Australia admits misstep over Islamic State suspect [citizenship revocation and statelessness]

Finally publicly admitted:

Australia failed to make basic checks before stripping a suspected Islamic State fighter of his citizenship, a senior official said Wednesday, an admission likely to call into question the legality of the move.

The country last month striped Neil Prakash of citizenship after claiming he was Fijian — prompting strenuous denials from the authorities in Suva and an embarrassing diplomatic rift.

Prakash is accused of being a member of the IS jihadist group, and identified as the 12th Australian dual-national to lose their passport over terrorism links.

He is currently in Turkey facing charges of joining the organisation.

A parliamentary intelligence committee on Wednesday grilled Home Affairs officials on the issue, asking whether they verified his status with Fiji or consulted experts in Fijian law before revoking Prakash’s citizenship.

“No, we did not” admitted senior department official Linda Geddes.

If Prakash is neither Fijian nor Australian he would now be stateless in contravention of decades old UN accords and Australian law.

A Special Counsel advising the government told the parliamentary committee he offered “strong advice” on the case, but would not go into detail.

The move against Prakash was touted at the time by hardline Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton as the ruling Liberal Party eyed its base supporters and May elections.

But it created an awkward backdrop for a recent landmark Pacific visit by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Source: Australia admits misstep over Islamic State suspect

And in related news, lawyers express concern over expansion of Australian citizenship revocation policy towards those convicted of minor crimes:

Australian lawyers are afraid petty criminals and people participating in religious festivals could be rendered stateless under citizenship law changes aimed at homegrown terrorists.

Constitutional and human rights experts have also expressed grave concerns about the “irredeemable” bill being put forward by the federal government.

The Morrison government wants to be able to deport Australian-born extremists who are entitled to citizenship in another country.

But the Law Council of Australia fears the proposed powers would be disproportionately harsh and could breach international law.

Dual nationals sentenced to at least six years jail for terror offences can already be stripped of their Australian citizenship.

The coalition wants to scrap the six-year threshold and expand the range of offences it can rely upon.

The Law Council’s David Neal is urging the federal parliamentary intelligence committee to keep the existing triggers in place.

“Low-level offending, which is dealt with to finality in a local court, could be captured by laws that lead to citizenship cessation,” he told committee members in Canberra on Wednesday.

Dr Neal is also concerned the offence of “associating with a terrorist organisation” could capture people participating in legitimate social gatherings and religious festivals.

Constitutional expert George Williams believes tinkering with the bill could also capture religious pilgrims and business people who venture into politically-sensitive areas.

“There is no actual involvement in terrorism, there is no suggestion of disloyalty, but that would trigger under this legislation the possibility of revocation,” he told the committee.

Professor Williams said the bill would have a range of “extreme and unjustified” consequences and could make the community less safe.

“In fact, it may do some harm, particularly in the broader agenda of building social cohesion.”

The laws would also significantly lower the threshold around proving a person’s citizenship of another country.

Under the changes, the minister would only need to be “reasonably satisfied” a person may be entitled to citizenship elsewhere.

“As recent history demonstrates – in both the cases of members of parliament and the (Neil) Prakash case – determining existing foreign citizenship can be difficult,” Dr Neal said.

“Determinations based on predictions about future foreign citizenship – which may include decisions by foreign governments – are obviously fraught.”

The Morrison government sparked a diplomatic fight with Fiji over the summer break after stripping Prakash of his Australian citizenship.

The Islamic terrorist was born in Melbourne to a Fijian father but Fiji says he is not a citizen.

The federal government has indicated dual nationals who are stripped of their citizenship could languish indefinitely in immigration detention if other countries refuse to take them.

Source: Lawyers flag fears about citizenship laws

Lawyer versus consultant? Immigration data shows visa applicants have best shot with former

There may also be some selection bias involved (e.g., nationals who engage lawyers may be stronger candidates for visa approvals):

Foreign nationals who prepare their own Canadian visa applications are nearly as successful in being accepted as those who spend money on a consultant to do the job.

But chances of success are much higher if they hire an immigration lawyer to help get their study, work or visitor visas, according to immigration data obtained under an access to information request.

