Diversity and inclusion is a key priority for our firm, reflected in how we support our clients, the communities in which we work and participate, and most fundamentally in the importance we place on continuing to build a workplace where talented people with diverse viewpoints, characteristics and backgrounds come together to provide our clients with the highest quality legal services.
Building a truly diverse and inclusive workplace is a key priority and business imperative for our leadership team. We are dedicated to fostering a workplace culture in which all individuals who work at Osler feel respected and included, can bring their full selves to work and do not face obstacles to success because of their backgrounds or experiences. We strive to attract, retain and promote lawyers and staff who are the best at what they do and who reflect the diversity of the communities where we live and work. In addition, we strive to promote diversity in support of our relationships with our clients and to the support the institutions and communities from which we recruit our diverse talent.
How we support diversity
At Osler, we have implemented a number of initiatives and continue to identify additional steps we can take to further build a diverse and inclusive workplace. Along with our focus on internal firm programs, our Diversity Committee works to promote diversity in support of our clients, the broader communities in which we live and the institutions from which we recruit our talent.
Recent activities include the following:
- Our Partnership Board has determined that the advancement of a greater percentage of women into our partnership is a strategic priority for the Firm, with the overall objective of greater gender parity. In support of this goal, significant resources have been committed to a multi-faceted program, the Advancement of Women Lawyers initiative, that includes mentoring, coaching and training, among other things. This strategic objective is being led by a task force headed by our Co-Chair, Dale Ponder.
- In partnership with other Canadian law firms, Osler committed $1.75 million over 10 years to the groundbreaking Black Future Lawyers (BFL) beginning in 2021. BFL is a collaboration between the University of Toronto’s (UofT) Faculty of Law, its Black Law Students Association, members of UofT’s Black alumni community, and the broader legal profession that provides engagement and mentorship opportunities to Black undergraduate students who want to become lawyers. This partnership will provide operational funding to BFL, providing the stability and security needed to allow BFL to establish chapters across universities throughout Canada, while investing in the future of the next generation of Black lawyers.
- In June 2021, Osler hosted our annual Pride event, “Where are you in Equity, Diversity, Inclusion?” The webinar was hosted by Elliot Smith, Partner, with guest speaker, Tee Garnett, Executive Lead and Strategic Advisor, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), SickKids. Tee spoke about the institutionalization of discrimination and how individuals and institutions alike can create safer and braver spaces for everyone.
- In 2020, along with other leading Canadian law firms, Osler signed the BlackNorth Initiative Law Firm Pledge, an important step in furthering our commitment to addressing anti-Black and other forms of structural racism in the legal profession. The pledge asks firms to commit to specific actions and targets designed to end anti-Black systemic racism and create opportunities for those in underrepresented BIPOC communities.
- We continue to support and expand our Legal Professional Resource Groups, including the Osler Black Lawyers, South Asian Lawyers, Women Lawyers, Pride and Asia-Pacific Affinity networks to bring together legal professionals with shared experiences and backgrounds.
- All members of Osler have received unconscious bias training. In 2020, the program was rolled out in a virtual interactive format.
- In 2018, we established the Osler Diversity Scholarship Program for eligible second-year law students. This annual program provides up to two $2,500 scholarships each year to law students who, like us, seek to promote diversity and inclusion.
- In 2012, we conducted our first demographic survey to take a snapshot of our workforce in terms of gender, sexual orientation, racialized status and other characteristics, in order to establish a baseline so that we could measure our progress going forward. We were one of the first law firms in Canada to undertake such a survey. We have since repeated the survey in 2014, 2016, 2018 and have recently completed conducting our 2020 survey.
“At Osler, we are committed to an inclusive and supportive environment for everyone. We recognize that talented people come from different backgrounds and experiences and that the Firm and its clients benefit from a diversity of voices and views at all levels. A number of initiatives are underway by our Diversity Committee to help us learn more about the experiences and perspectives of our people and to identify additional steps we can take to advance our diversity and inclusion efforts and initiatives. The advancement of women, along with addressing anti-Black and other forms of structural racism in the legal profession are a priority for us.”
Diversity Committee Chair
“Diversity and inclusion is a high priority for the Firm’s leadership and Osler overall. Our firm culture respects and celebrates diverse viewpoints and backgrounds. We strive to foster an environment where we can attract, retain and promote staff and lawyers who reflect the diversity of the communities where we operate.”
National Managing Partner
Diversity firsts and recognition
- In 1968, Osler became the first large corporate law firm in Canada to admit a woman as a partner, Bertha Wilson, who went on to become the first female Justice appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
- Prior to becoming current Co-Chair, Dale Ponder, led Osler as our National Managing Partner and Chief Executive for 9 years. She served in that role at a time when she was the country’s only female chief executive of a major law firm and is still among very few women leaders who are at the helm of a business law firm in our category.
- Osler was named “Firm of the Year” for Canada by Euromoney Women in Business Law Awards 2020 and was recognized as being the “Best Firm for Gender Diversity” in North America and for having the “Best Gender Diversity Initiative in North America” for a National Firm.