Women in Law Summit to help lawyers 'write the story of their own career journey:' Karima Kanani

Summit happening April 17 in Toronto

Women in Law Summit to help lawyers 'write the story of their own career journey:' Karima Kanani
Karima Kanani, Miller Thomson LLP

The 2024 Women in Law Summit is an opportunity for women lawyers to uplift, empower, and help each other effectively direct their career path, says Karima Kanani, a partner at Miller Thomson in Toronto.

Canadian Lawyer will host the Women in Law Summit, “Chart your own path – Strategies to empower women in law,” on April 17 at Arcadian Court in Toronto.

“There's an amazing theme for the summit this year,” says Kanani. “It will be a great forum for women to come be inspired, to find their purpose, and identify different strategies to being effective leaders and growing their own futures so that they can write the story of their own career journey.”

Gone are the days when there was a clear path to follow in the legal profession, says Kanani, who practises in the health and social services sector. “There's unlimited opportunities across all industries and corners of our communities.”

The day begins at 8:15 am with registration and breakfast. Following opening remarks from Kanani, serving as the chairperson, the opening keynote will delve into the sources of power that leaders can use to “improve communication, attain success, effectively engage others, and achieve balance.” The keynote speaker will discuss how these strengths can help a woman leader along her journey to managing partner or senior counsel.

At 9:50 am, a speed networking session will allow attendees to forge connections with fellow delegates and reflect on the keynote’s themes.

Whether one works at a large or small firm, a solo practice, or serves in an in-house role or public service, a “vast diversity” exists in the legal profession, says Kanani. “The networking session is really designed to ensure that we're having a summit where we're not just passively listening to speakers on the stage but having the opportunity to engage, connect and learn from the network of amazing women that are in attendance from across the country.”

The first panel will begin at 10:10 am. Moderator Hina Latif, VP, general counsel, and corporate secretary at Mercedez Benz Canada, will lead a discussion on strategies to empower women in law to take charge of their own career path. The panellists will cover how women can excel in traditionally male-dominated environments while balancing work and family responsibilities and breaking barriers and bias. The discussion will also focus on how women lawyers can shape the trajectory of their careers and the skills necessary to get where they want to be.

Following another networking break, Annie Gaudreault, founder of VEEV Health & Wellness, will host the session, “Best practices for supporting women lawyers’ health and well-being.” Gaudreault will discuss how a “practical, holistic women’s health strategy” can cultivate greater gender balance in the workforce and how women can feel supported and safe talking about mental health. Attendees will learn how to benefit from a culture prioritizing women’s health and well-being.

At 11:55 am, senior counsel at BASF Canada, Ashley Butts, will moderate the panel, “No woman left behind – Examine intersectionality for the benefit of your team.” Butts will discuss how different perspectives and ideas can make organizations more effective, productive, and sustainable. Panellists will cover building a supportive, welcoming, and empowering environment while examining the challenges of women of colour, LGBTQ+ women, and disabled women in the legal profession and incorporating intersectional workplace experiences into current DEI programs.

After a networking lunch, Erin Kleisinger, McDougall Gauley partner and Federation of Law Societies of Canada president, will moderate the panel, “Knowledge exchange – Enabling growth through sponsorship and mentoring,” at 1:35 pm. The panellists will discuss how to prevent brain drain, enable growth opportunities, and the critical importance of mentorship and sponsorship for women lawyers. Panellists will also share tips on how women can find good mentors and gain exposure to various career paths.

At 2:25 pm, the summit will feature a conversation on artificial intelligence and its evolving impacts on the law. The session will explore innovative generative AI use cases, why lawyers should embrace AI, and how AI adoption will impact the traditional law firm model.

“We're certainly in times of unprecedented challenge and change across the board,” says Kanani. “The key in setting yourself apart is becoming a thought leader in these new and emerging areas. As lawyers, we don't often think of ourselves as creatives or innovators. But we're actually uniquely positioned in our profession to be able to shape the future.

“We're in a profession of precedent. So, we often talk about yesterday or what's happening today,” she says. “But what really sets apart leaders and women leaders is the ability to be a visionary, and to shape what is the future to use our legal toolbox to shape future systems, future practices, future norms.”

The day's final panel is “Fireside chat: Innovations in accountability – the role of senior leadership in advancing diversity in law,” at 3:25 pm. Cindy Clarke, Toronto’s regional managing partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, will moderate the discussion on how managing partners are driving accountability at firms, the difference between transparency and uniformity, the business case for a four-day week, innovate DEI strategies, and business model innovations and flexible working practices.

Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP and Gowling WLG are sponsors of the event.

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