When women rule

By Summer 2018

 

There’s a lovely line in Beverley McLachlin’s new mystery, Full Disclosure, that will resonate with many readers of the legal persuasion. Her protagonist, whip-smart, red-lipped defence lawyer Jilly Truitt, spots a courthouse photo of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (“when she was young and looked good”) and is reminded that “sometimes, occasionally, women actually do rule.”

Indeed they do. The former Chief Justice, who is putting the mystery genre aside for now to focus on her memoirs, has been an inspiration for a generation of women lawyers who were thrilled to see a brilliant woman take her rightful place at the top of her profession. It matters who’s in charge – and getting more women in leadership positions is really the only way to break the cycle of women leaving the profession, especially in private practice.

As Janice Tibbetts reports in our cover story, not much has changed in the 25 years since the CBA released the report, Touchstones for Change. Three-quarters of law firm partners are still white men and the departure rate of women from private practice is 52 per cent, according to a 2013 Law Society of Ontario report. There have been programs and policies designed to keep female talent, but nothing has stemmed the flow of departures.

However, I believe that as market forces and technology continue to erode the dominance of private law firms, more women will take their place as leaders in new forms of practice. Women have bobbed and weaved and carved their own path out of necessity. Now, the game is changing as new technology and business models open up new opportunities. And talented women will lead the way.

And more often than not, it will be women who actually do rule.

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