The diversity data gap: Canadian law firms’ reluctance to gather and publish may be about to change

posted on November 23, 2020

November 12, 2020

By Tim Wilbur, Canadian Lawyer Mag

For diversity advocates in the legal profession, Canada’s culture of privacy can be a major hurdle. Law firms’ reluctance to ask for and disclose internal metrics can mean that even when the problem is visible — such as when you browse through the photos of any law firm website — the hard data is elusive.

That may be about to change in Canada though, with the Law Society of Ontario indicating it will be publishing an “inclusion index” of law firms this year, according to bencher Atrisha Lewis, and some of the large law firms committing to more disclosure of their numbers.

In a presentation at the Canadian Law Awards in October, Rebecca Bromwich, the national diversity & inclusion manager at Gowling WLG, delivered a keynote presentation titled “Diversity Challenge – Towards Evidence-Based Change.”

“We’re challenging all firms to involve leadership directly in their [diversity and inclusion] efforts,” said Bromwich at the event. “And a first step of that direct involvement is to move forward on tracking metrics of demographic data.”

Nikki Gershbain, chief inclusion officer with McCarthy Tétrault LLP, says her firm has been gathering this data for a while and will provide it to clients, rankings and media organizations when they request it, but it will soon be publishing it on its website for the world to see.

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