In the summer of 2018, Shara Roy, a partner at Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP, read a feature in PrecedentJD, this magazine’s sister publication for law students across Canada. The article was a scathing investigation into the student-recruitment process on Bay Street. So Roy, who oversees her firm’s hiring program, read the story with interest.
The story lambasted, in particular, the final stage of the recruitment process. Namely, in-firm week. During this three-day window in November, hundreds of law students arrive in Toronto to interview in person at the top firms in the country. The high stakes produce an onslaught of anxiety. But so, too, do the cocktail parties.
Throughout in-firm week, most firms invite their top candidates to evening soirees. These events take place at the end of an exhausting day of interviews, robbing students of recovery time. On top of that, the dynamic at these gatherings favours applicants from privileged backgrounds, who are fluent in law-firm banter on, say, art or European travel. “I realized that by having a cocktail party,” recalls Roy, “we might be adding to students’ stress.”
The firm’s student committee arranged a meeting — which included the firm’s six articling students — to review the hiring process. In the end, the team decided to scrap the cocktail party and reallocate that budget toward something more positive. Last November, the firm debuted the Lenczner Slaght R&R Lounge, a curtained-off area in the lobby of the Richmond-Adelaide Centre. Any law student participating in interview week could drop by to rest, recuperate and fill up on snacks. Inside the lounge, they would find comfy couches, smartphone-charging stations, nail files, feminine-hygiene products and bottles of Greenhouse Juice. “This was not part of our formal hiring process,” says Brian Kolenda, a partner at the firm and a co-chair on the student committee. “Students didn’t encounter lawyers in the lounge, and we didn’t keep track of who attended.”
Tom Curry, the managing partner at Lenczner Slaght, was immediately supportive of the R&R Lounge. In 1983, he arrived on Bay Street as a summer student, and he found it somewhat intimidating. Having grown up in a working-class family in North Bay, Ont., he found the culture foreign. “No one made me feel at ease about that fact, since they probably didn’t think it was an issue,” he says. “At our firm, we’re trying to avoid those situations.”
Don’t forget to read about our other Innovation Awards winners.
This story is from our Winter 2019 Issue.
Photography by Shalan and Paul, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja.