Canadian Lawyer InHouse

November/December 2019

Legal news and trends for Canadian in-house counsel and c-suite executives

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www.canadianlawyermag.com/inhouse 37 RESEARCH HAS PROVEN that corporate boards and departments are more effective when comprised of a diverse group of people. With more than half of its legal department being women and more than 20 per cent being visible minorities, CIBC sees itself as a leader in providing an inclusive legal department. "A diverse team that works together in an inclusive environment is more innovative, makes better decisions and ends up delivering better results for clients and shareholders," says Frank Vivacqua, vice president and deputy general counsel at CIBC. "We want to have a diverse workforce on all levels of our bank to reflect the clients and communities we serve and improve competitiveness." The bank's legal department has its own inclusion and diversity action committee that meets regularly to discuss initiatives, foster inclusion and celebrate cultural diversity. In one recent initiative, CIBC partnered with Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP to develop the ReLaunch Reintegration program that facilitates the reintroduction of top female lawyers into the workforce, following a career break of two or more years. The six-month paid position gives women work experience within Blakes and in CIBC's legal department to offer a broad range of exposure to different Building an inclusive culture CIBC's diversity initiatives include the ReLaunch Reintegration program that helps women lawyers return to work after a career break facets of the profession, and to allow them to showcase their talents in the workplace and meet contacts. Blakes and CIBC were planning similar initiatives, so they decided to join forces in the venture. "I've had conversations with women about how to get back into practice after stepping out for a while," says Cheryl Satin, a partner at Blakes. "The idea of giving them exposure to a law firm that has a built-in training program and reintegration program was great, but partnering with an organization like CIBC, where these women would also get practical in-house experience, would be even better. It gives them flexibility in where they want to go." One woman has been through the program so far and another was due to start in October. The goal for both firms is to continue and expand the program in the future. Flexibility and work-life balance is a key attribute offered within CIBC's legal team to help support women and men with families, aging parents or other responsibilities outside of work. "The legal profession is pretty demanding, so what we try to do, and I think we do quite well, is offer flexibility to manage life and work," says Vivacqua. "The message in my team is to FAST FACTS: CIBC LEGAL DEPARTMENT CIBC's legal department has 106 full-time employees 64.5% of CIBC's legal department is female 21.8% of CIBC's legal department is visible minorities 47% of CIBC's board members are women, up from 31% five years ago Women comprise 57% of CIBC's global workforce DEPARTMENT PROFILE

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