Creating a Team of Mentors that Fits Your Career Goals

Supreme Court of CanadaOne of the best things a law student can do is to create a team of mentors. A diverse cross-section of mentors offer a law student, new graduate or junior lawyer with valuable guidance, wisdom, support and connections. Having one mentor is invaluable, but having a team of mentors can ensure that support is available at different times and in different ways. Especially, when those barriers that women in the law face present themselves.

How do you create a team of mentors?
First start with existing mentorship programs. If you are a law student at a university with a WLMP Chapter, all you have to do is sign up to have access to a legal mentor and a peer mentor.

Existing mentorship programs, like the WMLP, provides a ready-made connection with both a lawyer in the community and an experienced law student. Both forms of mentorship are excellent support mechanisms for navigating the challenges presented by law school and a looming career. A female legal mentor can help extend your network. Having strong female peer and legal mentors will also help you feel less isolated in the law.

There are also existing mentors built right into the law school itself – professors! If you have a professor that is inspiring, or who does work that really interests you, or who approaches the law from a framework that resonates with you, then that professor may make an excellent mentor.

Reach out to a professor who you connect with. Take advantage of their office hours, ask them questions after class, apply for a research position they are offering, or ask if they have research or other projects that you can get involved with. Developing a mentorship relationship outside of the classroom is helpful when you have a question or a problem that isn’t related to the coursework. That professor will also get to know you better, which means they will better be able to write reference letters for you when you need them or assist you as you start out on your career path.

Don’t overlook your classmates. Each law student comes to law school with their own backgrounds and experience, which means your peers are a valuable resource. Having a trusted mentor among your peers also means you have a safe space to work through ideas together and collaboratively. Peer mentors don’t always need to have the answers – sometimes you can work with a mentor to arrive at the answer together.

Finally, be sure to recognize when you have an informal mentor in your life. There will be times when you have a formal mentor, such as when a mentor is assigned to you at your workplace, whether you are in a firm, government department, inhouse counsel office, public interest or not-for-profit organization. However, there may also be someone in your life who takes the time to check in with you and offer support when you need it.

That person could be an Associate at the firm you are summering at, an experienced lawyer at the government agency or organization you are doing an internship at, or a friend who took a non-traditional path to their legal career. If that person is offering informal guidance, recognizing that person as a mentor will allow you to nurture and develop the relationship. 

If you take the time to develop a number of mentorship relationships, you will soon find yourself supported by a team of mentors. These mentors will guide you in different ways and through different approaches, helping to champion you in your career.

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#LawNeedsFeminismBecause… #LeDroitABesoinDuFéminismeCar…

If you haven’t checked out the Feminist Collective of McGill Law’s latest photo campaign #LawNeedsFeminismBecause / #LeDroitABesoinDuFéminismeCar, then you really should.

Sajeda-#LawNeedsFeminismBecause project
Sajeda,Feminist Collective at McGill Law project

In 2014, the Feminist Collective of McGill Law held its first photo campaign focusing on why people self identify as feminist, which was featured in the HuffingtonPost.

This year’s photo campaign explores feminism at McGill Law school by looking at why law needs feminism. According to the project website, “over 30 participants finished the sentence ‘law needs feminism because / le droit a besoin du feminisme car’ and lined up one by one for their portrait to be taken by professional photographer, Whitney Lewis-Smith.”

We think this is a great project and we hope that all lawyers, law students and feminists help spread the awareness of why the #LawNeedsFeminismBecause /#LeDroitABesoinDuFéminismeCar .

Click here to check out the #LawNeedsFeminismBecause / #LeDroitABesoinDuFéminismeCar project.

Great CBA International Initiatives Opportunity for Young Lawyers

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has a great internship opportunities for newly minted lawyers through their International Initiatives program.

What’s the CBA’s Young Lawyers International Program? Check out the video below.

Deadline date for internship applications for the internship period of September 2016 through to March 2017 is May 16, 2016.

For more on the opportunities, click here.

Have You Seen the Viral Ad Urging Partners to #ShareTheLoad?

If you are thinking we’re talking about legal partners, then you’ll be disappointed. We’re talking about life partners and the growing conversation about the chore gap.

The chore gap. Melinda Gates has shed light on the inequality faced by women on the home front. The Atlantic magazine covered the topic. We even blogged about it and linked to the Atlantic article on February 24th.

Now BBDO, a global advertising firm, which was apparently the inspiration for Mad Men and is known for its forward thinking ads, has gotten on board. Their Mumbai office decided to reflect the chore gap issue in their laundry detergent ad and promote gender equity at home through their #ShareTheLoad hashtag.