Canada received 342,154 temporary resident applications in 2017, the data shows. While 86 per cent of applicants declared themselves as self-represented, 6 per cent were represented by consultants and another 5 per cent by lawyers. The remaining 3 per cent hired Quebec notaries or used “non-remunerated” representatives.

Overall, 18.9 per cent of the applications were rejected. Those who prepared their own applications had a 19.3 per cent refusal rate, slightly higher than the 18 per cent among those who paid a consultant to do it.

In contrast, only 10.4 per cent of applications prepared by a lawyer were rejected. The refusal rates for applications prepared by Quebec notaries and unpaid representatives were 13.1 per cent and 10.1 per cent respectively.

Marina Sedai, chair of the immigration section of the Canadian Bar Association, said she wasn’t surprised lawyers had the highest success rate.

“Canadian lawyers’ rigorous education, legal analysis skills, and high ethical standards enforced by an effective regulator, have long been understood to result in better outcomes,” Sedai said.

“Lawyers’ culture of the law being a calling rather than a business means that although lawyers will often take the tough cases, they will also protect clients by advising them against hopeless cases.”

When it comes to the lower success rate for consultants, lawyers are quick to point out that group has lower educational requirements and a less robust regulatory regime than lawyers. For their part, consultants say the immigration data is too general and doesn’t give the full picture.

“It is based on the flawed assumption that all applications are equally complex. In reality, applications completed by unpaid representatives may be far simpler, thus having a much higher chance of success,” said the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants in a statement to the Star.

Currently, licensed immigration consultants must meet a minimum language requirement and graduate from an accredited immigration practitioner program, which takes about a year to complete full time. While only about 1,000 lawyers practise immigration law, there are five times more licensed consultants in Canada.

“Immigration lawyers typically have completed a four-year bachelor’s degree before undergoing a very competitive process for admission to law school. Law school degrees take three years to complete and are also no cakewalk. Then there is the bar admissions course which must be passed, the articling process, etcetera,” said Toronto immigration lawyer Ravi Jain.

“Many immigration consultants have only completed online courses at a community college. The education and training is just not comparable.”

The immigration consultants’ association, which has more than 2,000 members, said it’s pleased more people are using consultants and believed that’s due to the generally higher fees charged by their lawyer counterparts.

Regulatory bodies for lawyers and consultants do not mandate how much their members can charge clients, but fees can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Jain, who is also vice chair of the bar association’s immigration division, said the success rate for lawyers would likely be even higher if not for the fact lawyers often take up very difficult and complex cases.

“A lot of my clients come to me after they have gone to a consultant or tried on their own,” Jain said, adding many are reluctant to lodge a complaint against their former consultant and prefer just to have him reapply.

“It’s much more difficult to obtain approvals when applications have already been refused,” he added.

Source: Lawyer versus consultant? Immigration data shows visa applicants have best shot with former

It’s hard out there for an immigrant; lemon lawyers make it harder | TheHill

Welcome any comments from Canadian immigration lawyers on the extent this is a comparable issue in Canada:

It’s hard out there for an immigrant. President Trump routinely demagogues the nation’s undocumented population.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions now leads an enforcement campaign centered around making life so unpleasant for undocumented immigrants that they decide to leave the country instead of facing the abuse.

In these times, immigrants need to be able to find help they can trust. Sadly, they also need to watch out when they call up a lawyer.

Our self-regulating legal profession does many things well, but we often struggle to police our own ranks. We each learned this lesson while representing immigrants on a pro bono basis while in private practice.

Like many lawyers, we gave our immigrant clients the same level of dedication and diligence as our paying work. Sadly, when we walked into immigration court, we often saw seemingly unprepared and unimpressive lawyering.

As law professors, we have seen similar problems with some immigration lawyers. We stay in touch with our driven, idealistic graduates. Some of them land at immigration firms. One individual worried about how to extricate himself from an unethical firm.

The managing partner would file baseless asylum claims and then task his young associate with defending them in immigration court. It forced a hard choice on a young lawyer: his ethics or his income.

Most immigration lawyers zealously represent their clients and help them achieve better outcomes than they would without representation. Research convincingly shows that representation usually improves an immigrant’s chances in our Byzantine immigration system.

