited articling students during the recruitment period. Other firms have either not decided to take on an articling student for that year or already have an articling student or need some time to decide whether to take on articling students.

Of course most law firms do not recruit articling students spontaneously, hence the benefit for a second year law student. For an ITL looking for an immediate placement, and depending on when the Certificate of Qualification was obtained, this may mean waiting for months or a year before the recruitment window opens again and/or before a law firm decides to advertise for articling position.

2. Lack of Mentors

Most law schools have career officers that assist students with securing articling positions. ITLs do not have access to the services of career officers. More so, law schools often organize career  workshops that give law students the opportunity to meet lawyers while in law school.

Law students can cultivate mentorship relationships with lawyers in this process and receive valuable guidance in their career path. ITLs do not have the same access to career officers and mentors. It is a daunting task to navigate through and sometimes against the conventions and practices of the legal society you are about to join.

3. Systemic Discrimination

Underlying discriminatory factors can influence hiring practices or create roadblocks for ITLs. From my experiences thus far, I must respectfully suggest the matter is a systemic one. Persons in charge of hiring can be taken aback by an applicant’s name, professional background, accent or race, and this systemic discrimination can shut the door on an ITL’s integration into the legal profession.

The unfortunate impression that is left is that future colleagues, because of your name or background or race, may see you as less intelligent. Many ITLs come from countries that speak differently from Canadians. Even those that have English as their first language sometimes have a differentiating accent.

This sometimes creates communication gaps and some lawyers, colleagues and judges do not have the patience to listen and understand a different communication style. Having a senior lawyer advise an ITL/articling applicant to “consider taking a course at the Open Door” without ever meeting or talking to the aspiring lawyer is discouraging and disheartening. Such perceptions about ITLs are difficult to dispel even if the preconceived notion does not apply to that applicant you may be about to decline.

4. NCA Students or ITLs are not the same

Painting people with the same brush and making negative assumptions about them is perhaps another indication of systemic discrimination. Similarly, judging ITLs by the experience or job performance of another ITL or articling student is also common. No one should be judged by the capability and performance of another person, especially someone they have never met or identified with. No one should be visited with the repercussions of the actions of another person on the sole basis of sharing a similar racial or professional background.

Conclusion

In our progressively globalizing world, diversity is the new norm and the value an ITL can bring to a firm or organization cannot be understated. The international experience and exposure of ITLs has great potential to the legal profession and the evolution of law in Canada.

With the increasing number of ITLs routing through the NCA stream, our law societies need to affirm their commitment to embrace diversity and inclusiveness and develop effective plans to do so. The starting point is to educate lawyers about the NCA stream of lawyers and how foreign legal credentials compare to Canadian credentials.

In furtherance of a fair recruiting system, lawyers and hiring personnel should bear in mind that academic grading systems differ when analyzing foreign law school transcripts. Sensitizing lawyers about ITLs and the importance of a diverse and inclusive legal profession in the global legal industry is a good way of encouraging lawyers and others in the legal profession to welcome the change and prospects ITLs bring to the table. We all have a role to play; having a self-assessment and consciously dispelling the myths or notions about ITLs will help lawyers evaluate all applicants with open mind.

Originally published in Benchers’ Digest, Spring 2018

Equity and Diversity Committee Seeks Input

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By Kara-Dawn Jordan
Policy Counsel, Law Society of Saskatchewan

In 2017, the Law Society of Saskatchewan re-established its Equity and Diversity Committee. The purposes of the committee are to monitor developments and advise the Benchers on issues affecting equity and diversity in the legal profession; explore and recommend equity and diversity actions/initiatives; and recommend and support ongoing education and awareness training for members of the profession.

Over the last year, the committee’s focus has been on enhancing its understanding of the makeup of our membership as well as the equity and diversity issues affecting the legal profession in Saskatchewan and society generally. To that end, the committee has sought (and continues to seek) the input of various individuals and groups willing to share their experiences and perspectives. This input will inform the committee’s recommendations for action.

The committee is interested in hearing from any members who have personal experiences they are willing to share regarding barriers they have faced either entering the profession or practicing in Saskatchewan. Anyone interested may contact Ronni Nordal (Chair of the Equity and Diversity Committee) ronni@nordalleblanc.ca or Barbra Bailey (Policy Counsel) barbra.bailey@lawsociety.sk.ca, in confidence, to discuss how their experiences might best be communicated to the committee.

In order to enhance awareness and encourage dialogue among the membership about equity and diversity issues, the Law Society will look for opportunities to share the experiences and insights of our members and to focus on topics relating to equity and diversity. As such, we would like to thank Lola Ayotunde for submitting the following article (to be posted on Legal Sourcery tomorrow) sharing her experience and perspectives gained as an Internationally Trained Lawyer entering the profession in Saskatchewan.

