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The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 5, December 2010


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A Neutral Corner

Candid Conversations with Women in Law

By Jocelyn Frazer, Equity Ombudsperson, Law Society of Alberta

STRATEGIES FOR balancing personal and professional demands, and issues related to maternity or parental leaves were among the topics discussed at a special “Candid Conversations with Women in Law” event hosted by the Law Society of Alberta.

The Nov. 10, 2010 event featured facilitated small group, roundtable discussions among women from various practice settings on topics of interest to them. Interest in the session was overwhelming with 92 applicants for 40 registration spots. In all, 55 people participated and a waiting list has been generated for future events.

Topics for discussion included marketing and business development, as well as the previously mentioned issues relating to maternity or parental leaves, and strategies for balancing personal and professional demands. Participants were grouped by area of practice or work environment and were joined by more senior practitioners with a view to facilitating an open discussion and the sharing of information, experiences and advice within the discussion groups.

The event was organized by the Retention of Women Working Group, a group comprised of representatives from the legal profession around Calgary, and lunch was sponsored by the Association of Women Lawyers and the Counsel Network.

Initially assembled to organize a speaking panel at the University of Calgary to inform students on the realities of the first few years of practice, the Retention of Women Working Group has become as a working group pilot project through the Office of the Equity Ombudsperson.

For the past couple of years, the group has been engaged in various activities at the University – working with the Canadian Bar Association to enhance the mentor program which is offered to law students, and speaking on the value of developing a network with other lawyers. The Working Group has also hosted other events, including a luncheon last spring designed to encourage candid discussions between female law students and experienced women in practice which was very well received.

Based on membership demographic data, and reports from other law societies, we know there are challenges for new lawyers, and these often result in membership attrition in the first several years of practice. While the Retention and Re-Engagement Task Force is examining this issue in greater detail, the working group is focusing on undertaking small initiatives with a view to providing tangible opportunities for lawyers to connect.

Lawyers interested in coordinating similar initiatives outside of Calgary are encouraged to contact the Equity Ombudsperson, Jocelyn Frazer at 403-229-4769 or by email.

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