Lerners Personal Injury Lawyers represent people across Grey County and Bruce County who have been injured in accidents or who have had their short-term and long-term disability claims denied. As a partner in the firm, I spend a significant amount of time meeting clients in our office in Owen Sound.
On April 16, 2019, Lerners had the honour of hosting over 50 lawyers from across Grey and Bruce Counties at a seminar devoted to making the legal profession more equitable, diverse and inclusive. Lawyers shared their experiences and learned how to make their practices more welcoming to people of all races, religions, genders and states of capacity and disability.
The need for a more inclusive legal profession
Seeking the services of a lawyer for the first time can seem intimidating to many people. This can be especially true when clients perceive barriers between themselves and the professionals they are consulting. For this reason, even people who very much need the services of a lawyer may delay or avoid consulting one and suffer consequences as a result.
Lawyers in Ontario are beginning to recognize that we have an obligation to understand these barriers and do everything we can to build a more welcoming and inclusive profession. Building that sort of profession requires lawyers to commit to more than simply welcoming everyone who comes through our doors – we must learn about the challenges that our clients face and develop ways of ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard and everyone’s rights are respected and defended.
The April 16, 2019 seminar was led by Annemarie Shrouder, a talented facilitator and educator who has devoted her career to teaching professionals and employers how to foster a climate of inclusiveness in the workplace and beyond.
In an engaging and challenging presentation, Annemarie explained that creating a truly inclusive environment takes a great deal of work and starts with becoming aware of our own unchallenged assumptions about other people. It does not just mean avoiding overt discrimination or discriminatory comments. It requires examining unconscious, implicit prejudices that we do not even know we have. It requires a real effort to include different voices from different backgrounds who can offer perspectives that we did not even realize we were missing.
More work to do
The first step in fostering a more inclusive legal profession is recognizing that we don’t have one yet. The next step is seeing that there is a great deal of work left to do. Lawyers from Lerners and across Grey and Bruce Counties have taken a big step down this road by looking carefully at ourselves and our profession and discussing the ways we could be serving our diverse clients better.
There is more work to do. At Lerners, we believe in being a force for good for our clients and in the diverse communities we serve. We were pleased and honoured to take part with so many from the Grey and Bruce legal community in a day that we hope will lay a foundation for a more inclusive legal profession in the years to come.