Convocation Needs Young Women.
I was sitting in my office late one night in February when I read the Law Times article “Young Lawyers Face Challenges in Bencher Election”. The article highlighted for me that there is a generation of lawyers whose concerns are not being heard and addressed – a generation that I am a part of. Coupled with the knowledge of the various challenges women in this profession face, I recognized that there was a lack of representation within the leadership of the Law Society for lawyers like myself. I had read the article a few days before nominations closed and came to the conclusion that I should run in this bencher election.
Retention of women in the legal profession has been an ongoing issue for years. Despite women entering into private practice in record numbers for over the past two decades we have also been leaving in droves. The overrepresentation of women leaving private practice is not surprising to me. Private practice has not adapted to the realities women face, such as childbirth and taking on a significant portion of family responsibilities. Organizational and practice cultures that remain resistant to flexible schedules, time gaps between jobs, and parental leaves also play a significant role. Women who own their firms are faced with the additional hurdle of who will carry on and support their law practice while taking parental leave.
These issues that all women in this profession face are particularly pertinent for early-career female lawyers. Historically, the legal profession has seen women drop out of the profession within their first five years past call. Statistically, as a lawyer in her fifth year of practice I should be dropping out of the profession right about now. I don’t plan to any time soon but I understand why some of my female colleagues would make that choice. The lack of retention of young female lawyers is problematic for access to justice and the public generally. Women dropping out of the legal profession after five to ten years of practice means that few female lawyers will ever reach the stage of becoming judges. We must recognize that today’s young lawyers will become tomorrow’s leaders within this profession. This is why representation of young female lawyers within our regulatory body matters.
As part of my platform, I support expansion of the LSO’s Parental Leave Assistance Program (PLAP), which provides financial benefits to practising lawyers in firms of five lawyers or fewer who do not have access to other maternity, parental, or adoption financial benefits under public or private plans and who meet the eligibility criteria. PLAP was one of the nine recommendations developed by the Law Society’s Retention of Women Working Group. It was designed to empower women to take charge of their careers and assist in maintaining the viability of small firms and sole practices. While it was not developed to be an income replacement program, the funding helps with defraying some of the overhead costs associated with maintaining a practice during a leave. While it is a good start, the program could implement initiatives that have been adopted by other provincial law societies. For example, the Barreau du Québec’s “Bébé Bonus” program allows a new parent who has taken a minimum 6-week leave to reclaim one-half of their annual dues paid to the Barreau.
I firmly believe that the regulation of the legal profession should reflect the demographics of the legal profession and the lawyers within it. I have chosen to run because I want to bring my perspective and lived experience as a young female lawyer to how our profession is regulated and the Law Society’s elected leadership. I feel that I would be able to represent a demographic of our profession that is currently underrepresented. Despite the vast number of women entering this profession, retention of women within this profession remains an issue – a reality that I hope will change within the span of my career. The decisions made by the Law Society now will have a pivotal role in whether this will change for generations to come. I have submitted my candidacy in the hopes of championing initiatives that will support young lawyers and women to help facilitate the change I wish to see in this profession.
This post is part of YWL's Bencher Candidate Series. In this series, young women bencher candidates under ten years of call explain why they think that Convocation needs young women.
Author: Deepa Tailor
Deepa Tailor is the founder of Tailor Law Professional Corporation, based in Mississauga, Ontario. She is a candidate in the 2019 Bencher Election for the Central West region. To learn more about her platform visit www.tailorlaw.com.