One study found that represented immigrants are five times more likely to apply for relief and five times more likely to get it. But there simply are not enough good immigration lawyers to go around. So, some immigrants get lemons: lawyers who can actually make their chances worse.

While the research on immigration lawyers shows how much most of them help their clients, it also confirms the real problems within the immigration law bar that we’ve seen with our own eyes.

Researchers studying asylum cases found that the bottom 10 percent of immigration lawyers actually reduced the chance of relief so much that the applicant would have been better off without a lawyer.

Notably, the study controlled for the wildly unpredictable outcomes in asylum cases — some judges grant 95 percent of applications, and others deny 95 percent — a different problem that also must be addressed.

Immigrants face a dilemma: How do they avoid the lemons? They have no way of knowing whether they have hired one of the many good lawyers, or one of the lousy few. One group of researchers explained that “immigrants are simply in a terrible position to evaluate the claims made by lawyers and are often naïve about what lawyers can and cannot do for them.”

George Akerlof won a Nobel prize for showing how “asymmetric information” causes market failures. When sellers know more than buyers, buyers don’t know who to trust, and everyone suffers. Just like a few dishonest used car dealers make everyone mistrust used cars, a few bad immigration lawyers make people mistrust all of them.

Although measuring lawyer quality is difficult task, the immigration law bar has a serious quality control problem. One survey of judges by Richard Posner and Albert Yoon found that of all practice areas surveyed, “immigration was the area in which the quality of representation was lowest.”

Another survey of New York immigration court judges found that about half of the lawyers they saw provided either inadequate or grossly inadequate representation, and the worst lawyers actually make their clients worse off.

There are two ways to address this problem. Lawyers can and should police their own ranks by reporting unfit lawyers. But no one likes a tattletale. When one of us published concerns about this problem in the Wall Street Journal, the American Immigration Lawyers Association called it “fake news.”

Just like the “blue wall of silence” encourages good police officers to defend bad ones, good lawyers are reluctant to criticize bad ones.

We think reducing information asymmetry might also help. Immigrants deserve to know how often lawyers succeed. Immigration courts collect information about every case filed by every immigration lawyer. A public database providing that information to immigrants would help them find good lawyers and avoid bad ones. This would give immigrants a tool to distinguish between the reprobates and the righteous.

Of course, this isn’t a perfect solution. Statistics cannot tell the entire story. We trust immigrants to use the information intelligently. A lawyer winning only 20 percent of cases before a judge who denies 95 percent of all claims deserves a medal.

A lawyer winning 60 percent of petitions when most win 90 percent should be avoided. Great lawyers taking tough cases may show middling statistics. Despite this, immigrants should have information that might help them steer away from lousy lemon lawyers.

Whether we pursue this solution to the lemon problem or another, we must do more to deal with the bad apples in our midst. Far too often, professional self-regulatory organizations behave like cartels.

Although we see the problem as most pronounced in the immigration law bar, similar problems exist with criminal defense and other practice areas. We should make more information available to let immigrants themselves improve quality by making informed decisions about who to hire.

via It’s hard out there for an immigrant; lemon lawyers make it harder | TheHill

What’s Keeping Asian-American Lawyers From Ascending The Legal Ranks? : NPR

Useful analysis, including breakdowns by different Asian ethnicities, and the importance of role models:

In 2015, the California Supreme Court reversed the ruling [against non-citizens joining the California Bar – Chang was unable to become a citizen given the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882]. “Even if we cannot undo history, we can acknowledge it and, in doing so, accord a full measure of recognition to Chang’s path-breaking efforts to become the first lawyer of Chinese descent in the United States,” the judges wrote in their decision.

“That case got me thinking about the fact that Asian-Americans have been formally excluded from the legal profession as Chang was, and of course, [with] all the informal barriers,” says California Supreme Court justice Goodwin Liu, who reviewed the case. He said he realized he hadn’t seen a comprehensive study of how Asian-Americans came into the legal profession — so he took it upon himself to lead one.

In the study, Liu shows that though Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing minority group in the legal field, there’s still a stark lack of Asian-American lawyers in top positions in this country.

