Canadian Lawyer InHouse

August/September 2021

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

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Page 20 of 43 19 for them, nowhere to go, and everything is closed downtown — who were suffering. You can only take so many walks and work out in your living room floor before you go stir crazy. Those are the individuals that have real challenges. We did a number of things to be creative with mental health. We made sure we had a lot of coffee times, we had a buddy system, we had virtual socials, to ensure that people were engaged. The organization gave everybody a sum of money and said "go buy dinner on us," and then all take pictures together. Of course, we have the hotlines, and we actually have an emergency mental health team, so if you need somebody, there are in-house people that are trained for that. Obviously, our legal team had to carefully vet that process. Bosma: I really am personally convinced that the topic of mental health is something that really does need to be talked about in the legal profession, both in-house, and more broadly. There does remain some stigma around the issue of mental health and anxiety and depression among lawyers. We are really taught as lawyers to just power through power through power through, and if you cannot power through that, that can be seen as not suited to the practice of law. I feel a deep personal conviction to change the conversation on that piece starting with my own department, to really de-stigmatize the idea of mental health. One of the main things we can do in the legal department is to be open and authentic about the fact that mental well-being is something that every human being struggles with at some point or another, and that we should try to remove the stigma. With the mental health struggles I have seen during COVID, it is a good opportunity to raise the issue and to normalize these conversations. INHOUSE: How are you addressing the issue of diversity and inclusion from your legal department? Petrie: NB Power is actually in the process of rolling out a new diversity and inclusion strategy. It obviously renews the commitment by this company to create that kind of a culture and workplace. NB power has always been known as being a very fair and for- ward-thinking employer in the province that attracts talent from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds, and genders and races. Speaking of the legal department specifically, we have gender parity, but one area I personally would like to improve is our linguistic profile by engaging a bilingual lawyer, which has been long missing. Maharaj: I think my first premise is one that people have soft pedaled it for too long. People, especially in legal groups, have put up roadblocks because of our over-overarching conservatism. I think we in legal have an opportunity to challenge our groups, and our companies, to do more. I am proud to say that I take this view at Kraft Heinz, and I am even more proud to say that the company is ahead of me. We have joined the Hockey Diversity Alliance, and we have joined the Black North initiative. When the horrific incidents happened down in the States, we donated a ton of money down there, as well as having a speaker series on these issues, not only for people of colour, but also for Indigenous people, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community. There is a lot more we can do. Bosma: I could not agree more with the fact that we in the legal industry need to challenge ourselves a little harder on this point. I feel quite grateful to work in an organization that has valued diversity for a very long time. I personally have been the beneficiary of a lot of really excellent leadership training that that helped me as a young woman with children, looking to become a leader. I recognize that there is a lot that we can do here to remove barriers for underrepresented people in the legal industry generally. It is not just about doing the right thing. It is also about a very strong and important business imperative. Teams are better if they are diverse, and diversity does not mean anything unless everyone feels included. At HSBC, we have joined the Black North initiative. I am also looking to speak to my external firms about their diversity and inclusion programs to hold them accountable, and to make sure that they have sustainable pipelines of talent from all walks of life and all backgrounds. The other thing we are doing is a lot of reverse mentoring programs, where someone from an underrepresented background will mentor a more senior person to help that person understand the challenges that they have faced, as a way of building empathy.

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