 

Originally published in Benchers’ Digest, Spring 2018

Outside Directorship Liability Insurance

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From Saskatchewan Lawyers’ Insurance Association Inc.

For the past number of years the Law Society of Saskatchewan has obtained an Outside Directorship Liability Insurance policy for its members.  The limit of liability is $1,000,000 per loss and $3,000,000 for the policy period.  Defence costs are covered and erode policy limits.  There is no deductible.  The policy is excess of any other applicable Outside Directorship Liability insurance.

Coverage is provided for all paid up members of the Law Society of Saskatchewan who are in good standing.  The policy also covers retired members for a 12-month period following retirement with respect to acts rendered before retirement.  Two important policy definitions are as follows:

“Outside Directorship” means the position of Director, Officer, Trustee, Governor or equivalent positions duly held by any Insured Person in an Outside Entity for which the Insured Person may receive nominal remuneration, consideration or an honorarium and provided the Insured Person is not also a partner, or salaried employee or salaried Officer, of the Outside Entity.

“Outside Entity” means each corporation, organization, charity, trust or entity, including any Subsidiary thereof but shall not include any corporation, organization, charity, trust or entity, including any Subsidiary thereof, which is publicly traded on any stock exchange in the United States of America.

If you have any questions regarding this policy, please contact Brad Hunter at Saskatchewan Lawyers’ Insurance Association.  Email: Brad@slia.ca  Phone: 306-569-3091 ext. 1.

Collecting Demographic Data to Better Understand our Membership and Address Barriers in the Legal Profession

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By Ronni Nordal, Chair of the Equity & Diversity Committee, and Barbra Bailey, Policy Counsel

The Canadian legal profession is increasingly diverse and now comprised of many equity-seeking groups.  As one example, in Saskatchewan, we have seen an increase in the number of foreign-trained lawyers admitted to the bar through the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) process, with the number increasing from 5 in 2012 to 14 in 2017.  While we can guess from statistics collected in other Canadian jurisdictions that diversity is increasing in other ways, the Law Society of Saskatchewan has not historically collected data on the demographics of our profession.

We do have data that tells us that the Saskatchewan public is growing increasingly diverse.  Data from the 2016 Census shows that 16.3% of Saskatchewan’s population self-identified as being Aboriginal, compared to 14.7% in 2006.  Further, in 2016, 10.8% of Saskatchewan’s population identified as visible minorities, compared to 3.6% of the population in 2006.  Immigrants and non-permanent residents accounted for 11.65% of our province’s population in 2016, compared to 5.5% in 2006.  The number of self-identifying same-sex couples increased by 6.7% from 2011-2016.  The number of seniors (aged 65 and over) increased by 10.9% from 2011 to 2016.[1]

The importance of data

The Canadian Bar Association’s (CBA) Demographic Trends Report, published in 2013 as part of the CBA’s Futures Initiative, reported on 13 trends in the Canadian legal profession.  One of those trends related to diversity, as follows:

According to the localized statistics available, progress on increasing diversity in the legal profession is not consistent with the make-up of the general population. An effort should be made to collect relevant data on a national basis.[2]

The CBA’s primary report of the Futures Initiative, entitled “Futures: Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada,” published in 2014, also identified limited access to the legal profession by members of diverse and equity-seeking groups as a barrier to change in the legal profession.  That report opined that lawyers from these groups could bring fresh perspectives and solutions to improving access to legal services in Canada and that, it is “important to develop models that facilitate an expansion of diversity within the legal profession, and to educate new types of lawyers who will be willing and able to innovate in meeting existing and unmet needs.”  The Futures Report also listed the absence of good data on the Canadian legal profession as an impediment to change.[3]

The Futures Report made a recommendation that law societies should uniformly collect qualitative and quantitative data about the demographic composition of all licensed legal service providers and publish the data in aggregate form.  The Report anticipates that the information collected could be used to “raise awareness of barriers, provide an evidence base for examining diversity issues, identify regulatory problem areas, and show varied progress towards better diversity and inclusivity.” [4]

To get a better picture of the diversity within their membership, several law societies collect demographic data about language, race/ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation/sexual identity in addition to data about gender and age. They do so by including self-identification questions in their annual membership forms.  To date, at least six other law societies collect different demographic data beyond gender and age: British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec and Nova Scotia.  The Law Societies Equity Network (LSEN) has developed common categories for comparing this data through the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, with the goal of creating a Diversity Profile of the Canadian Legal Profession.  This data can be used to both measure diversity and to develop and monitor equity initiatives.

The Law Society’s Equity & Diversity Committee

In January 2017, the Law Society of Saskatchewan re-established the Equity & Diversity Committee.