The laundry ad shows a father watching his grown daughter come home from her full-time job, make supper, take care of her son while her partner watches TV. The father reflects on how both he and society contributed to creating the chore gap.

Since the ad aired, it has gone viral. To view it just click on the video below.

Putting aside the criticisms of consumerism and social issue based marketing, this ad campaign does raise the issue of the chore gap and its roots. That’s why we’ve posted this ad.

March is Women’s History Month. The issue of the “chore gap”  is strongly intertwined with women’s history. It’s one of the systemic barriers to women’s careers and progress.

As lawyers and future lawyers, women often come face to face with the chore gap early in their career. In the face of these pressures, the reaction of many will be, “Just hire help. As a lawyer you can afford it.” However, that’s a myth. Canadian law school graduates are incurring huge debt. Just read the Law Students’ Society of Ontario (LSSO) report. This makes hiring help an impossibility for some young women lawyers in their early phase of their careers.

The pressures faced by women on the home front is undeniable. There is an impact on women’s career paths as they juggle their “chores” and their careers. Work life balance isn’t just about having down time to decompress from your busy career. Work life balance is an equity issue.

We encourage everyone to keep the chore gap conversation going at home and at work.

Do you know who Corinne Sparks is?

Justice Corrine Sparks29 years ago when Corrine Sparks was appointed to the Nova Scotia Family Court in 1987, she became the first Black Nova Scotian appointed to the bench and the first Black Canadian to serve on the judiciary.

Justice Sparks grew up in Lake Loon, Nova Scotia in a family of nine children. In 1953, this rural region of Nova Scotia was segregated. In 2016, it’s hard to imagine that portions of Canada were formally or informally segregated, but it was.

Black Canadians were segregated and marginalized; they suffered legal discrimination while helping build Canada, protect Canada’s home front in World War I and fight for Canada in World War II.

In 1950s Nova Scotia, the schools were poor and segregated. This is the world Justice Sparks grew up in. However, Justice Sparks’ parents, Helen and Spencer Sparks, stressed the importance of hard work and an education. By the 1970s, Justice Sparks completed middle school and high school, where she found teachers who recognized her potential.

After graduating high school, Justice Sparks attended Mount Saint Vincent University from 1971 to 1974, where she studied economics. She then enrolled in Dalhousie University and graduated with her LLB in 1979.

Following graduation she developed her own law practice focusing on family and real estate law.  Aware of the needs of marginalized Nova Scotians, she served on a number of charitable organizations focused on helping black children and addressing mental health needs. Justice Sparks practiced private law until her appointment to the bench.

In 1987, she was appointed to Nova Scotia’s Family Court. Justice Sparks’ pursued her academic interests by pursuing her LLM while running her practice and then serving on the bench.  In 2001, she received her LLM from Dalhousie University (1979-2001).

Justice Sparks continues to serve on the bench. She has received numerous awards and accolades including the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers Service Award in 1997, the 1998 National Association of Women and the Law, Frances Lillian Fish Award, the 2002 Congress of Black Women, Service Award and the Elizabeth Fry Society, Rebel with a Cause Award in 2003.

Role in SCC’s Decision Regarding Apprehension of Bias
In 1993, a Black youth was arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer while he was attempting to arrest another person. The officer claimed the young man purposely ran into him with his bike in attempt to free the person under arrest.

However, the youth stated he stopped his bike and asked the police officer what he was doing. Recognizing the person who was arrested, he asked him if he should call his mother. The police officer then threatened the young man addressing the person under arrest. But the young man continued to talk to person. So, the police officer arrested the Black youth.  This case became R v S (RD).

Justice Corrine Sparks was the trial judge in R v S (RD). After reviewing the evidence, Justice Sparks acquitted the young man. She noted that the only evidence was the testimony of both the officer and the young man. She went on to note that the police officer overacted. Her remarks prompted an appeal.

Her decision was appealed on the grounds of reasonable apprehension of bias. However, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed with Justice Sparks’ acquittal of youth (RDS), allowed the appeal and restored the acquittal.

The Court noted, that “it is vital to bear in mind that the test for reasonable apprehension of bias applies equally to all judges, regardless of their background, gender, race, ethnic origin, or any other characteristic. A judge who happens to be black is no more likely to be biased in dealing with black litigants, than a white judge is likely to be biased in favour of white litigants. All judges of every race, colour, religion, or national background are entitled to the same presumption of judicial integrity and the same high threshold for a finding of bias. Similarly, all judges are subject to the same fundamental duties to be and to appear to be impartial”(paragraph 115).

To learn more about Justice Corrine Sparks, click here. To read the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R v S (RD), [1997] 3 SCR 484, 1997 CanLII 324 (SCC), click here.