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CLA’s Retention of Women in Criminal Defence Practice Study

We are pleased to announce the completion of the CLA’s study on the Retention of Women in Criminal Defence Practice. A full copy of the report is available on the CLA website.

The CLA commissioned this study in 2014 to follow up on the work done by the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Working Group on the Retention of Women.

Sadly, our study found that women are leaving defence practice at a faster rate than men. For example, of the 47 women called in 1996 who started their careers doing criminal law, only 13 are presently practicing criminal law (which reflects an attrition rate of 72%).

The study also found that women are leaving their criminal defence jobs to work for the government, rather than staying in private practice 10 times more often than their male counterparts (20% of women compared to less than 2% of men).

Our study also found that women lawyers experience differential treatment by the various players in our justice system including crowns and judges.

The report contains a number of important recommendations for change including:

  • Enhanced mentorship opportunities
  • Greater supports for women taking maternity leave
  • Lobbying of LAO for improved funding and more timely payment for work performed
  • Improved efficiency in the court process and greater reliance on technology within the justice system
  • Ongoing education for lawyers and judges to address the differential treatment of women lawyers in the system

The CLA is committed to implementing these recommendations and has been at the forefront of change within the organization to ensure all members of the criminal defence bar are treated as equals.

Our ongoing efforts to address gender parity include establishing a mentorship program aimed at supporting young lawyers as well as creating both a Woman’s Vice-President position and a Women’s Committee aimed at tackling gender issues encountered in our justice system. Lastly, the CLA has created an annual Women’s Criminal Law Conference to explore issues directly affecting our women members.

The CLA is determined to address all forms of discrimination within the profession and we will look for opportunities to engage and educate other stakeholders in the justice system to further improve the professional experience for all of our members.

We would like to thank Dr. Natasha Madon (author) and Prof. Tony Doob (advisor) for all their work on this important study.