A Summit on Gender and Diversity in Law

Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
(with the support of the Law Foundation of Ontario and the Law Society of Upper Canada)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Bennett Lecture Hall - Flavelle House
78 Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario

Live webcast

The summit was broadcast live over the web. An archived webcast of the summit is available for viewing on this page.

Click on each link below to watch the webcast of that roundtable.

  • Roundtable 1:  Identifying the Landscape: The challenges confronting women and equity-seeking groups in the legal profession 9:00 am-10:30 am
  • Roundtable 2: Digging Deeper: Unearthing the systemic, attitudinal and public policy issues  10:45 am - 12:15 pm
  • Roundtable 3: Sowing the Seeds of Change: Transforming and humanizing the profession 2:15 pm - 3:45 pm


One of the most pressing issues currently facing the legal profession is how to recruit and retain members of equity-seeking communities. In 1993, Bertha Wilson undertook her landmark CBA study on gender in the profession: Touchstones for Change: Equality, Diversity and Accountability.  Since then, numerous studies, reports and books have documented the barriers that members of equity-seeking groups continue to encounter in the profession, and several organizations and individuals have grappled with these issues. 

Where do we go from here?

Dean Mayo Moran has made this question a priority for the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto.  Along with two leading members of the profession, Dean Moran has led an innovative research course for upper year students on this topic.  Dean Moran and co-instructors Kirby Chown (Ontario Regional Managing Partner, McCarthy Tétrault) and Raj Anand (Partner, Weir Foulds), are working closely with students to explore how to best overcome the barriers equity-seeking groups encounter in the legal profession.

It is our hope that the May 1st Summit will provide an opportunity for our diverse profession to explore these barriers, focusing in particular on issues of recruitment, retention, work-life balance and discrimination.  Leading academics, lawyers, judges and others will explore the models for reform, work to subject these ideas to rigorous scrutiny and try to continue the dialogue about how to move forward as a profession.  The Summit will also provide an opportunity for law students to present their research papers at a series of noon-hour round tables.

Registration and Breakfast - 8:15-8:45

Welcome: Mayo Moran, Dean and Professor, University of Toronto Faculty of Law - 8:45-8:50

Opening Remarks: Gavin MacKenzie, Treasurer, Law Society of Upper Canada - 8:50-9:00

Roundtable 1 - 9:00-10:30

Identifying the Landscape: The challenges confronting women and equity-seeking groups in the legal profession

The speakers on this roundtable will set the stage for the Summit by exploring issues of gender and diversity and painting a picture of the problems of retention, career advancement and work-life balance.

Moderator: Raj Anand, Partner, WeirFoulds LLP

Mr. Justice Harvey Brownstone, Ontario Court of Justice
Darlene Johnston, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
Fiona Kay, Associate Professor, Queen's University, Department of Sociology
Cynthia Petersen, Partner, Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP; Discrimination and Harassment Counsel, Law Society of Upper Canada
Mr. Justice Michael Tulloch, Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Roundtable 2  - 10:45-12:15

Digging Deeper: Unearthing the systemic, attitudinal and public policy issues

The speakers on this roundtable will explore in greater depth the context for the information presented as part of the first roundtable and the student roundtables.  They will unpack some of the deeper systemic, attitudinal and public policy issues at stake that make it difficult and possibly undesirable for legal employers to address the challenges of gender and diversity, particularly in relation to retention, career advancement and work-life balance.

Moderator: Kirby Chown, Regional Managing Partner, McCarthy Tétrault

Josée Bouchard, Equity Advisor, Law Society of Upper Canada
Chia-yi Chua, Partner, Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP
Brenda Cossman, Professor, University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
Deborah Gillis, Executive Director, Catalyst Canada
Phyllis Gordon, Executive Director, ARCH Disability Law Centre

Pick-Up Brown Bag Lunch - 12:15-12:30

Lunch and Student Roundtables  - 12:30-2:00

  • Vasuda Sinha, "Who gets in?: the place of diversity in the admissions policies of Canadian law schools"  
  • Linda Wu, "The Pre-Planned Exit from Bay Street"  
  • Lindsay Lang, "The impact of mentoring on the retention of women in legal practice"  
  • Alexis Alyea, "Diversity Imperatives and Initiatives: Lessons for the Legal Profession from the Corporate Experience"  
  • Afsoon Donna Houshidari, "Strategies for Promoting a Greater Student Engagement in Creating an Equitable Law School: A Student Perspective"  
  • Ildiko Erdei, "The Lack of Racial Diversity in the Legal Profession: A Particular Concern for Criminal Justice"  
  • Danielle Marks, "Deconstructing Barriers to Retention: An Examination of Models for Employee Maintenance"  
  • Andrea Chow, "Diversity in the Legal Profession: The Role of Regulating Bodies"

Break - 2:00-2:15

Roundtable 3 - 2:15-3:45

Sowing the Seeds of Change: Transforming and humanizing the profession

Looking forward, these speakers will propose concrete ideas for humanizing and transforming the profession, and will explore the business, public policy and political economy arguments for making the legal profession friendlier to members of equity-seeking groups.  Building on the previous sessions and drawing on the realities of the private and public sector, specific solutions, strategies and tools will be discussed.

Moderator: Kerry Rittich, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Faculty of Law

M. David Lepofsky, Crown Law Office (Criminal)
Janet Oh, Chair, Standing Committee on Equity, Canadian Bar Association
Laurie H. Pawlitza, Associate, Torkin Manes, Co-Chair, Law Society of Upper Canada Retention of Women in Private Practice Project
Joanne St. Lewis, Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law; Chair, Law Society of Upper Canada Equity and Aboriginal Issues Committee
Susan Ursel, Partner, Green & Chercover

Closing Remarks:  Dean Mayo Moran - 3:45-4:00 

Wine and Cheese Reception  - 4:00-5:00
In partnership with the Law Society of Upper Canada