Canadian Lawyer

November 2020

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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6 www.canadianlawyermag.com UPFRONT NEWS ANALYSIS FOR DIVERSITY ADVOCATES in the legal profession, Canada's culture of privacy can be a major hurdle. Law firms' reluctance to ask for and disclose internal metrics can mean that even when the problem is visible — such as when you browse through the photos of any law firm website — the hard data is elusive. That may be about to change in Canada though, with the Law Society of Ontario indicating it will be publishing an "inclusion index" of law firms this year, according to bencher Atrisha Lewis, and some of the large law firms committing to more disclosure of their numbers. In a presentation at the Canadian Law Awards in October, Rebecca Bromwich, the national diversity & inclusion manager at Gowling WLG, delivered a keynote presenta- tion titled "Diversity Challenge - Towards Evidence-Based Change." "We're challenging all firms to involve leadership directly in their [diversity and inclusion] efforts," said Bromwich at the event. "And a first step of that direct involve- ment is to move forward on tracking metrics of demographic data." Nikki Gershbain, chief inclusion officer with McCarthy Tétrault LLP, says her firm has been gathering this data for a while and will provide it to clients, rankings and media organizations when they request it, but it will soon be publishing it on its website for the world to see. "It was a bit of a journey for us to get to this point, partly because the numbers aren't where we want them to be," Gershbain says. "But we recognize that as we do the work of trying to change policies and practices, that the transparency of sharing the data . . . is actually really key for a number of reasons." Gershbain says one of the key considerations for firms getting started is whether to gather the information internally or to outsource it. External companies are often much better able to navigate privacy and data security, but gath- ering the data internally can allow a law firm to analyze the numbers against other metrics, such as compensation, promotion, advance- ment and work allocation. Either way, firms need to ensure their team understands and trusts the motivation in collecting the data. "The practical challenge in gathering that data is you have to do the hard work of shifting the culture before you can get the information and [communicate] why the "We're challenging all firms to involve leadership directly in their [diversity and inclusion] efforts. And a first step of that direct involvement is to move forward on tracking metrics of demographic data." Rebecca Bromwich, Gowling WLG The diversity data gap Canadian law firms have been reluctant to gather and publish diversity data, but a new index by Ontario's law society and a push from advocates may change all that, writes Tim Wilbur

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