New initiative launched to keep women in the legal profession

Forum created to facilitate informal mentorship and provide resources to young lawyers

New initiative launched to keep women in the legal profession
Harper Grey LLP partners Kimberly Jakeman and Una Radoja created lifeinlaw.ca as a mentoring tool for female lawyers.

To counter the attrition rate of female lawyers and offer a confidential, independent mentoring service outside of a law-firm setting, lawyers from Harper Grey LLP have created the new forum Lifeinlaw.ca.

Launched on Mar. 4, the website aims to help women succeed in their legal careers, even as they juggle life and family responsibilities and personal priorities. Assistant chair of Harper Grey’s health law group Kimberly Jakeman spearheaded the initiative with Una Radoja, co-chair of the firm’s environmental law group. Jakeman says the idea sprouted from their work on the diversity and inclusion committee, where they were confronted with the data on women leaving the legal practice and some of the reasons why.

Statistics posted on the website reveal that, while most law school graduates are women, only 37 per cent of B.C. lawyers are women. The website also states that only 66 per cent of women called to the bar in 2003 were still practising five years later, while 80 per cent of men called to the bar in 2003 were still practising five years later.

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Jakeman says it occurred to her that outside the firm environment, a community-driven mentoring service could assist women with concerns they weren’t comfortable broaching with their employer.

“One day I said to Una, you know, I really think that we do a good job in a community with the formal mentoring program. But I think there's a lot of us that struggle with a formal mentoring program from a time perspective,” says Jakeman. “And also, a lot of the formal mentoring programs are firm-driven, and sometimes people need some more independent advice”

“You don't always feel comfortable sharing certain things with your formal mentor,” adds Radoja.

Though “powered by Harper Grey” Lifeinlaw.ca is a separate entity and independent from the firm, adds Jakeman. The service assists women “on a confidential, informal basis” through phone calls, live web-chat and through the online blog, she says.

In the legal profession, around year four and five, there is an “exodus” of female lawyers, says Radoja.

“If we can we can walk one person off the ledge and keep one woman in the profession that would otherwise leave, regardless of what the reasons are and what others might be doing out there to help this problem, then this service has been success,” she says.

*with files from Aidan Macnab

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