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The Law Society is mandated to protect the public interest and this is best served by diverse leadership as outlined in our Strategic Plan. As fiduciaries of the Law Society acting in the public interest, it is beneficial for Benchers to have diverse backgrounds and experience, yet members of equity-seeking groups are often under-represented among elected Benchers.
In 2021, the Law Society conducted Bencher election research by disseminating a short survey to receive input from all members to understand barriers to becoming a Bencher and whether there are additional or compounded barriers for members of equity-seeking groups.
‘Equity-seeking groups’ are communities that face significant collective challenges in participating in and being included in society. This marginalization could be created by attitudinal, historical, social, and environmental barriers based on age, ancestry, colour, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed, disability, family status, marital status, gender identity, gender expression, sex, sexual orientation, or other diverse backgrounds.
The survey was conducted by Illumina Research Partners, an independent third party, and in accordance with Canadian Research and Insights Council standards. A total of 124 lawyers completed the survey with 29% of respondents identifying as an equity-seeking member.
Overall, the survey found the majority of respondents (95%) understand the Bencher election process. While equity-seeking members indicate more barriers to running for election as a Bencher, there are similar perceptions between the profession overall and equity-seeking members. An overall majority identify time commitment, lack of a professional network, cost of foregoing work and likelihood of not being a successful candidate as common barriers to election as a Bencher. Equity-seeking members identified lack of encouragement to run and systemic discrimination, the expectation or perception that contributions will be undermined or ignored, as additional barriers.
Among both equity-seeking members and members overall, the top factors identified as influencing voting selection are: candidate’s reputation, pre-existing relationship with the candidate, candidate’s biography, candidate’s stated position on issues, and recognition of candidate’s name.
The Law Society is committed to promoting and supporting equity, diversity, and inclusiveness within its leadership, its staff and among all Saskatchewan firms, lawyers and legal service providers and will be prioritizing actions to address barriers identified in the report. These may include networking support, additional encouragement to run in elections, and consideration of the categories set out in the Rules of the Law Society.
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