Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 11, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Law Society of Upper Canada, The was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2017):
- The Law Society of Upper Canada supports the physical and mental well-being of its employees, offering onsite instructor-led classes such as yoga, pilates and meditation as well as naturopathic and massage therapy sessions throughout the year
- The Law Society of Upper Canada invests in long-term career development with tuition subsidies for courses both related and unrelated to an employees' current position, subsidies for professional accreditation and a number of in-house and online training options
- 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 work arrangements to help them ease into their new roles as parents
The Law Society makes the case for inclusion
It was not the sort of event you'd expect to take place in the hallowed precincts of historic Osgoode Hall on Queen Street West, home of the Law Society of Upper Canada.
In October, Mayan elder Maria Ramirez travelled from her native Guatemala to perform a traditional energy ceremony there. She was welcomed by The Honourable Justice Harry S. LaForme of the Ontario Court of Appeal as part of the event, presented in partnership with the Canadian Hispanic Bar Association to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
If this doesn't sound at all like the "Upper Canada" in the Law Society of Upper Canada, well, that is precisely the point. The event was in keeping with the emphasis the Law Society places on diversity and inclusion, both within its ranks and in the legal professions at large.
"We've increasingly recognized the diverse nature of the Ontario population and, trying to reflect and address the public interest, we need to incorporate our own kind of reflection of diversity and inclusion," says the Law Society's CEO, Robert G.W. Lapper, Q.C. "So we've been very, very committed to promoting a culture of diversity where differences are respected and embraced and celebrated, and to hiring capable employees who are reflective of the communities we serve."
Established in 1797, the Law Society regulates lawyers and paralegals throughout the province, ensuring the public is well-served by them. Most of the Society's employees work at Osgoode Hall, with about 110 lawyers and 10 paralegals among the full-time staff of 529.
Lapper says that the Law Society - which is being named one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers for the eleventh consecutive year - places great importance on employees' physical and mental wellness, as well as work-life balance.
"Helping employees balance work with their personal commitments at various life stages is something we've recognized as important and needed," he says. "We accommodate that by offering the option of flexible work arrangements, including telecommuting, flexible hours and shortened and compressed work weeks. We really focus on helping employees feel they have some control over their work and that they're supported by the organization."
Marian MacGregor joined the Law Society as its Equity Advisor in September and is excited about the organization's commitment to being a diversity and inclusion "role model" for the legal profession. "I think the Law Society is actually using its place in the community now more so than it may have in the past," she says. "It's seeing itself as a leader in ways of creating that diversity."
MacGregor, a lawyer whose background includes heading the Community Legal Aid Services Program at Osgoode Hall Law School and getting a master's degree in Critical Disability Studies (she is now pursuing a PhD in that area), feels she's landed in the right place. "There is the space and breadth to think about and respond to larger systemic issues," she says. "There are other people here thinking about the same things and very much looking forward. That kind of energy is very powerful and is in turn empowering."
Among the initiatives MacGregor hopes to spearhead are implementation of recommendations in a Law Society report on racism in the legal professions and a December event to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is promoted by the United Nations.
MacGregor happens to have a disability of her own: she is legally blind, with vision of 20/200. But she says the Law Society has treated her in an exemplary fashion. "They have been very supportive of me from the beginning. It is important to set the right tone, and starting at the interview they ensured that whatever I needed was available - large font when I needed it, or the right lighting."
This has continued, she says. "They are interested in engaging in an ongoing conversation around accommodation. That kind of welcoming feeling is very important."