What’s it like to be a lawyer who _____?
That was the first question asked of a number of diverse members of the legal profession in British Columbia as part of The Blank Project.
The videos feature interviews with 11 leaders in the BC legal community, 6 of whom are Allard Law alumni, talking about inclusivity in the legal profession. In answering the question of “What’s it like to be a lawyer who ____?”, those featured filled in the blank by talking about their experiences as members of the LGBTQ community, racialized persons, children of immigrants, women, people with disabilities, or in some cases, their experiences as members of intersecting communities.
Allard School of Law graduate Jennifer Lau identified as the child of immigrants who own a business, a bisexual ethnically-Hong-Kong-Chinese Canadian citizen, and a non-practicing lawyer. She now works as Allard Law’s Director of Career Services, and uses that position to advocate for ensuring law students from various backgrounds get to see lawyers who ‘look like them’ as early as possible in their law school experiences.
While those featured did discuss personal experiences of discrimination, they mostly framed measures to increase inclusion in positive terms.
When asked what diversity means, Allard Law graduate Preston Parsons said that it means “having a lot more ways to solve a problem around a table”. This idea—that diversity and representation within the legal profession leads to better solutions and outcomes for the diverse clients who seek legal help—was echoed by others.
“Being a visible minority means that I am more aware that there are wide varieties of views out there and that we should be sensitive to different perspectives and respect the fact that we don’t all fit within certain stereotypes”, said Allard Law graduate Jennifer Chow, QC, who was the first visible minority to serve as BC Branch President of the Canadian Bar Association.
Anna Fung, QC, highlighted that representation in law schools and in the profession has changed significantly. When she was in law school in the 1980s, her class of 250 law students had fewer than 10 students of Chinese descent.
The Honourable Madam Justice Linda Loo of the BC Supreme Court pointed out how far the law has come in the time since she graduated from Allard Law in 1974. She said in that time a lot of changes have happened, but that change doesn’t come overnight.
Andrea Hilland, an Allard Law graduate from the remote Nuxalk nation, says that more can be done to encourage diversity and inclusion within the profession: “For each person individually to reflect on their own biases because I think that really affects how we interact with our colleagues, and what opportunities diverse lawyers have in moving up the chain.” These thoughts are echoed by Parsons, who works to ensure that decision-makers in the profession are as diverse as the lawyers they work with.
The 3-part video series was created by a group of now-graduated law students, including 2016 Allard Law alumni Connor Bildfell, Kevan Hanowski, Erin O’Callaghan, Demola Okeowo, and Jack Ruttle. Funding for the project came from the McCarthy Tétrault LLP Pitching Diversity grant competition, which asked law students to write a proposal and create a short video pitching their idea for how to make the legal profession “more inclusive, more representative, more diverse.”