According to the Terms of Reference, the Equity & Diversity Committee (the “Committee”) shall assist the Benchers of the Law Society of Saskatchewan by:

  1. monitoring developments and providing advice on issues affecting equity and diversity in the legal profession;
  2. exploring and recommending actions and/or initiatives to be taken with respect to equity and diversity within the legal profession; and
  3. making recommendations for and supporting ongoing education and awareness training for members of the legal profession relating to equity and diversity.

In developing our Terms of Reference, we quickly realized that we were lacking knowledge and information in a number of areas including the most important question: “What are the issues affecting equity and diversity in the legal profession?”  The Committee strongly felt that before talk could turn into an action plan to remove barriers and challenges, it needed to have an understanding of the barriers that exist and who (on a general basis) is experiencing those barriers.

As a result, we set a plan in action to become informed.  The actions taken by the Committee have included hearing from a variety of individuals (with more to come) regarding their personal experience as members of equity-seeking groups in either entering, practicing in, or remaining in the legal profession in Saskatchewan.

The Committee also felt that, in order to understand the makeup of the membership of the Law Society of Saskatchewan, it was important to have baseline data about the membership.  In order to create a baseline, the Committee decided to ask members to voluntarily self-identify as members of equity-seeking communities through a survey, which was part of the annual renewal process in 2017.

Over 900 members responded to the survey.  Out of those responses, 6.5% identified as being First Nations, Métis or Inuit, 7% identified as being part of a visible minority group and 3% identified as being Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender.  With respect to language, 0.5% identified French as being their first language, with an additional 1% stating that they were fluent in both French and English.  A further 2% stated that their first language was something other than French or English.  Finally, 2% stated that they had a physical disability and 3% identified as having mental health issues.

How the data will be used

The survey results are confidential and will only be available in an aggregate form.  In no way can they be used to identify any individual lawyer.  The data collected through the survey, as well as the experiences we have heard about from members or those seeking to become members, will assist the Equity & Diversity Committee in fulfilling its purpose, as stated above.

The Law Society of Saskatchewan has collected data for many years about age, gender and type of practice of Saskatchewan lawyers.   Driven in part by these statistics the Law Society recently developed several resources that can be used by legal work places in the areas of parental leave, flexible work arrangements and mentorship with the aim of retaining lawyers who may require some supports in those areas.  The statistics showed that, although 49% of law students are women, only 37% of active lawyers in Saskatchewan are women and only 53% of those are in private practice, compared to 71% of male lawyers.   The initiative, called the Justicia Project, was done in partnership with volunteers from Saskatchewan law firms who saw a need for those types of supports for lawyers.

The Justicia Project has been met with positive feedback and the Law Society would like to develop further resources and programming for other segments of the profession who may be in need of supports, due to barriers they may face in their career based on their personal circumstances.  In order to address the need for initiatives that support our membership, we first need to know who are members and prospective members are and what type of needs they might have.

A legal profession that reflects the diversity of society provides opportunities for all people to seek representation from a lawyer whom they feel comfortable with.  This might include considerations such as having a common language, culture or life circumstances.  In this way, having a diverse bar serves the public interest.

We want to hear about your experience

The Committee is interested in hearing from any members who are willing to share their personal stories of barriers they have faced either when entering the profession or while a member of the profession.  If you have experiences that you would like to share, please contact Ronni Nordal (Chair of the Committee) at ronni@nordalleblanc.ca or Barbra Bailey (Policy Counsel) at barbra.bailey@lawsociety.sk.ca to discuss how we can best have a conversation that will help to inform the Committee.

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[1] Statistics Canada, 2006 Census Data, http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recensement/2006/dp-pd/prof/92-591/details/Page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=PR&Code1=47&Geo2=PR&Code2=01&Data=Count&SearchText=Saskatchewan&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All&GeoLevel=PR&GeoCode=47;   Statistics Canada, 2011 Census Data, http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/dp-pd/prof/details/Page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=PR&Code1=47&Geo2=PR&Code2=01&Data=Count&SearchText=Saskatchewan&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All&GeoLevel=PR&GeoCode=47; Statistics Canada, 2016 Census Data http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/prof/details/Page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=PR&Code1=47&Geo2=&Code2=&Data=Count&SearchText=Saskatchewan&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All&GeoLevel=PR&GeoCode=47

[2] http://www.cba.org/getattachment/Publications-Resources/Resources/Futures/DEMOGRAPHIC-TRENDS/demographicTrendsEng.pdf at p. 13

[3] http://www.cba.org/CBAMediaLibrary/cba_na/PDFs/CBA%20Legal%20Futures%20PDFS/Futures-Final-eng.pdf at pg. 26

[4] Ibid., p. 48-49.

