Legal leaders launch scholarship for law students with disabilities

Legal Leaders for Diversity has established a trust fund to help disabled students studying law in Canada.

At it’s third annual meeting in Toronto Tuesday, LLD announced it will be offering annual scholarships. From 2014-2015, up to eight scholarships ranging from a minimum of $3,000 to a maximum of $5,000 will be awarded per academic year, for a total amount of up to $25,000.

To date, $210,000 has been raised thanks to 42 general counsel and managing partners representing corporations and law firms from coast to coast. Each committed to give $5,000 to the trust fund.

The scholarships will provide financial assistance to students with physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments for undergraduate or graduate studies in Canadian law faculties.

The trustees will be contacting the deans of law faculties across Canada and inviting them to submit a list of candidates by October for consideration. The only two requirements for consideration are the students be disabled and in need of financial assistance. Ultimately it will be up to the students themselves to apply but the law schools will be approached as a way to encourage applications.

“Law students and lawyers with disabilities still face barriers in accessing and remaining in the legal profession. It’s important that we do our part to encourage private firms to invest in this talented pool of students and professionals because the work we do today will have a direct and positive impact on the companies where we work and on the shape of the Canadian workforce,” Simon Fish, executive vice president and general counsel at BMO Financial Group, tells Legal Feeds.

Fish gives credit to Bombardier Inc.’s general counsel Daniel Desjardins for spearheading the fund.

“As legal leaders in Canada, we are duty-bound not only to advocate for greater inclusion, but also to act to generate the positive impact we want to see in our businesses and communities,” said Desjardins, senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary, corporate social responsibility chairman, with Bombardier.

“By fostering greater inclusion, we are securing the profitability and sustainability of our organizations and the communities in which we do business. Through the Legal Leaders for Diversity trust fund, the lives of our beneficiaries will be forever changed, and in turn, so will the future of the field that has offered us tremendous learning, success and reward.”

Last year, fellow LLD member Ken Fredeen, general counsel of Deloitte, was asked by the Canadian government to report on labour market opportunities for persons with disabilities. The panel gave its findings last year and the LLD have used the report as a foundation for working with others in the profession to create opportunities for people with disabilities.

“This initiative is a natural result of that work,” says Fish.

Those contributing to the fund include both corporate legal departments and law firms.

The board of trustees include general counsel and law firm leaders including:

  • Daniel Desjardins, Bombardier
  • Ken Fredeen, Deloitte
  • Clemens Mayr, McCarthy Tétrault
  • Scott Jolliffe, Gowlings
  • Monique Mercier, Telus
  • Geoff Creighton, IGM Financial Inc.
  • John Rogers, Stewart McKelvey
  • Eric Miller, Agrium
  • Leanne Geale, Shell Canada Services
  • David Allgood, Royal Bank of Canada

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