Diversity: A Look at Cassels and Beyond

Diversity. The word itself gets thrown around endlessly law schools and law firms alike. However, without any action behind it, the world itself is lifeless. Diversity is subjective and means different things to different people. But at Cassels, diversity is more than just a buzzword. It is a commitment to unlearning biases and restructuring our workplace. Cassel’s hasn’t just vowed to do better, but has devoted time, people, and resources into actually doing so. We proudly have Black, Asian and LGBT Affinity Groups, a flexible maternity leave program, and accessibility and inclusivity training. I was proud to learn that Margaret Paton Hyndman, a pioneering female lawyer and the first Canadian woman to be appointed King’s Council, practised at Cassels until her retirement.

To learn something about diversity at Cassels, look no further than our current summer student group. As Tiffany Chiu told me, “the firm truly views the members of our summer class as multi-dimensional people and embraces both our shared similarities and differences. For me, this speaks to the core of the firm’s commitment to diversity.”

Mentorship and friendship can be brokered through similar interests, aspirations and personalities. Yet, there is something invaluable about a prospective student looking at our firm and seeing students, associates, and partners like themselves. When we are mentored by someone who shares the same kind of diversity trait as we do – be it race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation – it allows us to envision who we might become in the future. Put simply, come walk our hallways and I can almost guarantee you’ll find someone just like yourself.

Summer student Tristan Davis gave us his thoughts on diversity and the realm of law.

“Diversity  was one of the most important things I considered during the recruitment process. As President of the Osgoode Hall Black Law Students Association, I am particularly active on campus with regard to diversity initiatives and I wanted to ensure that the firm I chose was equally committed to diversity. Although the diversity of Canada is not yet reflected within the legal profession, many firms and legal departments have made significant strides in recent years. It is important to remember that it takes a special perseverance and dedication for many minorities to achieve success in such a demanding profession.

With that being said, if diversity is equally important to you, remain true to your values. Ask questions about diversity and inclusion initiatives and don’t be afraid to ask for concrete examples of the firm’s commitment to promoting diversity. If you are a member of a diversity group on campus, include that information within your applications. Wear your hair and clothing the way you like. It is important that you feel comfortable when going through the process and you want to choose a firm that allows you to be yourself. At Cassels I am fortunate enough to have excellent Black role models and diversity initiatives that celebrate our unique culture. If any potential applicants have any diversity related questions, please feel free to email me at any time.”

Many other students echoed Tristan’s thoughts. As one of my fellow summer students told me, “on a personal level, it provides a much more comfortable work environment for me and it’s a nice change from the concerning lack of diversity I see at my school. I love that there are ascertainable manifestations of different ‘kinds’ of diversity at Cassels as well, not only in the conventional race/ethnicities sense but also in backgrounds, life-style and interests.”

I will give the last word to my fellow Blogger Any Obando, who eloquently shared her perspective on diversity at the firm and beyond.

“My personal thoughts on diversity mostly stem from my identity and experiences as a minority female. Although there have been enormous strides towards pushing for equality for all, there are still many adversities that women face. I didn’t think too much about my differences until I got to law school, where statistics about being a minority and a woman in the workforce were thrown at me. The attrition rates, the partner ratio of men to women, and the struggles women sometimes faced while taking maternity leave.

I put diversity at the top of my list during the recruitment period. I dug deeper during interviews and did online research to see which firms not only talked the talk, but “walked the walk” of valuing diversity. Cassels impressed me beyond any other firm. Not only do they demonstrate diversity at all levels of their work force, but their programming demonstrates they are leaders in developing and evolving existing policy in diversity. From having a mental health component to the variety of affinity groups at the firm, I felt this was somewhere that would value me and help me break these “invisible barriers” I was told so much about in law school. Going forward, I hope to see both Cassels and the rest of the profession continue to strive forward to both truly value and develop diversity through recruitment and through developing and evolving existing policy. We can always be, and should always strive to be, better as a profession.”

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