Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Mariam Moktar

Mariam Moktar

Associate, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP
Called to the bar in 2013

Mariam Moktar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, during a time of peace and political stability. But in 1991, rebels toppled the state government, plunging the country into a civil war that still rages today. When her father, a police officer, died in the violence, the family fled to Egypt. In 1994, they arrived in Toronto.

Mariam Moktar

Moktar grew up in Weston, a neighbourhood with a large Somali population that was sometimes a target for police brutality. These childhood experiences informed her worldview. “I came to value political structures that are held to the highest levels of accountability,” says Moktar, now 31. “I’ve seen what life is like when that doesn’t exist.”

This sparked an early interest in law. Today, she’s an associate at Lenczner Slaght, one of Canada’s top litigation boutiques. Tom Curry, the managing partner, is impressed by how she excels on her feet. He remembers watching one motion that, at first, he thought was a long shot — until Moktar stood up to argue. “There was a noticeable shift,” he recalls. “Our side breathed easier. She has a natural gift of persuasion.”

Despite an all-consuming career and the demands of planning a wedding — this summer, she will marry her fiancé, Daren Wagar, a web coordinator and screenwriter — Moktar still finds time to volunteer. In 2015, she co-founded the Canadian Association of Somali Lawyers, which advocates for diversity in the profession and against police misconduct and racial profiling. “Growing up, I didn’t see Somali lawyers,” she says. “There wasn’t someone I could look up to and learn from.” She has become the role model she wishes she’d had.


Don’t forget to read about our other amazing winners.


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall

Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Atrisha Lewis

Atrisha Lewis

Associate, McCarthy Tétrault LLP
Called to the bar in 2013

As a racialized woman in law, Atrisha Lewis is used to standing out. But the litigation associate at McCarthys has never stood out quite so brightly as when she wrote an article last year that articulated what it’s like to work as one of the few racialized lawyers on Bay Street.

Atrisha Lewis

The piece went viral. Lewis, age 30, received hundreds of supportive emails from members of the legal community. McCarthys has also launched a diversity initiative and tapped Lewis to be a part of it. Given that she’s the only associate on the team, it’s a noteworthy nod. “One of Atrisha’s strengths is that she knows what she wants,” says Geoff Hall, a partner at McCarthys who works with Lewis. “She’s made sure diversity issues are on the agenda.”

Lewis’s advocacy streak dates back to her childhood in Ottawa, when she wrote letters on behalf of her parents, recent immigrants from the Seychelles who lacked advanced English skills. By seven, she wanted to be a lawyer. But as she grew older, she realized it would be a hard road. “I always felt that, as a woman of colour, I would never be taken seriously unless I had top-notch credentials,” she says. “That’s the only way to have standing.” So when she went to law school, at the University of Toronto, she studied hard. It paid off: when she graduated, Lewis won the Dean’s Key, in recognition of her academic and extracurricular work.

In her first five years at McCarthys, her caseload has ranged from medical malpractice to patent litigation. Lewis has unbridled ambition. “In the way that people think Marie Henein when they think, I want the best criminal lawyer, I want them to think Atrisha Lewis when they want the best civil litigator.”


Don’t forget to read about our other amazing winners.


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall

The hidden costs of conformity

Ritu Bhasin is a diversity consultant and a lawyer, who previously worked on Bay Street for close to a decade. Bhasin recently published her first book, The Authenticity Principle: Resist Conformity, Embrace Differences, and Transform How You Live, Work, and Lead. What follows in an exclusive excerpt from that book, in which Bhasin explores the roots of conformity in the corporate world.


When professionals feel pressure to conform and mask who they are in order to get ahead, it ties back to a concept called “minimization,” an experience wherein people feel pressure to downplay their cultural differences and instead focus on the commonalities they have with the people they’re interacting with. Essentially, minimization pushes people to conform and mask in order to advance in their careers.