In 2015, 10 percent of graduates at the top-30 law schools were Asian-American, according to the study. Yet they only comprised about 6 percent of federal law clerks and 4 percent of state law clerks. Compare that to white students, and you’ll see a striking contrast: 58 percent of students from top-30 schools were white, but still landed 82 percent of all federal clerkships and 80 percent of all state clerkships.

Liu and his co-researchers also found that while Asian-Americans comprise 5 percent of lawyers in the U.S. and 7 percent of law students, only 3 percent of federal judges are Asian-American, and three out of 94 U.S. Attorneys last year were Asian-American.

The study noted that some obstacles Asian-Americans face include a lack of access to mentors, as well as stereotypes of Asians as being unable to assimilate or socially awkward.

“Whereas Asian Americans are regarded as having the ‘hard skills’ required for lawyerly competence, they are regarded as lacking many important ‘soft skills,’ ” the researchers wrote.

The study also pointed out that there’s a dearth of Asian-American lawyers in public service roles:

“It is notable that few Asian Americans appear motivated to pursue law in order to gain a pathway into government or politics. … Greater penetration into these public leadership roles is critical if the increasing number of Asian American attorneys is to translate into increasing influence of Asian Americans in the legal profession and throughout society. A major challenge is to encourage Asian American lawyers to pursue public service roles and to eliminate barriers for those who do.”

When asked to break out the data further by ethnicity, Xiaonan Hu, one of the researchers, told NPR that she noticed Filipino-American and Indian-American respondents were more likely to say they enrolled in law school to work in government or politics than, say, Japanese-American or Korean-American respondents. Two percent of respondents who were Japanese-American and 3 percent of Korean-Americans ranked the entry into government or politics as a top motivator for going to law school, compared to 11 percent of Filipino-Americans and 5 percent of Indian-Americans.

So what could account for this?

“It doesn’t seem like it’s as much about those groups [being] MORE interested in government and politics, but less averse to it,” Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside, wrote in an email.

“For Filipino Americans, many of them made advancements in government and local politics in California and Hawaii, where they have large populations and there were relatively long-standing Filipino communities,” Ramakrishnan, who also runs the project AAPI DATA, said.

“Indian Americans, by comparison, are much more recently arrived in the United States (with their population booming in the last 2 decades). That normally would mean that we would not expect them to be involved in politics. But, past research indicates that prior experience with democracy and high English proficiency tend to mean greater political participation.”

And while there are rampant structural issues that need to be addressed, Chris Kang, former National Director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, said that emphasizing role models can sometimes be powerful.

When Kang was working with the Obama administration as Pres. Obama’s Deputy Counsel, he helped appoint federal judges. Kang said he and his team tried to highlight each new justice’s ethnicity and gender.

“It wasn’t just, ‘the first Asian-American judge in the district,’ but we really went and highlighted ‘the first Vietnamese-American, the first Filipino-American,’ ” Kang told NPR.

“If there’s someone of your particular ethnicity — or an Asian-American woman, [where there’s] only been two to the federal bench before — seeing now a dozen of them starts to make a difference,” Kang said, “and you start to think as you’re going into law school or you’re a lawyer considering what’s next for you, that a judgeship might be possible.”

Source: What’s Keeping Asian-American Lawyers From Ascending The Legal Ranks? : Code Switch : NPR

CCDI Study shows law firm senior leadership still largely white and male

Interesting study by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion.

In general, I find a three-year time series too short to show much change given the nature of promotion and equivalent processes (a minimum of five years is better, ten is more reliable).

However, it is nevertheless informative in terms of its breakdown by seniority  and a good initiative:

Despite much talk over the last decade around boosting diversity and inclusion in law firms, women and racialized lawyers continue to be under-represented in the Canadian legal profession with Caucasian men continuing to far outnumber those two groups in senior leadership roles, according to a study from the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion.

Level Chan says a lack of women and racialized lawyers at the top of law firms is a matter of retention and advancement. He says there continues to be “over-representation” at the associate and entry-level areas of the firms but they don’t tend to stay.

In fact, the study shows Caucasian men who responded to the survey have the greatest odds of being an equity partner, and they are seven times more likely than racialized women to be an equity partner.

