Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 7, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Law Society of Ontario was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2018):
- The Law Society of Ontario 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 Ontario supports the aspirations of young talent, establishing the Law Society Foundation in 1962 to raise bursary grant funds for students in need who are pursuing a law degree or admission to the Bar of Ontario
- The Law Society of Ontario 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
Equality is top of docket for the Law Society
Recently at its Osgoode Hall headquarters, the Law Society of Upper Canada hosted an event called "Testify: A Project of the Indigenous Laws + Arts Collective." The show, in part a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commis-sion of Canada, pairs artists and legal thinkers to create art and writings about Indigenous laws and what all Canadians can do together to honour and incorporate Indigenous traditions.
For Darcy Belisle, Indigenous Initiatives Counsel at the Law Society and a member of Ontario's Woodland Métis Tribe, the event was symbolic of the Law Society's commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, especially when it comes to Indigenous people among its members and the public. Osgoode's Convocation Hall "is a beautiful space, but it's a very colonial in the sense that it's full of old books, stained glass and portraits of largely white people," says Belisle. "It's very Euro-centric. So it was incredible to have those voices and those laws penetrate the Law Society space, and that's happening more and more."
Certainly, the Law Society's recent decision to drop "Upper Canada" from its name soon is part of efforts to reflect the contemporary, diverse province it serves as the regulator of Ontario's legal professions. "We work to be a role model for lawyers and paralegals when it comes to diversity and inclusion, so it's very important for us to reflect that," notes Acting CEO Diana Miles. "In 2016, we engaged in a diversity census and an inclusion survey within our organization to collect demographic data around gender, age, sexual orientation and other dimensions, so that we know who we are and whether or not we're reflective of the communities we're serving.
"We have robust and continually active equality, diversity and inclusion programs within our organization, to make sure our employees know as much about themselves and their diversity as they do about the members and communities we serve," Miles says.
That focus naturally extends to being more attentive to the needs of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Ontarians. In June, the Law Society adopted an Indigenous Framework to "prioritize reconciliation with Indigenous peoples." Belisle, a lawyer who has focused on Indigenous law and issues throughout his working life, is thrilled to be playing a policy-support role in the Framework's implementation. "The big thing for me is being part of developing a principled approach to making positive change at the Law Society. That's a big job, but it also speaks to the willingness of the Law Society to learn and engage."
Employee work-life balance is also very important for the Law Society, which is being named one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers for the 12th year in a row. "We offer a lot of flexible work arrangements, including telecommuting and flexible hours," Miles points out. "We're very cognizant of the fact that staff need to have a balanced lifestyle to perform at their best." The Law Society also offers noontime activities such as lunch-and-learns, meditation, yoga and other physical activities that help promote health and performance.
Professional development is also critical for the Law Society. It offers staff formal mentoring programs, in-house and online training programs and subsidies for tuition and professional accreditation activities. This year, it launched a talent management program in the interest of succession planning.
Among other perks, including parental leave payment top-ups and vibrant fundraising and charitable programs, there's the subsidized cafeteria. "The lunches are very, very good," says Belisle. "I know it might sound a bit insignificant, but it's actually really affected my health. They have healthy and local food here, and it's affordable."