Legal Services Provider Consultation

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By Barbra Bailey, Policy Counsel
Law Society of Saskatchewan

The Ministry of Justice and the Law Society of Saskatchewan have jointly undertaken a project to explore the possibility of allowing non-lawyers to provide some legal services in Saskatchewan.  A Task Team – comprised of lawyers, individuals working in the legal system who are not lawyers and members of the public – has been appointed to examine this issue and develop recommendations for consideration by the Benchers and the Ministry about the appropriate role, if any, of non-lawyers in the provision of legal services.  In carrying out its mandate, the Task Team will consider a wide range of possible approaches and will keep the public interest central to its determination.  For more information about the Task Team, a press release can be viewed here.

An extensive consultation with legal organizations and other stakeholders within Saskatchewan’s justice system is currently underway.  A consultation paper describing the project and the mandate of the Task Team can be found here.  Any groups or individuals wishing to make a submission on this topic may contact the Task Team by email at LSTaskTeam@gov.sk.ca.

CPLED Smarties Received Award of Distinction

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Nicholas Koltun

Christine Johnston, CPLED Program Director

The Law Society is pleased to announce that Matthew Klinger and Nicholas Koltun have each received the Award of Distinction, having achieved the highest marks of students registered in the 2016-2017 CPLED Bar Admissions Program.

Nicholas completed three years towards a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology and Pharmacology before beginning his law degree.  He graduated with his Juris Doctor in 2016 from the University of Saskatchewan and is currently completing his articles at MacBean Tessem in Swift Current.

Matthew Klinger

Matthew received his Bachelor of Business Administration with great distinction from the University of Regina in 2013 and his Juris Doctor with distinction from the University of Western Ontario in 2016.  He articled with MLT Aikins in Regina and is now a member of their litigation team.

Congratulations to Nicholas, Matthew and all students who completed the 2016-2017 CPLED program!

The Efforts of Two Saskatchewan Lawyers to Preserve the Battleford Industrial School Cemetery

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Kelly Laycock, Publications Coordinator

A cairn at the Battleford Industrial School in Battleford, SK, erected in 1975 after more than 70 unmarked graves were excavated in the cemetery. (Photo credit: Jim Cairns/Wikimedia Commons)

Saskatchewan lawyers Benedict Feist and Eleanore Sunchild are helping in the fight to gain heritage status for the graveyard at the Battleford Industrial School, a former residential school site that operated from 1883–1914. Hundreds of Indigenous students attended the school during that time, but not all of them survived it.

The cemetery was opened in 1884 because of student deaths at the school. Tuberculosis and influenza, among other illnesses, were an issue at that time.

The cemetery was almost forgotten, until a group of archaeology students and staff from the University of Saskatchewan took an interest and excavated more than 70 graves. Fifty bodies were identified as students named in school records. At that time, a small memorial was erected to commemorate those students.

But the cemetery is once again the topic of conversation, as it was named in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s report[1] in 2015:

Many of the cemeteries in which students were buried have long since been abandoned. When the Battleford school in Saskatchewan closed in 1914, Principal E. Matheson reminded Indian Affairs that there was a school cemetery that contained the bodies of seventy to eighty individuals, most of whom were former students. He worried that unless the government took steps to care for the cemetery, it would be overrun by stray cattle. Such advice, when ignored, led to instances of neglect, with very distressing results. [footnotes omitted]

Ben and Eleanore, along with members of First Nations communities in the area and the Battlefords’ Historical Society, are spearheading a commemorative project after reading the recommendations of the TRC’s Calls to Action Report. The group held a public information session at the North Battleford Public Library on May 3 to outline the history of the school and the cemetery site, and there seems to be community support in pursuing the project.

The goal is to have the graveyard and cairn recognized with official cemetery status, and Ben wants permanent preservation, protection and accessibility of this and other residential school cemeteries in the Battlefords area.

“I would like it to be a historical site, so that it’s preserved and it can be used for educational purposes,” Eleanore told the Battlefords News-Optimist in an article from May 8, 2017. “There’s a lot of schools that want to see it because it is part of the whole history regarding residential schools and calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, so it is something that is important to the community.”

They have a lot of work yet to do, and they want local First Nations communities and residential school survivors to lead the movement. The information session was a good first step in bringing awareness to their project and the importance of recognizing the legacy left from residential schools, which goes beyond just the Battlefords region.

“It is very important because we all suffer the effects of Indian residential schools, whether we are native or non-native,” Eleanore says. “We deal with the intergenerational effects in our society. We see it in this community. I think there is a divide between our people, and a lot of that stems from the schools.”[2]

To read more about the cemetery and the importance of preserving it, please see an article by Eleanore Sunchild and Benedict Feist, published on page 10 of the Summer Issue of the Benchers’ Digest.

[1] Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials, in The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Vol. 4 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015), 10.

[2] Quoted from “Battleford Industrial School cemetery project discussed” by John Cairns, in Battlefords News-Optimist, May 8, 2017.