Across global workplaces, women in particular continue to be compelled to perform. Here are some examples of what women professionals who work in minimization cultures have told me about how they have to modify their behaviour in the workplace:

  • They change their appearance, like their hair, dress and jewellery, because they worry about looking too womanly, manly, sexy, frumpy, contemporary, conservative and so on — basically, they feel caught in the double binds of appearance-based bias (damned if you do, doomed if you don’t).
  • They constantly rethink what they want to say and how they want to say it because they fear that they will be judged as being too timid, bitchy, nasty, indirect, direct, team-oriented, independent, quiet, vocal and so on —again, they’re caught in the double binds of “damned if you do and doomed if you don’t,” in this case with communication.
  • They water down what they share at work about being a mom, afraid that others will think they’re more interested in motherhood than career opportunities — so when asked about their weekends, for example, they’ll talk about news headlines instead of family stuff.
  • They pretend to be interested in sports and may even take up certain sports like golf (ugh, I did that for about twelve days) or read/watch news about sports to “keep up” even though they hate it.
  • They go to women-hanging-from-poles strip clubs for client-and team-building events. Particularly in the highly male-dominated sectors I consult for, many women professionals have told me that they’ve gone unwillingly to these places because if they hadn’t they would have been the only team member who didn’t and therefore would have missed out on spending time with their boss, co-workers and clients.

Unfortunately, my list of examples of how women conform and mask at work because they feel compelled to by a minimization culture is much longer than this. Also telling is that I have a similar laundry list of how people from many other identities perform — people of colour, immigrants, people from LGBT communities, persons with disabilities, millennials, those who practice religion or a faith (my inclusion work has shown that most workplaces intensely push people who are religiously or spiritually observant to conform and mask) and people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, to name just a few.

The reality for many women, diverse professionals and others who are different (whatever those differences are) is that they’ll likely perform at work in many areas, they’ll adapt in others and they’ll be authentic in just a few, if any. If you can relate to this, you know how draining and disillusioning this feels. As I have been told again and again, it is “exhausting” to feel left out, to be not included for who you are, and to be someone you’re not while at work. You can now see why I refer to minimization as the enemy of, and the biggest barrier to, authenticity (and inclusion) in the workplace.


Ritu Bhasin is an award-winning diversity and inclusion consultant and global speaker. This is an excerpt from her new book, The Authenticity Principle: Resist Conformity, Embrace Differences, and Transform How You Live, Work, and Lead. To learn more about the book, visit Bhasin’s website.

Precedent Setter Awards 2015: Paul Saguil

Paul Jonathan Saguil

Counsel, TD Bank Financial Group
Called to the bar in 2008
Law school: Osgoode Hall

In late 2013, Paul Saguil started to feel bored. It had been a year since the young litigator left Stockwoods LLP to go in-house at TD Bank, where he began to instruct outside counsel on a range of lawsuits. But he wanted something more cutting-edge. And when he took that concern to management, they had the perfect job in mind.

The bank’s top brass assigned Saguil to what’s known at TD as “the hub,” an elite four-lawyer team that serves as a kind of internal police force.

Paul SaguilSitting in the spotless TD lunchroom, the 33-year-old sums up his role. Basically, if the bank suspects that one of its employees is acting up — by, say, manipulating financial statements or selling confidential data to criminals — it’s his job to find out if the allegations are true. “We’re not carpet sweepers,” says Saguil. “We want to have a disciplined fact-finding exercise, so that when we do have to defend ourselves we know what the story is.”

When asked if it can be awkward to play bad cop with colleagues, Saguil flashes a broad smile, as if to say, You have no idea.

“They don’t always see it as playing on their team,” he explains. “My personal challenge is to turn off the litigator, cross-examiner mode.”

Outside the office, Saguil is busy making the profession more inclusive. Today, he offers pro bono counsel to Out on Bay Street, mentors law students and co-chairs a committee on diversity at the Law Society. “We don’t always celebrate these behind-the-scenes efforts,” says Douglas Judson, a third-year law student at Osgoode Hall, who works with Saguil at Out on Bay Street. “They can seem brutally administrative, but they’re really important.”

All told, Saguil has to fight to spend time with his partner of six years, Calvin Cheng, let alone get some rest. But he refuses to complain: “I can put up with the sleepless nights because I’m working on a larger project — making the profession a better place for lawyers with diverse backgrounds.”


Don’t forget to read about our other amazing winners.

 

 


Photography by Jaime Hogge; Hair and makeup by Shawna Lee; Shot on location at Spin Toronto

The Circuit: Justin Trudeau calls for gender and racial diversity on the bench


What: The 2014 South Asian Bar Association Gala
Where: The Fairmont Royal York Hotel
When: Thursday, November 27, 2014


Improving gender and racial diversity in the federal judiciary will lead to better decisions, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau told more than 450 lawyers at the annual South Asian Bar Association Awards Gala last night. 

“I don’t think anyone’s going to argue that we should compromise on the quality of judges we appoint,” he said at the event, held at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto. “But there is value in giving consideration to the full range of perspectives and experiences prospective judges bring to the bench — whether those perspectives are informed by gender, ethnicity or another characteristic.” 

