During the Fall of 2020, the Law Society’s “My Experience” Project invited lawyers and students to share their stories where racial discrimination or stereotyping impacted their legal career.
The experiences shared by participants are concerning and paint a disappointing picture of how discrimination and harassment continue to impact Alberta lawyers and students. We are appreciative of the time and effort that participants took in providing their submissions, as this provides us with real-life examples of discrimination and harassment that has, and is taking place, in Alberta.
Participants have consented to let us share their experiences and we will be gradually releasing the experiences through weekly eBulletins. All the experiences are also posted to the Law Society Listens
We want each experience to be shared in the way the participants intended and we want to keep the conversation going. The Privacy Officer at the Law Society redacted the experiences for privacy considerations of the participants and the possible identification of third parties. The redactions do not alter the experiences and were approved by the participants prior to posting.
A qualitative analysis of the experiences shared was conducted by an independent researcher. This analysis suggests that discriminatory culture, biased employment practices, and poor representation and distribution of Black Canadians, Indigenous Peoples and People of Colour (BIPOC) create a vicious circle in the legal profession. The summary of themes is available for your reference here
What can you do?
These are the stories of real people in Alberta’s legal community. We encourage you to read and reflect on the experiences shared by the participants. We are sharing these experiences so we can all listen and learn together, raise awareness and understand how we can collectively do better.
So far, the “My Experience” Project has relied on the participants bravely and generously sharing their experiences of discrimination or harassment in the legal profession. We want to make a shift and share the responsibility amongst the legal profession, the Law Society and others in the legal community to address these experiences and the issues they have brought to light. We are including self-reflection questions on Law Society Listens
for you to contemplate on your own, or you can submit your answers anonymously to the Law Society to further inform our future equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work.
When reading the experiences you may experience different emotions or reactions. We encourage you to use the self-reflection questions to better understand your own feelings and instances where you have faced, witnessed or even contributed to similar experiences. We know that reviewing these stories can be uncomfortable or stressful; if you need to talk to someone or need support, we encourage you to reach out to the Alberta Lawyers’ Assistance Society
If you have a similar experience to share, we are also re-opening the “My Experience” Project for further submissions. We hope the experiences already shared will empower others to come forward and allow us to continue learning.
What happens next?
The experiences shared make it clear that we do not all experience day-to-day life as a student-at-law or Alberta lawyer in the same way. While lawyers are advocates for fairness, this is not a constant value experienced by BIPOC lawyers and students in their interactions within the legal community. The experiences and themes identified through this project will inform the Law Society’s strategic EDI work through the allocation of resources, policies, programming, and other areas within our regulatory jurisdiction.
Our mandate to serve the public interest is challenged if the profession does not reflect the population it serves, or if BIPOC lawyers and students face an uneven playing field upon entry to the profession and when providing legal services. In addition to promoting diversity in the profession, there needs to be a concerted focus on anti-racism education.
It is our intention to work alongside others in the legal community, such as the courts and law schools, to discuss the areas of concern identified within the survey and, where possible, to identify ways we can work together for meaningful change.
Safe Reporting Process
We also encourage safe reporting of complaints related to racism, discrimination and harassment in the legal profession. If you, as a lawyer, student or staff member, believe that another lawyer or articling student may have crossed a boundary related to discrimination or harassment, we urge you to contact the Equity Ombudsperson as an initial step. More information on our safe reporting process is available on our website