Canadian Lawyer 4Students

August 2017

Life skills and career tips for Canada's lawyers in training

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C A N A D I A N L a w y e r 4STUDENTS AUGUST 2017 61 for a place in this world and, as one of my opponents from the competition put it, 'the old guard still exists.'" Her initial response to the comments and the implications that the legal profession might not be the right place for a woman who wants her work, not her gender, to define her contributions was to withdraw and question herself. In her article, Guidone says, "I re- turned to Halifax with a heavy heart. I fell into a sort of depression. I barely le my room, skipped class, and had no appetite …. I was plagued with self-doubt, anger, and guilt." When she emerged from her room, Guidone set out to discover if she was alone in her reaction and her concerns. She quickly found out she wasn't. "Many men were actually flab- bergasted at what was said," she notes. Guidone spoke to other students, her family, lawyers she knew. ere was a shared and strong consensus that her experience was simultaneously unacceptable and not un- usual. In part, the Dal student concluded, the problem may lie with the values and norms of a country and a profession changing faster than some members of the legal community. But there is also a larger, deeper and perhaps less visible factor at play. "ere are sys- temic issues. It is societal," says Guidone. Sexism "is built into the structures we have. . . . e rules were written and structured by men." And men still dominate. According to the Justicia Project, the Law Society of Upper Canada's innovative initiative designed to support the retention and advancement of women lawyers in pri- vate practice, women account for more than 50 per cent of On- tario law graduates, but this is not mirrored in private firms where women make up fewer than 35 per cent of lawyers and only about 20 per cent of partners. In B.C., women have been participating in the legal profession in equal numbers as men for more than a decade, yet they represent just 34 per cent of all practising lawyers in the province and roughly 29 per cent of lawyers in full-time pri- vate practice. Women in B.C. (and elsewhere) are also leaving the profession disproportionately. Of all women lawyers called to the bar in 2003, only 66 per cent retained their practising status five years later. is reality is true for the legal community across Canada. For Guidone, however, the question was, in the end, a personal one: To be or not to be a lawyer? e answer is "to be." Guidone has worked to put the sexism she experienced into context. "I have come to realize what the truly invaluable lesson in that experience was: Although the old gender barriers still exist, our world is ever-changing and we must con- tinue to build community by sharing our stories," she wrote. What Guidone's year of reflection and discussion on this issue has taught her is to reach out and speak up. e experience, she says, has encouraged her to talk with people about sexism in the profession. "It's important to maintain that conversation." e new graduate also believes that a feminist perspective is im- portant for both the profession and for clients. She notes that at the Schulich School of Law there are havens for women, such as the Dalhousie Feminist Legal Association, which works to enhance education in the areas of gender and the law and feminism, offer resources and support to the law school and the broader commu- nity and provide a safe space for feminist organizing. Yet, notes Guidone, "ere are still a lot of women who feel alienated by the feminist conversation. at is a population we need to reach." Guidone is about to start her own foray into the legal profession as an articling clerk in Halifax with Stewart McKelvey, one of the largest law firms in At- lantic Canada and one of the few in the country with a female CEO. e firm issued a news release to spot- light Guidone's article in the student newspaper. at release notes that Guidone's experience "serves as a reminder that feminism is needed in the legal profes- sion." But, ultimately, Guidone's experience at the moot trial two years ago is just that — her experience. Here's what she has learned about herself and the exploration she has un- dertaken. "e conclusion I came to was that I am a very reason- able person. I'm not one to rattle cages. If [this experience] does close doors to me, maybe they are not doors I want to go through." Profile 4S "Although the old gender barriers still exist, our world is ever- changing and we must continue to build community by sharing our stories." CORPORATE COUNSEL Connect with Find almost 4,000 corporate counsel and over 1,500 organizations along with fresh editorial content, information on deals and links to important resources. Lexpert.ca/ccca ntitled-5 1 2017-07-13 1:03 PM

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