In an effort to better understand demographic trends in the legal professions, the Law Society will ask lawyers and paralegals whether they self-identify as members of equality-seeking communities beginning in the 2009 Annual Reports to be filed by lawyers and paralegals under By-law 8 (formerly known as the MAR and PAR). The questions are voluntary and the information will be kept confidential and only used in aggregate form in accordance with human rights and privacy legislation.
The regular collection of demographic data will support the assessment and analysis of the changing composition of the legal professions and allow the Law Society to develop programs and initiatives to further enhance the professions’ diversity. Awareness of the extent to which the legal professions are reflective of the broader community will also be helpful in serving the interests of the public.
Convocation approved the inclusion of the voluntary question in these reports at its May 2009 meeting.
Why is the Law Society of Ontario asking lawyers and paralegals to self-identify?
The Law Society of Ontario regulates the provision of legal services in the interest of the public. In 1997, the Law Society adopted its Bicentennial Report and Recommendations on Equity Issues in the Legal Profession, which included a commitment to promote equality and diversity in the legal professions. In light of its commitment to equality and diversity, the Law Society is gathering statistics on the composition of the professions to better understand demographic trends in the professions, to develop programs and initiatives within the mandate of the Law Society and to promote equality and diversity in the professions.
Is this the first time that the Law Society has asked lawyers and paralegals to self-identify?
The Law Society asked lawyers to voluntarily self-identify in its Member’s Annual Report in 1996. Although the question has not been included in subsequent Member’s Annual Reports, a self-identification question has been included in the Licensing Process (formerly the Bar Admissions Course) application form since 1999. The self-identification question is also included in numerous surveys of the legal professions conducted by the Law Society in the last 10 years.
How will the information be used?
The information will be used to prepare statistics about the legal professions. It will allow the Law Society to assess the representation of the professions, identify and monitor trends and progress, and develop programs and initiatives to increase equality and diversity in the professions. The data will be maintained in a secure information system. Access to the information will be restricted to staff members who require access for the purpose of reporting aggregate information and analyzing trends in the professions. Access guidelines will be developed to ensure consistency in access to the data and confidentiality of the data.
How were the categories of self-identification selected?
The categories were developed and approved by the Law Society of Ontario's Equity and Aboriginal Issues Committee in consultation with its Equity Advisory Group and they have been used in various Law Society surveys. Further, the Equity Committee and the Access to Justice Committee approved the categories in their Equality and Access to Justice Template. The proposed categories are consistent with the categories in the Canada Census, but have been reworded slightly.
Do I have to answer the self-identification question?
No. We encourage you to answer the question, but it is voluntary.
Can I self-identify in more than one group?
Yes. You may self-identify in all the groups that apply to you.
Will my information be kept confidential?
Yes. The information you provide will be kept confidential. The data will be maintained in a secure information system. Access to the information will be restricted to staff members who require access for the purpose of reporting aggregate information and analyzing trends in the professions. Access guidelines will be developed to ensure consistency in access to the data and confidentiality of the data. Any reporting of the information will be done in aggregate form.
Does the question contravene human rights legislation and other laws?
No. The question is consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code and other laws.
Who will have access to the information?
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Access to the information will be granted only to staff members who require access for the purpose of analysis of trends in the professions. Any reporting of the information will be done in aggregate form.