Diversity on the federal bench will also help inspire young people from a range of backgrounds to enter the legal profession in the first place, he told Precedent in an interview following his speech. “People need to feel like they recognize themselves and their identity in the legal community as a whole.” 

To illustrate this fact, he pointed to the appointment of Bora Laskin, in 1973, as the first Jewish Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. “That had never happened before,” he said. “There were no role models.” 

Trudeau also called for more transparency in the way that judges are appointed. “At a time when we can track, in real time, the number of people watching cat videos on Youtube, the fact that we know so little about those selected to administer justice is absurd.” 

Earlier in the evening, Jayashree Goswami, president of SABA and litigation counsel at Zurich Canada, said that diversity is an equally important objective in the makeup of law firms themselves. “Meaningful diversity is not about having a token person of colour in an otherwise homogeneous law firm.” 

Goswami added that, albeit slowly, a cultural shift is under way: “Lip service to the cause of diversity, ladies and gentlemen, is no longer acceptable.” 

At the gala, SABA also gave out its first ever diversity award to Simon Fish, general counsel at Bank of Montreal, who has made diversity a major priority at the bank. Four South Asian lawyers in the Toronto legal community — Bindu Cudjoe, Sanjeev Dhawan, Sunil Mathai and Awanish Sinha — also received legal excellence awards.


Photography by Yvonne Bambrick

Why is diversity so hard to achieve?

Despite the verbiage dedicated to the lack of diversity in the law — particularly in private practice — the statistics remain bleak. In Ontario, 50 percent of law grads are women, yet women make up only 35 percent of lawyers in private practice and 20 percent of partners. And these numbers, collected by the Law Society of Upper Canada, have held steady over the last 6 years

That lack of progress emerged as a central theme last night at a panel on diversity in the legal world hosted by Bank of Montreal. 

One key problem is that lawyers find it difficult to recognize their own biases, said Kate Broer, a partner at Dentons and chair of the firm’s Canadian diversity committee. 

Lawyers often believe that, because of their legal education, they are “objective and fair,” she said. They falsely think they are immune from holding prejudicial views. Too many lawyers, as a result, unknowingly favour people of the same gender and cultural background. 

Dentons, as a result, puts lawyers through “implicit bias” tests, so lawyers can see, in scientific terms, that they do not respond to every group of people in the same way. 

But that’s only the first step, said Broer. Once people know they are prejudicial, they have to fight the impulses they’ve relied on their entire life. 

And that takes time. “I have biases,” said Broer. “If I go to an event and it’s a room full of women, I instantly feel more comfortable because we share common characteristics and I know how the culture works.” 

To build a truly diverse workforce, then, lawyers need to hire people with whom they might not immediately get along, she said. It’s a concept, she acknowledges, that flies in the face of traditional hiring practices, where an employee’s supposed “fit” is so important. 

“You have to work harder to connect with someone who doesn’t look like you, or doesn’t have the same background as you,” she said. 

But there is a persuasive reason to make that extra effort, said Simon Fish, general counsel at BMO. A diverse workforce is more creative and innovative, which, in turn, bolsters the bottom line. 

“It’s as simple as that,” he said. “If it’s important for us, then it’s important for the firms that support us. We want their best talent. We want their best ideas. And we want their best services.” 

Which is why, last year, BMO asked firms to measure and report diversity statistics to the bank. Then they use those numbers to help decide which firms to hire.  

That incentive has made a difference. Last year, only 34 percent of firms replied — and this year, 97 percent reported their diversity numbers. 

The panel, by and large, agreed that attitudes are shifting — even if statistics are not. 

And while discussing the same topic ad nauseam can be frustrating, repetition is the only way to undercut deeply embedded biases, said John Mountain, senior vice president of legal at NEI Investments. 

“If you say to people in your workplace that [diversity] is important to us, the first time, they might not believe it,” said Mountain. “And the second time they might not believe it, but the third time they hear it, they may believe it.”

Workplaces must appoint more women to executive positions, says president of Catalyst

Gender equality under the law is important — but to achieve real gender equality in the workplace, it’s simply not enough, Deborah Gillis told a crowd of several hundred lawyers and professionals this morning. 

Gillis is the president of Catalyst, a New York-based organization that promotes the advancement of women, and she spoke today at the Person’s Day Breakfast, an annual event hosted by the Women’s Legal Education Action Fund

If it were enough, she said, then the statistical landscape in Canada, which has a world-class constitution, would not be so alarming. 

