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Law firms recognized for diversity programs

|Written By Jennifer Brown

Two law firms have been named as Canada’s best diversity employers.

Stikeman Elliott LLP and Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP were recognized by MediaCorp Canada as Canada’s Best Diversity Employers for 2012.

Canada’s Best Diversity Employers program recognizes 45 employers from across Canada with exemplary diversity initiatives in five employee groups: women, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal Peoples, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered/transsexual people. More than 2,750 employers across Canada started the application process for this year's competition, which was reduced to a short-listed group.

“We are thrilled to once again receive this award and the recognition it gives to the many initiatives we have undertaken to acknowledge and celebrate the diverse nature of our firm,” said Stikeman Elliott chairman Pierre Raymond.

“Each of our offices is committed to incorporating diversity initiatives in areas like recruitment, mentoring, and client engagements to ensure that all of our firm members are supported and respected. This award is a wonderful confirmation that our efforts are successful."

Stikeman Elliott’s diversity program includes:

• Client and business development programs designed for women.

• Participation in industry organizations and client activities that promote connections through diversity initiatives.

• Training for new hires, mentors, and firm members involved in recruitment and people development.

• A coaching program for women returning from maternity leave on a range of topics related to career development and work-life balance.

• Firm-wide policies to support lesbian and gay lawyers and staff, including equitable spousal benefits and parental leave policies.

• Participation in the Out on Bay Street initiative.

Fraser Milner Casgrain’s diversity program has been in place for 5 1/2 years and was originally driven in part by client demand, says partner Kate Broer, co-chairwoman of the firm’s national diversity program.

“We have often emulated some of the things our clients have done, but it’s also given us opportunities to partner with them on diversity initiatives,” says Broer. “In the beginning, we saw it was a client imperative mostly being driven from the United States. We all saw the trends and there were some fairly influential users of legal services — Wal-Mart and Shell — asking their law firm services providers to be accountable in diversity inclusion.”

FMC’s diversity program was recognized for the following initiatives:

• Established a national diversity and inclusion committee in 2006. Each office also has a designated diversity lead.

• Working with the Black Business and Professional Association, the firm manages a national scholarship program for students who are interested in pursuing legal studies.

• The firm subsidizes the cost of employees’ membership in and attendance at events hosted by community organizations such as the Korean Lawyers Association and the South Asian Bar Association.

• Provides pro bono legal services to Pride at Work Canada, a non-profit corporation that provides support to lesbian and gay professionals in the Canadian workplace, and participates in Out On Bay Street. It also attends career fairs directed at lesbian and gay students at the University of Ottawa, Ryerson University, and the University of Toronto.

• Requires all employees and partners to complete diversity and inclusiveness training and is planning e-learning diversity courses for the coming year.

• Operates the Vault Women's initiative to provide female employees a forum for interaction.

• The Calgary office participates in the Law Society of Alberta’s aboriginal summer student program. If the term is completed satisfactorily, an offer of full-time employment usually follows.


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