Shirley E. Greenberg Receives Friend of the WLMP Award

WLMP/PMDFThe Women’s Legal Mentorship Program (“WLMP”) marked the completion of its 5-year pilot project by recognizing trailer blazers and emerging legal leaders at the annual WLMP Legal Leaders Breakfast hosted by the WLMP’s uOttawa Chapter.

Shirley E. Greenberg is the first recipient of the Friend of the WLMP Award. This award recognizes a WLMP legal mentor, ally organization or supporter for their dedication to women’s legal mentorship and work to increase the retention of women in the law.

Shirley E. Greenberg is a trailblazer. Her legacy of both advocating for and supporting women’s organizations across Ontario has improved the lives of countless women.  She is a strong feminist advocate, who recognized early on the need for programming that directly addresses the issue of women and their legal careers.  As a result, she championed women’s issues and supported programming aimed at increasing the role of women in the law.” says Charlotte Wolters, Founder of the WLMP.

In addition to the Friend of the WLMP Award, Alexandra (Sasha) Toten was awarded the WLMP’s Emerging Legal Leader Award. The WLMP Emerging Legal Leader Award is bestowed on a WLMP Alumna for her ongoing dedication to upholding WLMP mentorship principles and her dedication to the retention of women in the law.

Since graduating from law school and the WLMP Program, Ms. Toten continues to mentor women in the first years of their law careers.  She is also a registered WLMP Legal mentor as well as volunteering on the Executive of the Young Women in Law (YWL), in addition to practicing law at Minden Gross LLP in Toronto.

“It’s wonderful to see what started as thought experiment really take off.  With the completion of the WLMP’s 5-year pilot project, the WLMP Board is hoping to expand. Given the access to justice issues, it’s more important than ever to ensure that women continue their legal careers. Addressing this issue needs to start at the law school level. WLMP Alumna like Ms. Toten are an example of how the WLMP’s unique programming offered in law schools can help female law students take on mentorship and leadership roles beyond the classroom and into practice.” says Ms. Wolters.

The WLMP also announced the creation of its Founder’s Award, which will be bestowed in 2017 and also the WLMP Peer Mentor award, which will be awarded to a WLMP student mentor next year.

The WLMP — the first of its kind in Canada —  is a national not-for-profit that aims to shift the culture of the legal profession and increase the retention of women in the law by helping female law students and WLMP Alumna develop their mentorship and leadership skills and establish networks that grow with them throughout their legal careers from the classroom to the courtroom and beyond.

In 2011, the WLMP piloted its first university Chapter at the University of Ottawa. Currently, the WLMP is working to partner and expand its program to other Canadian law schools.

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Women’s Legal Mentorship Program Celebrates One Year Anniversary by Unveiling Official Logo

The Women’s Legal Mentorship Program (“WLMP”) celebrated the one year anniversary of its incorporation as a not-for-profit by unveiling its official logo.

“We are very excited to celebrate our first anniversary by revealing our official logo. It represents our continued growth and hard work as we expand the WLMP’s programming nationally,” says Charlotte Wolters, WLMP Founder and Board Chair.

WLMP LogoLee Portas of Frisbee Studios designed the WLMP’s logo icon to represent women law students’ professional development. The interconnecting chain of leaves symbolizes both the knowledge and growth gained through the WLMP’s unique three part mentorship programming.

The WLMP — the first of its kind in Canada — aims to shift the culture of the legal profession and increase the retention of women in the law by helping female law students and WLMP Alumna develop their mentorship and leadership skills and establish networks that grow with them throughout their legal careers from the classroom to the courtroom and beyond.

“Addressing the issue of retention of women in the legal profession requires a comprehensive approach that includes female law students and gives them a chance to practice and develop their skills before they enter the legal profession. Increasing the number of women in the legal profession also improves Canadians’ access to justice,” says Ms. Wolters.

The WLMP is a national not-for-profit that partners with Canadian law schools to provide comprehensive, feminist legal mentorship and professional skills development programming. In 2011, the WLMP piloted its first university Chapter at the University of Ottawa. Currently, the WLMP is working to partner and expand its program to other Canadian law schools.

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.

Have You Checked Out Your Profession’s Mentorship Programs?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou don’t have to be part of a big law firm to find a mentor. Although the WLMP focuses on mentorship and leadership program at the university level and uses a specific mentorship method, we spend a lot of time assessing the various legal mentorship programs.

We found there are a lot of mentorship programs that lawyers can access. Pretty much every professional law association has a mentorship program.

Recently the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL) is boosting its mentorship opportunities. On Friday, February 26th, FACL will be holding its mentor-a-thon, to be hosted at the Toronto offices of Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP.

To read more about FACL’s mentorship program check out Neil Etienne’s Canadian Lawyer Magazine article click here. If you are looking to register for FACL’s Toronto event click here.

Bustle.com Gives You 5 Reason the term “Feminism” Empowers

Suzannah Weiss, writing for Bustle.com, outlines five reasons why the word “Feminism” empowers, rather than alienates people. We think they’re work reading.

Weiss points out that “[o[bjections to the word “feminism” often stem from implicit objections to the movement itself. Some people don’t want to identi[f]y with a word associated with women because they don’t want to acknowledge that women are disadvantaged or change that fact.” We hear this perspective a lot from law school students.

With over 50% of law school classrooms being filled with female students, many people don’t think the representation of women in the legal profession is an equity issue. However, upon reviewing the many reports issued by the Law Society of Upper Canada it’s clear that retention of women in the law is an issue. It’s a feminist issue.

Equity and promoting equality for everyone is at the heart of feminism. If you’re wondering why or need some reasons for why feminism empowers, we suggest reading Suzannah Weiss’s  5 Reasons The Word “Feminism” Is Empowering, Not alienatingg here.