She explained that, in Canada, women occupy just 18 percent of senior positions at the largest 500 companies. And, worse still, among recent MBA graduates, men earn $8,000 more than their female counterparts. 

There are, however, steps that individuals can take to help women advance in the corporate world.  

“When there are board seats to fill,” she told the crowd, “do more than recruit a diverse slate of candidates — promise to fill at least one of those seats with a well-qualified woman.” 

She also asked business leaders to go beyond mentoring young women and become their sponsors. Sponsors offer more than advice: they recommend those women for promotions, and encourage higher-ups to put them in charge of major projects.

Gillis said men can be the most effective sponsors. Because men continue to dominate the upper echelons of the business world, they are often in the best position to “build the kinds of relationships with other highly-placed senior men” that allow them to effectively sponsor young women.

At the same time, she said antiquated definitions of gender, when perpetuated, should not go unchallenged.

“When you hear someone say, ‘My husband is babysitting tonight,’ promise to stop thinking of fathers as occasional babysitters and once-a-month chefs and start treating them as co-parents who have equal responsibility for their families,” said Gillis, in a remark that drew loud applause from the audience. 

While Gillis believes young people are more engaged with gender issues at work than previous generations, she ended her talk on a somewhat bleak note. 

“Women have been in workplaces for many, many years,” she said. “We’ve been talking about the importance of women’s rights and rightful place in workplaces for a long time, and yet, here we are. Catalyst was founded 52 years ago. And we’re still here today. And, you know, I tend to think I have job security for the foreseeable future.”

 

We ask six big industry players — How do we make law a well-oiled machine?

The players

Les Viner, Anne Sonnen, Peter Lukasiewicz, Kevin Coon, Lisa Borsook, Brian Hilbers

 

Daniel Fish of Precedent Magazine

Meet your moderator
Our panellists had the answers, but one man had all the questions: Daniel Fish, Precedent’s discerning news editor, led the roundtable discussion. Read his editor’s notes below as he guides us through an idea-rich dialogue about how to make law’s future a bright one.

 

The future of national firms

Daniel: Do you think a young lawyer starting out now could build a national firm in his or her lifetime?

Peter: In the sense of a full-service model, I think that’s unlikely. One of the issues facing our profession is that there are too many lawyers chasing too little work — particularly in the large firms.

Anne: I think it would have to be a law firm based on a different business model. It might have a relationship with an offshore company — who’s going to do due diligence and e-discovery — and a bunch of contract or salaried lawyers. [Ed. note: A few innovative start-ups have already given these strategies a try, with some success. But will they replace big firms altogether?]

Daniel: Since the 2008 recession, firms have had to survive a tight economy with fewer deals. How will that continue to affect the legal industry?

Les Viner of Torys

Les Viner, managing partner, Torys LLP

Les: In the law profession, the definition of quality has changed to include cost. If quality means outstanding work and service, it has to be at the right price as well.

Anne: At BMO, we tell our firms all the time: ‘We have a productivity initiative to reduce legal spend and we will meet it.’ And we already are.

Kevin: We, on the firm side, need to drive down costs because clients want to increase efficiency and drive down costs as well. Take document review: should that be done by a third-year lawyer sitting in Toronto at $250 an hour when it could be done by an outsourcing service out of India, Manila or Ireland at $50 an hour? [Ed. note: While Baker & McKenzie sends legal work overseas, Torys will soon insource work to an office in Halifax. Find out the pros and cons of each approach.]

Peter: Since 2008, the large law firms have all gotten smaller as we’ve embraced the need to get leaner and be more efficient. For the first time, we are seriously embracing technology that can improve how we deliver services. And one of the outcomes of that is we don’t need as many people as we thought we needed. [Ed note: In fact, Gowlings uses a software program called GhostDraft that helps lawyers write legal agreements faster.]

Diversity in the profession

Daniel: Lisa, as an executive partner — and one of the first female managing partners at a mid-size Toronto law firm — what were things like for women when you started to practice law?

Lisa: I worked in a hospitable environment. But on the client side, perhaps, they were less open to the idea of being counselled by a woman than by the men I worked with.

I remember a closing I did in 1986. I had prepared all the documents and we met over the course of five days to hammer out the details. I played an integral role on the legal team. But at the same time, I was still expected to make photocopies and get everybody coffee.

