Our Commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Bennett Jones is committed to providing all of our legal professionals and employees an equitable, diverse and inclusive work environment in which each person can achieve their career goals and thrive. We place a large focus on this and firmly believe that this approach allows us to attract and retain the best talent and better serve the needs of our clients in an evolving global marketplace.
As evidence of our longstanding culture of inclusivity, we have strong diverse representation among our leadership ranks:
- Four of the ten members of our Partnership Board of Directors are women and four members are members of the BIPOC community. The Lead Director of the Board is a woman who is also the leader of our firm's largest department, Toronto Corporate.
- Women lead three of our six offices as Managing Partners and two of the three are BIPOC women.
- The head of our Partnership Admission Committee, who is also the head of our Diversity and Inclusion Committee, is a woman.
- Our Senior Management team (CAO, CFO, CMO and CTO) has been run for 16 consecutive years exclusively by women and/or members of the BIPOC community.
We have undertaken a number of initiatives focused on EDI. We are committed to continuing to work with equity seeking groups and other members of the legal industry to increase diversity and ensure equity and inclusivity within our firm and our profession.
Some of our recent initiatives include the following:
- We have established a $10,000 Future Leaders Scholarship Program to be awarded to three incoming first-year law students who have a demonstrated interest in business law and identify as members of the Indigenous or Black communities, or are amongst the first generation of their immediate family to undertake post-secondary education.
- We have been a longstanding member of the Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network (LFDIN), a group of member law firms that aim to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal profession through recruitment, retention, advancement and support. The LFDIN meets on a monthly basis to discuss new diversity initiatives/programs.
- In July 2020, Bennett Jones signed the BlackNorth Initiative Law Firm Pledge which sets out a number of goals aimed at ending anti-Black systemic racism and creating opportunities for under-represented groups. Our Toronto Managing Partner, Dominique Hussey, serves on the board of the BlackNorth Initiative.
- We support the Black Law Students Association Canada and its local school chapters. We provide mentoring and coaching to BLSA members; we were the title sponsor for Osgoode's BLSA Lincoln Alexander awards, which seeks to provide financial support to black students who plan to study for and write the LSAT; and we were one of the first law firms to contribute to the establishment of the Cecil Allan Fraser Bursary at Queen's Law School that awards a bursary to an incoming black law student.
- We support Start Proud (formerly Out on Bay) initiatives through program sponsorships.
- We participate in the LAWS Program, a joint initiative between U of T and Osgoode to bring awareness of careers in law to high school students from under-represented communities. Our participation includes hiring high school students for summer internships and donations towards internships at other organizations.
- We hire through the Indigenous Law Student Summer Employment Program facilitated by the Law Society of Alberta that aims to provide work experience to Indigenous law students.
- We are a proud participant in the 2022 Toronto LGBTQ2S+ Virtual Firm Hop
- We also support a wide range of diverse and equity seeking student groups at the various law schools.
At the entry level, we have made a concerted effort to ensure that our recruitment processes, and our criteria for hiring, acknowledge the importance and benefits of having a diverse student class. We require that all lawyers who participate in student recruitment attend an intensive training session on anti-racism and unconscious bias that complements other EDI training we offer throughout the year. We have been successful in this approach, consistently attracting and hiring diverse candidates by reflecting the inclusive environment we provide to our lawyers. Students from equity-seeking groups compose at least a quarter of our articling student classes across the firm.
Bennett Jones has long had a Business Conduct Policy in place that addresses the standards of business conduct and professionalism expected of all members of the Firm, including anti-discriminatory behaviour. This policy is bolstered by a detailed Policy on Enhancing Diversity and Inclusion in Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (the D&I Policy). The D&I Policy articulates our commitment to, and actions for, establishing and maintaining a diverse and inclusive workplace, particularly for those who have been historically excluded from and under-represented in the practice of law. The Firm's Diversity and Inclusion Committee reports directly to our Chairman and CEO, and to the Board. It comprises a diverse group of partners and senior management from across the Firm, including those responsible for leading recruitment, partnership admission and compensation. The mandate of the Committee is to evaluate and review our diversity and inclusion efforts and ensure that we are progressing towards our DEI goals.
Bennett Jones also advocates the importance of a culture of mutual respect, collegiality and civility, while not retreating from a high performance work ethic. To reinforce this sentiment nationwide, the firm has instated a Mindful Business Charter with the goal to establish boundaries between our personal and professional lives, which have been eroded with the pandemic, the advent of technology and the increasingly competitive and global marketplace in which we operate. We ensure that all new lawyers, students and paralegals are aware of and committed to embracing this Charter.
Some key points from our Charter include:
- Actively promote a work environment where people can speak up early about any concerns that they might have with their well-being or the well-being of others.
- Treat internal colleagues and external contacts with respect and courtesy.
- Avoid delegating a task without first making sure the recipient has the capacity to do the work.
- When being instructed on a task, feel free to ask questions and to flag when a deadline is unrealistic and / or unachievable.
- Appreciate that unless a person is participating in a matter in real time (closing, trial etc.), they are entitled to ignore their computer and telephone for several hours at a time to effectively focus on and perform other work.
- Respect a person’s right to take regular vacations without the expectation of being on call at all times, and role-model the same behaviour yourself where possible. Step in to attend to urgent matters to help colleagues enjoy periods of rest.