Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2016)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 8, 2015)
Here are some of the reasons why Law Society of Upper Canada, The was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2016):
- The Law Society of Upper Canada provides maternity and parental leave top-up payments to employees who are new mothers, fathers or adoptive parents (up to 93% of salary for 17 weeks) and offers a number of flexible working arrangements to help them ease into their new role as parents
- The Law Society of Upper Canada supports the aspirations of young talent, establishing the Law Society Foundation to raise funds for bursary grants for students in need who are pursuing a law degree or admission to the Bar of Ontario
- The Law Society of Upper Canada offers compassionate leave top-up payments for employees who are called upon to care for a loved one (to 70% of salary for 8 weeks)
The Law Society aims to be a role model
So, what's an architect doing working at the Law Society of Upper Canada? On one level, the answer is fairly straightforward. Architect Mona Elali is the society's Senior Facilities Manager, responsible for preserving a 19th-century heritage building and its six acres of manicured grounds, as well as creating a modern and ergonomically efficient workspace for more than 500 employees.
But her answer is also more profound. "The Law Society's values reflect mine," says Elali. "And they take the same care with the Osgoode Hall building as they do with employees. This is a safe, comfortable and sustainable place where people have a chance to grow."
The Law Society, Canada's largest, regulates the legal and paralegal professions in Ontario. Its central mandate is to protect the public interest through oversight over the province's some 49,000 lawyers and 7,000 paralegals. It also strives to enhance access to justice. Says Rob Lapper, the society's CEO: "We serve the public. That's important because that public interest ethos infuses our staff. It provides them with a clear mission and a sense of purpose that is important to morale."
The society also strives to be a role model for the professions it regulates. Some two-thirds of its employees are female. The same percentage holds for both management and senior management positions. That's considerably higher than for the legal profession as a whole. "We should be ahead of the curve," says Lapper. "We can't urge the professions to promote diversity and gender equality unless we walk the talk ourselves."
The Law Society has made the Top Employers list for a decade now, and Lapper says that's largely because it provides myriad opportunities for individuals to develop professionally and to take on new challenges within the organization. That approach was also a key factor in the society this year winning a Governor General's Canada Award for Excellence. That honour goes to organizations that demonstrate continual innovation and sustainable improvement throughout the workplace.
The society takes a broad approach to serving the public it is mandated to protect. For example, Law Society staff are encouraged to learn French or improve their proficiency in the language so they can provide bilingual services to the Ontario public. Onsite language courses are available and tuition for those wanting to take classes in this and other job-related areas, including legal studies, are generously subsidized.
"There's lots of competition these days for talented people," Lapper says. "Our commitment to professional skill enhancement and internal job opportunities allows us to attract and keep the best people."
As well, the Law Society is responsive to work-life balance needs. Flexible working arrangements, including telecommuting, flexible work hours and compressed work weeks are available. Employees get up to two paid days to devote to the volunteer activity of their choice.
Elali first encountered the historic downtown Toronto building that is home to the Law Society, in addition to the Ontario Court of Appeal and other courts, when she was in private practice. At the time, she was volunteering with Doors Open Toronto, an annual weekend event when the public can visit otherwise restricted buildings. The Law Society takes this openness one step further, offering guided tours during the summer months, another one of Elali's responsibilities. "How can you not be impressed with this structure?" she asks. "Working here is a privilege."
Moreover, it is a public trust, one Elali takes seriously. "The Law Society has a long history of caring for its property," she says. "I am proud to lead a team that not only maintains this facility, but also enhances it."
Elali can also attest to the society as a people-caring organization. "When I expressed interest in the job, I was introduced to some staff before I decided whether I wanted to go ahead," she says. "I saw a number of happy people who have been here for decades. That made the decision easy."
This article appeared in the magazine announcing this year's Greater Toronto's Top Employers winners, published December 8, 2015 in The Globe and Mail. This article was prepared with the financial support of the employer, which did not write or edit its contents.