Daniel: And now?

Lisa Borsook of WeirFoulds

Lisa Borsook, executive partner, WeirFoulds LLP

Lisa: Things have changed dramatically, but we have so far to go. I mean, the statistics on the number of women who leave private practice is a little daunting. [Ed. note: In Ontario, women make up only 35 percent of lawyers in private practice and 20 percent of partners.]

Daniel: Are you optimistic that the percentage of female partners will rise in the future?

Lisa: I am optimistic. I will say, though: the demands on partners, both women and men, are extraordinary. I’m concerned about how the profession will tackle those challenges. People don’t want to work 24/7 for 30 years. I can see why, if I was a young person, the prospect of spending 10 years working a lot of hours to make partner might not be as desirable as other professions.

Daniel: So what can firms do to make a career in law more attractive?

Lisa: At WeirFoulds, we have substantive conversations about these issues. I have open conversations with my female associates about how to juggle the demands they’ll have in their career and in their home life.

Daniel: And what will encourage firms to increase the number of women in leading roles at law firms?

Anne: In Canada, we are the first financial institution to ask our firms to release diversity statistics to us — and many of them have agreed to, so kudos to our firms. It’s better for our shareholders — we make more money and better decisions when we have diverse teams. So we expect diversity from our firms. [Ed. note: BMO demands five key statistics from firms. Find out what they are.]

Kevin: What Anne’s indicated is what we’re all seeing: companies around the globe — the United States in particular — want to work with firms that reflect the way they look in terms of diversity. This is taking off.

Brian Hilbers of Bruce Power

Brian Hilbers, chief legal officer, Bruce Power

Brian: Diversity is very important at Bruce Power. We have diversity targets, which we’ve actually exceeded. And we’ve gone to our major law firms and explained where we are on our diversity targets and what we’re looking for.

Anne: Here’s another thing we’ve done: we select our relationship managers for a lot of our firms. This is our go-to person if there’s an issue. Firms used to say, ‘I’m giving you X.’ Now, we say, ‘No thanks. We want to interview two or three people and here’s what we want them to look like.’ [Ed. note: Bank of Montreal asks a lot of its firms. But the bank gives a lot, too — it published its own diversity numbers (and targets) to the public. For instance, we know that 30 percent of the bank’s executives are women and BMO wants to increase that to 40 percent by 2016.]

Daniel: In that case, firms need female associates to advance at the pace of their male counterparts. Otherwise clients won’t have any women to choose from. How can firms accomplish that?

Lisa: Well, we no longer judge lawyers against colleagues in their same year of call. We now have a totally different system. We create benchmarks of accomplishment in each practice area. As long as they are continuing to move forward, length doesn’t matter. As long as they are progressing, we consider them to be a capable colleague.

Daniel: So even if associates fall behind the rest of their year of call — say, to have a child, or to take care of a sick parent — they’re still advancing, rather than being forced out of the firm.

Lisa: Absolutely.

Les: You’re able to match people’s aspirations at different phases of their life to suitable roles in the firm. And, hopefully, you end up with less attrition. Which is good for clients: they like seeing people they like for long periods of time. They don’t like turnover.

Heenan Blaikie and the future of partnerships

Daniel: Let’s talk about Heenan Blaikie. When that firm collapsed earlier this year, did that make you think more critically about your own businesses?

Peter Lukasiewicz of Gowlings

Peter Lukasiewicz, managing partner, external, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP

Peter: Candidly, I think succession was an issue at Heenan. We’ve all learned lessons from Heenan, and the lesson for me is the importance of leadership and building a culture within the firm that defines the direction of the business. It’s part of the larger change in law firms: we’re running businesses that are as large as companies on the TSX. And we are learning how to run those large businesses. [Ed. note: Two years before the meltdown, founding partner Roy Heenan stepped down as chairman and didn’t appoint a replacement, leaving the managing partners in Toronto and Montreal to jockey for authority.]

Anne: I don’t know any of the details about Heenan, but we continue to hear more rumbling of this sort of thing at other firms and that, if Canadian firms do not continue to innovate, there won’t be many left: they’ll be gobbled up by the larger international firms. [Ed. note: And innovation can come in many forms — even just learning how to use existing technology better.]

Daniel: So, what will partnerships look like in the future?

Les: Many lawyers live in a very binary world: are you an associate or are you a partner? That’s very unsophisticated. We’ve abandoned the so-called up-or-out model, where after so many years you’re a partner, or not a partner and you leave. Now, we want to create customized roles.