The study, “Diversity by the Numbers: The Legal Profession,” conducted by the CCDI in partnership with the Canadian Bar Association, shows the representation of minority groups in the legal profession has not changed substantially over the last three years that the CCDI has been collecting data. In 2014 and 2015, 73.99 per cent and 76.88 per cent of senior leader respondents were men. In 2016, 75.34 per cent of senior leader respondents to the survey were men and 90.78 per cent of senior leaders were Caucasian.

In 2014 and 2015, 89.28 per cent and 88.91 per cent of senior leader respondents were Caucasian respondents, respectively. Another statistic of note is that 81.9 per cent of senior leaders are equity partners.

“Results from 2014, 2015 and 2016 do not show a shift towards a more diverse and inclusive workforce, particularly in partner and leadership roles,” the report states.

The study, sponsored by Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, Dentons Canada LLP, McCarthy Tétrault LLP and Miller Thomson LLP, shows women and racialized respondents are under-represented in equity partner and senior leader roles and over-represented as associates and articling or summer students.

Authors of the report say factors contributing to the perpetuation of these numbers include “inflexible working conditions, rigid firm culture, high client expectations and overall economics of the profession.”

While some might point to a tough economy since 2008, Deanna Matzanke, director, measurement and analytics at the CCDI, says the economy is a “significant red herring” and what the report shows is “a compelling validation” that the current law firm model makes it difficult for women and minorities to rise to equity partner positions.

“ . . . the process of billable hours, the emphasis placed on client relationships, and the hierarchal ‘Old Boys Club’ network in law firms do not support or foster a diverse and inclusive environment.”

The report goes on to say that women find themselves in a difficult position when faced with trying to balance family needs with law firm demands. Also, “ . . . lawyers from minority groups do not have the same social and cultural capital to network and find mentors who relate to them, because the pool is very small.”

That means many leave the law firm culture for more flexible and accommodating environments elsewhere, such as in-house roles or solo practice.

Matzanke, a lawyer herself, says the results of the study are disappointing and show that diversity and inclusion are not being successfully implemented in the legal profession, despite the fact the pool of potential lawyers in law school has increased in diversity and at the associate level at law firms shows fairly high diversity.

The majority of racialized respondents in the legal profession are Asian, while all other groups show very small representation.

A total of 11 firms from nine provinces and one territory participated in the 2016 survey. Firms were invited to participate directly by CCDI via the Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network, and the Canadian Bar Association sent a letter to all members.

“There’s nothing surprising here really,” says Level Chan, a partner with Stewart McKelvey LLP in Halifax and the CBA’s representative on the CCDI’s advisory committee.

“As to why we’re not moving the needle much, I think it’s a matter of retention and advancement, and as you see particularly with women, there continues to be over-representation at the associate and entry level areas of the firms, but we’re not keeping them. I think that in turn is translating to having fewer people available for senior roles and as equity partners. That is the ongoing issue we’ve had in the legal profession.”

Source: Study shows law firm senior leadership still largely white and male

Link to the study:Diversity by the Numbers: The Legal Profession

Law Society report proposes changes to combat systemic racism

Will be interesting to see whether the report and its recommendations are fully or partially adopted, and the degree to which they are implemented.

But it all starts with data and pleased that one of the recommendations is for just that:

Law Society of Upper Canada working group is proposing that the regulatory body step in to ensure that law firms and other legal workplaces move to eradicate systemic racism in the legal profession, and to penalize those that fail.

The Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group spent the past four years studying the issue and holding consultations and will present its final report and recommendations Thursday to the Law Society’s benchers — its board of directors — for information purposes. A final vote is expected on Dec. 2.

“The challenges faced by racialized licensees are both longstanding and significant,” reads part of the report, obtained by the Star. “In our view, the Law Society must take a leadership role in giving legal workplaces reasonable deadlines to implement steps that are important to bring about lasting culture change.”

The report goes on to say: “It is clear from the working group’s engagement and consultation processes that discrimination based on race is a daily reality for many racialized licensees; however, many participants stated that they would not file a discrimination complaint with the Law Society for various reasons, including fear of losing their job, fear of being labeled as a troublemaker, and other reprisal-related concerns.”

Lawyer Paul Jonathan Saguil said it’s important that the public, as well as lawyers, see themselves reflected in the legal profession.

“What happens when you get to the pinnacle of the profession — people who are applying to the bench or to tribunals? As you go up the pipeline, you get people who are more and more removed from what is the true diversity of the Canadian population, and that has an impact,” he said. “For lawyers, too, it has a psychological impact when they don’t see themselves reflected at their firm, and wondering how they can succeed.”

Saguil, who is Filipino-Canadian, mentioned as his role model Superior Court Justice Steve Coroza, believed to be the first Filipino-Canadian appointed to a superior court.

“Once you see someone advance in that position, you start hoping that one day you can achieve even a modicum of that success,” Saguil said.

Major recommendations — most of which the working group envisions would be implemented over the next three years — include requiring legal workplaces of at least 10 licensees (which include lawyers and paralegals) to develop and implement a human rights/diversity policy, “addressing at the very least fair recruitment, retention and advancement.”

A representative of each of those workplaces would also have to complete an equality, diversity and inclusion self-assessment of their office every two years, according to one proposal.

Another recommendation proposes “progressive compliance measures” for workplaces that don’t implement a human rights/diversity policy, and/or workplaces “that are identified as having systemic barriers to diversity and inclusion.”

The 15-member working group, made up of benchers, proposes a “gradation of responses,” from meeting with representatives of legal workplaces to discuss concerns, “to disciplinary approaches if there is deliberate non-compliance with requirements, despite multiple warnings, or no efforts are made to address systemic barriers.”

Observers say change is needed now more than ever, as the number of racialized lawyers in Ontario has doubled — from 9 per cent of the profession in 2001, to 18 per cent in 2014. According to the 2011 census, 26 per cent of Ontarians identified as racialized.

“The overall goal is to change the culture of the legal profession,” said lawyer Raj Anand, co-chair of the working group.

“We had a very important issue that has not been addressed — certainly not to this extent by any law society in Canada . . . I don’t think there’s any law society that has gone to the point of mandatory measures in order to effect culture change.”

Anand said he hopes other law societies can use his working group’s report as a model to change the culture in other provinces.

“The issues are still serious ones, and enough time has passed. It’s time to put in place some base minimums. These are not radical recommendations.”

Progress would be measured by annually providing legal workplaces of 25 licensees or more with the self-identification data of their firm’s lawyers and paralegals. That information, compiled by the Law Society, would then allow the firm to compare its numbers with the profession as a whole.

Licensees would also be asked to answer questions about inclusion at their workplace every four years, and a summary would be given to the workplace.

The Law Society would also be required to publish an “inclusion index” every four years that would contain the legal workplace’s self-assessment information, demographic data and information collected from the inclusion questions.

The group also recommends mandatory training for every licensee on equality and inclusion, to be taken once every three years, as well as improvements for mentoring.

Source: Law Society report proposes changes to combat systemic racism | Toronto Star

It’s 2016, but women – even in elite professions – still earn less

Having data helps sharpen the conversation:

In the legal field, a 2016 survey of compensation paid to in-house counsel found that female lawyers who work as corporate counsel earn 15 per cent less than their male in-house counterparts.

“This wage gap cannot be fully explained away by the assertion that ’men have been in the workplace longer,’ as men have fewer average years as both legal counsel and senior counsel and [yet] still earn a higher base salary,” according to a report by the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association and The Counsel Network, a national legal recruitment firm. “For in-house counsel, the gender wage gap is real and it is not shrinking… In all sectors, except government, where woman have wage parity, men earn a higher salary than women.”

(The average annual salary for all in-house counsel surveyed is $165,000.)

A 2015 survey conducted by Chartered Professional Accountants Canada uncovered similar results: “At the total level, female members have a median total compensation of $99,000 versus $120,000 among their male counterparts.”

Some – but not all – of this is explained by the preponderance of men in more highly paid executive roles, said the CPA, which also provided a compensation breakdown by role and gender, based on 2014 pay stubs.

Examples: median annual compensation for male accountants in chief financial officer roles was $180,000, compared with $140,000 for females; $125,00 for male treasurers, compared with $98,000 for females; $133,000 for male professors, compared with $109,000 for females; $250,000 for male partners in accounting practices compared with $190,000 for females.

