What Lady Bird can teach us about the statement of principles

If we care about the success of racialized lawyers, we should pay attention to their concerns

By Rosel Kim

On Monday December 11th, 2017


Two weeks ago, the elected benchers of the Law Society of Upper Canada voted down a motion put forward by one of the benchers that would allow lawyers to opt out of a new policy that requires every licensee to draft and submit a statement of principles. In this statement, all lawyers and paralegals in Ontario must acknowledge their obligation to promote diversity and inclusion in the profession.

Many lawyers have already explained, eloquently, why this requirement is so important, so I won’t repeat them here. Instead, I want to talk about the statement of principles in relation to a movie I recently saw and loved: Lady Bird.

In one of this charming coming-of-age movie’s scenes, the protagonist, Lady Bird, sits in the office of Sister Sarah-Joan, a teacher at her Catholic high school. Sarah-Joan is reviewing her college-admission essay.

“I can tell you really love Sacramento,” remarks Sarah-Joan, of the role that Lady Bird’s hometown plays in her essay. But Lady Bird is surprised. She replies that she just pays attention.

“Don’t you think they are the same thing?” says the nun. “Love and attention?”

To me, this observations rings true: to love something is, indeed, to pay attention to it.

Which brings me back to the statement of principles. It’s true that requiring lawyers to write a statement alone won’t end systemic, structural racism. I don’t believe so, anyway. And it cannot be the only solution.

But writing a statement could lead the profession to collectively pay a little more attention to the issue. And, just maybe, that attention could lead us to a profession that is more equitable. It’s not a guarantee, but if we care about the success of racialized lawyers, we should pay attention to their concerns. That’s what the statement of principles is all about.

We don’t often think about love and justice together. But one of my favourite quotes about justice is from the American philosopher Cornel West: “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”

So let us show our love. Let us pay attention.

Rosel KimRosel Kim is an associate at Goodmans LLP. She writes career and lifestyle columns for Precedent and PrecedentJD. Follow her on Twitter at @jroselkim. Opinions expressed in this article are her own.



Photo courtesy of A24