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The Advisory: Volume 10, Issue 1, January 2012


Click here to view the PDF version of The Advisory

Law Society of Alberta Programs and Initiatives:
Supporting the Retention and Re-engagement of Lawyers in the Private Practice of Law

By Sarah J. King-D’Souza, QC, Bencher and Chair, Retention and Re-Engagement Task Force

The Law Society of Alberta recognizes the importance of a diverse legal profession in serving the public interest in the delivery of legal services.

In 2010, the Law Society renewed its efforts by forming the Retention and Re-Engagement Task Force. Considerable research has been undertaken by the Task Force to further study the attrition of lawyers, and where difficulties in the private practice of law are being encountered by lawyers. The goal of the Task Force is to recommend effective initiatives and programs that will assist to overcome the problems and barriers identified in its research.

The Law Society of Alberta offers an array of programs and policies that support the retention and re-engagement of lawyers, and also equity and diversity in the legal profession.

Key Law Society Programs and Policies:

Programs Description
Equity Ombudsperson

The Equity Ombudsperson provides confidential assistance with the development of workplace policies and the resolution of harassment and discrimination concerns.

The Equity Ombudsperson serves law firms and individuals through outreach initiatives and confidential advisory services.

Model Policies for use by the Profession

The Law Society of Alberta makes publicly available online many model policies for law firms to adopt such as:

  • Respectful Workplace
  • Maternity/Parental Leaves (policy and guidelines)
  • Diversity and Equality (guidelines and sample policy)
  • Workplace Violence (guidelines) and harassment (model policy)
Guidelines and other information

Other helpful guidelines and information online include:

  • Equality in Employment Interviews
  • Alternative Work Schedules: Guidelines for Law Firms
  • Bereavement, Compassionate and Family Responsibility Leave Policy
  • Law Society policy on Workplace Diversity and Equality Principles for work by outside lawyers and law firms
Practice Management Support

The Law Society provides practice management support to those who seek it voluntarily as well as those who are referred to practice management support through the conduct process. The Practice Advisors:

  • are available to discuss legal, ethical and practice concerns, and personal matters such as stress and addiction;
  • mediate and arbitrate inter-lawyer disputes;
  • provide advice related to career transition /stress of practice, and/or referral to Career Coaches; and
  • provide practice management support and informal mentoring of lawyers in solo/small firm settings.
SoloNet Pilot Project

SoloNet is an online forum for lawyers who are sole practitioners or lawyers working in remote locations in Alberta.

SoloNet enables practitioners to pose questions, offer advice and share information about their experiences.

Mentor Program This service provides a less experienced lawyer with the assistance of more experienced counsel.
Assist

Assist helps Alberta lawyers, articling students and their immediate families cope with personal problems such as stress, depression, anxiety, alcohol, drug and all other forms of abuse or addiction, relationship difficulties, burnout and anger.

The program is voluntary and confidential. Individuals seeking help are not identified to the Law Society of Alberta or any other entity.

Aboriginal Summer Student Program The Aboriginal Law student summer program provides career opportunities for students as well as insights into First Nations culture.
Retention of Women Working Group

The Working Group pilot, through the Office of the Equity Ombudsperson, is focusing on undertaking small initiatives with a view to providing tangible opportunities for lawyers to connect.

The Group, over the past several years, has been engaged in various activities at the University with the CBA to enhance the mentor program which is offered to law students.

Retention and Re-engagement Task Force

This is a three-year project to recommend, develop and implement retention the re-engagement strategies, initiatives and policies for lawyers in the private practice of law.

It is mandated to look at issues surrounding the retention and re-engagement of Alberta lawyers and to ensure sufficient numbers and diversity of available lawyers.

The Task Force is studying two groups of lawyers: (1) those with demographics with high attrition rates, in particular women; and (2) those lawyers working in small, rural or regional law firms.

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