“It’s a fairly recent thing that we have looked at the data and gone on the record with it. That’s obviously good, because just recognizing that there is a problem can lead to change,” Robin Taub, volunteer chair of the CPA Canada’s women’s leadership council, said in an interview.

The most recent in-house counsel compensation survey – the fourth such survey conducted since 2009 – “was shocking” in that the gender pay gap has not narrowed “and it’s 2016,” said Dal Bhathal, Toronto-based managing partner of The Counsel Network.

This time, however, perhaps because it is 2016, “I can tell you that, absolutely, in the in-house counsel community, it has definitely received attention,” Ms. Bhathal said.

At a time when the federal government has its first-ever gender-balanced cabinet and securities regulators now require publicly traded companies to disclose the percentage of women on their boards of directors and in executive positions, the issue of gender equity is not only on the corporate radar, it’s on the agenda.

Source: It’s 2016, but women – even in elite professions – still earn less – The Globe and Mail

Discrimination a daily reality for visible minority lawyers in Ontario, report says

Not surprising that the legal profession is not immune from discrimination issues:

The blunt Law Society of Upper Canada report, titled “Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees,” contains some disquieting findings.

“Overt discrimination and bias are a feature of daily life,” the paper concludes. “Racialization is a constant and persistent factor.”

Ontario’s legal profession has seen an increase of visible minority lawyers in recent decades. Latest figures indicate about 17 per cent of lawyers — and 28 per cent of paralegals — are not white, up from about 9.2 per cent in 2001.

In 2012, the law society set up a working group to study the issue of racism and discrimination in its ranks.

Despite the dramatic increase in minority numbers, professional acceptance is still hard to come by, according to the study.

Alienation, lack of entry and promotion opportunities and disrespect are among the problems “racialized” lawyers say they face.

“The challenges faced by racialized licensees have an impact on the reputation of the legal professions, access to justice, and the quality of services provided,” the report states.

Minority participants in the study complained that colleagues, judges and clients commonly assumed they were incompetent or ineffective. They talked about being shut out from professional opportunities or excluded from workplace social gatherings.

Last year, for example, Ontario’s top court found that two black lawyers had been racially profiled in 2008 when an administrator at a lawyers-only lounge at a courthouse in Brampton asked them — and only them — to identify themselves.

Discrimination a daily reality for visible minority lawyers in Ontario, report says | Toronto Star.

Cultural competence: An essential skill in an increasingly diverse world – Slaw

Short article on cultural competence with respect to lawyers. Starts with awareness:

Instead of trying to be “culture-blind” a common strategy of minimization, a culturally competent lawyer should strive to build a working knowledge of behavioural predictors: cultural dimensions of behaviour that are shared by the majority of individuals within a cultural identity. Unlike stereotypes, behavioural predictors are grounded in science for example, anthropology or sociology and allow the user to assess a person’s behaviour against cultural generalizations.

Cultural competence: An essential skill in an increasingly diverse world – Slaw.

Companies see diversity pay off

An example of diversity leadership in legal practice, Denton’s Canada (highlighting their Calgary office):

“From a cultural perspective, we’ve had zero pushback from senior leadership on embracing (diversity and inclusion) programs,” says Ghitters. “Diversity isn’t a fad. We’re in it for the long term.”

Having been recognized recently as one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers by Mediacorp Canada Inc., Ghitters said diversity has to be built into the culture of a company with buy-in from the top down.

In the past six to eight months, the company has done everything from host several events supporting the LGBT community, had inspirational speakers, and ongoing support from the firm’s regional diversity committees for its array of programs.

It’s all part of an effort to instil a sense of support for diversity in every aspect of the company’s operations.

It appears to be working. “Any good workplace culture has some fun to it and this is a good way to celebrate diversity,” said Jordan Deering, partner and co-lead of the diversity committee in Calgary with Ghitters.

They use the simple method of reflecting the naturally diverse nature of the clients they serve and the cities they operate in across Canada.

“It also assists us in approaching legal issues from different perspectives and ways of thinking,” says Deering. “It helps us look at things from all angles.”

Companies see diversity pay off.