Peter: As much as it pains me to say, the accounting firms figured this out a long time ago. If you go into most accounting firms, they’ve got half a dozen levels of employees with a number of different forks in the road. We’ve got to be just as creative when managing employees. 

Kevin Coon of Baker & McKenzie

Kevin Coon, managing partner, Canada, Baker & McKenzie LLP

Kevin: Since the dissolution of Heenan Blaikie, many lawyers seem nervous about becoming equity partners. Some job applicants — not from Heenan, but other firms — have said, ‘I don’t have any problem not being a partner, because I don’t want to put any equity at risk.’ Before Heenan fell, I’d never heard that issue expressed.

Daniel: As law firms try to be more creative, does that change the kind of students and young lawyers you want to hire?

Kevin: I’m really conflicted. The Law Society tells us we have an obligation to participate in the on-campus interview process — a significant commitment for firms. But if we pulled out of that process, we wouldn’t have a problem finding top legal talent. We get applicants from around the world. And, quite frankly, many of those students are the ones that we’re attracted to. They have a global outlook. Maybe they’ve spent a summer at a bank in Zurich. Soon, I think some of the historical big firms are going to pull out of the system.

Les: We need a much more sophisticated talent- management paradigm. And the starting point is: you can’t have 17-minute interviews to hire your talent. That’s a total crapshoot.

The death of the billable hour

Daniel: As clients continue to demand lower costs, will firms start to move away from the billable hour?

Anne: Yes! Our goal is to move all of our external spend off the billable hour rate. We have whole teams that will not open a file with a firm if it’s on the billable hour.

Les: We are prepared to embrace fixed-fee pricing, but it’s a lot of work. The firm and the client have to invest a lot of time together to get it right. So, to me, the barrier is accepting that there will be mistakes made along the way.

Anne Sonnen of BMO Financial Group

Anne Sonnen, deputy general counsel,
BMO Financial Group

Anne: It is a long and hard journey. We spend hours with folks at the table figuring out how to do it.

Peter: You’re not going to always get it right. But if you have a sufficient number of fixedfee arrangements, there will be some winners and some losers. Overall, it will balance out. And that’s what you’re trying to do: manage the legal spend and deliver predictability. I expect in less than 10 years, it will be the norm. Look, [Peter points out the window at a nearby skyscraper] if you can build that building on a fixed price, why can’t you deliver legal services on a fixed-price basis?

Lisa: I think the genie is out of the bottle here. There’s not much point in debating whether or not the change that’s occurred in the legal industry in the past 15 years is something we can reverse. [Ed. note: On the other hand, perhaps the debate still has some life: at least one lawyer was willing to admit the billable hour will keep breathing in the coming years.]

Daniel: Is there resistance, though?

Kevin: Daniel, there is resistance. But the reaction from Anne is indicative of what all law firms must react to. We’re cognizant of what our clients want: predictability, quality and lower costs. Those of us who don’t respond will be left as dinosaurs.

Brian: What we’ve looked at in certain circumstances is value-based billing, where, if we’re successful, then I’m willing to pay for that success.

Daniel: If you’re charging based on value, you’re almost shifting unpredictability onto the firm.

Brian: Yes, you’re right. But from my perspective we should both sink or we should both swim together.


Illustration by Raymond Biesinger; Photography by Margaret Mulligan

The five diversity stats BMO demands from firms

Law firms that want to work for Bank of Montreal better have their answers ready — last year, for the first time, BMO started to demand diversity numbers from potential firms. If a firm posts low numbers, it might lose the file to a more diverse firm.

At first, BMO only wanted to know how many women and visible minorities work at each firm, says Anne Sonnen, deputy general counsel at BMO. But, since then, the bank has ramped up its demands. Now, it asks for stats in three more categories: people with disabilities, sexual orientation and aboriginals.

Plus, BMO wants people from those groups to occupy all levels of the firm, including positions of authority. Sonnen says she wants just as much diversity in the associate ranks as she does on the management committee.

Swiss army knifeAll this might seem new, but Canada is just playing catch-up. In fact, American firms collect and share diversity numbers all the time. And that encourages law firms in the United States to hire more women and minorities — a trend BMO hopes to kick-start in Canada. “Numbers matter,” says Sonnen. “What you measure is what changes.” 


Sonnen had plenty more to say about diversity in our roundtable on how to make law better.


Photography by Margaret MulliganIcon by Isabel Foo