Diversity strengthens the Firm, making it more effective in competing in an international marketplace and representing our multinational client base.
Blakes is committed to maintaining an inclusive work environment comprised of people with diverse perspectives, backgrounds, identities and cultures. For many years, Blakes has initiated and participated in an array of diversity programs, both internally and externally for our clients and in the community. Below are some of our recent and ongoing activities.
Diversity & Inclusion Committee
Blakes has a long-standing Diversity & Inclusion Committee, which is comprised of partners, associates and staff from our various offices. The committee encourages a culture of inclusion and acceptance, promotes equitable treatment and fosters understanding, constructive communication and respect among all members of the Firm. The committee meets monthly to identify new strategies and review their mandate to ensure that Blakes steadily evolves and improves as a workplace of choice for all.
Diversity & Inclusion Policies
Blakes has a comprehensive Workplace Violence and Harassment Policy, a Parental Leave Policy and a Restricted Hours Policy. The Restricted Hours Policy is designed to facilitate flexible work/life arrangements for associates. In addition, Blakes provides emergency childcare support for the Toronto office. These policies and programs are designed to promote a diverse and inclusive work environment.
Blakes Diversity Network
The Blakes Diversity Network members include Blakes students, associates and partners from diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds interested in promoting diversity within the Firm and the broader legal profession. The primary objective of the network is to better identify business development, client networking and leadership opportunities for diverse lawyers. A number of professional development and client networking events have been held since the inception of the network in furtherance of this initiative.
The Women@Blakes network provides support, mentorship, client development, networking opportunities and work/life resources to women legal professionals at the Firm in an effort to ensure their success in the practice of law. The network focuses on enhancing business development opportunities for women and fostering the professional development and recruitment of women. It also helps to strengthen relationships between women in the Firm across different practice areas and offices.
Pride@Blakes is a network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) professionals at our Firm. The primary goal of the network is to support our LGBT professionals and to create better connections with our LGBT clients and the diverse communities in which we live and practise law. Pride@Blakes members are involved in a number of organizations both internally and externally, some of which include Pride at Work Canada, Out on Bay Street, AIDS Committee of Toronto, exeQutive and PrideBuild, as well as various diversity initiatives and educational opportunities within Blakes.
Recruitment and Training
Blakes offers recruitment and selection training for our legal professionals about interviewing candidates without bias or discrimination. We express our commitment to diversity to potential hires and provide materials about our diversity efforts. We also conduct thorough orientations for new hires where we discuss culture, professionalism and commitment to teamwork, along with diversity and inclusion, pro bono and community initiatives.
Diversity & Inclusion Pre-Law Internship Program
Blakes is proud to have pioneered the Diversity & Inclusion Pre-Law Internship Program, which began in June 2011. The internship, for which Blakes is working on an exclusive basis with York University and the University of Toronto, offers an undergraduate university student interested in attending law school in the future an opportunity to work in a law firm environment, with a particular focus on diversity initiatives.
Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network
Blakes is proud to be a founding member of the Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network (LFDIN) and a signatory to its Statement of Principles, a group of Canadian law firms that have agreed to work together to promote diversity and encourage a culture of inclusion in our firms and the broader legal profession. Diversity is a core value for LFDIN members, who believe that valuing and enhancing diversity and inclusion will help attract and retain the best talent and better serve clients’ needs in an evolving global marketplace.
Blakes is also the longest-supporting employer of Project Work, a Toronto-based community employment organization serving people who have intellectual disabilities. We value the contributions of each member of our team and, in so doing, gain the benefit of dedicated, positive employees who bring their unique perspectives and life experiences to bear on our work and community.
Blakes Diversity Day
Blakes Diversity Day is an annual, national initiative. The events are organized to recognize diversity at Blakes and our commitment to equality and to show appreciation for the contributions of various multicultural groups and communities in our office.
LAWS/Blakes Mentoring Program
Since 2005, Blakes has been working with students at some of Toronto’s most diverse high schools to participate in the LAWS (Law in Action Within Schools) program. The program combines law-related studies with practical experiences for high school students who face barriers to achieving their academic, career and life goals. We offer a unique workplace mentoring program that provides these students with positive exposure to a professional workplace and connects them with lawyers who provide mentoring and serve as positive role models.
Rotman/University of Toronto Programs for Women
Blakes is a founding sponsor and continues to participate in The Judy Project, which supports executive and senior-level women in leadership roles within Canadian businesses and organizations. Blakes has also partnered with Rotman and the University of Toronto on a two-day intensive program specifically designed to help women lawyers in years five to seven build professional confidence and acquire relevant business skills to advance and succeed in the legal environment. In addition, Blakes is a founding sponsor of the Business Leadership for Women Lawyers program that assists women lawyers with career advancement and organizational performance.
The Wilson Moot
Since 2010, Blakes has been the organizer of The Wilson Moot, an annual competition in Toronto that brings together judges, lawyers and law students with the goal of promoting justice for those disempowered within the legal system. In 2017, the Right Honourable Beverley McLaughlin, the first female Chief Justice of Canada, presided over the final round of the competition (see press release for more information). The Wilson Moot was conceived in 1992 to honour the outstanding contribution to Canadian law made by the late Honourable Justice Bertha Wilson, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Since its inception, The Wilson Moot’s focus has been to shine a light on legal issues concerning equity-seeking groups, with the hopes of educating students and the legal profession on these issues.
Working Group for the Retention of Women in Private Practice
Blakes is a founding member of The Law Society of Alberta’s Working Group for the Retention of Women in Private Practice, which has been instrumental in implementing a number of programs aimed at supporting and educating young women lawyers and law students in the Calgary legal community. The expectation is that more far-reaching programs will evolve with our Firm’s continued involvement.
Diverse Professional/Student Associations
Blakes is a proud supporter of a number of diverse student organizations and diverse professional associations. Our support takes the form of financial support, hosting events, providing speakers, acting as pro bono counsel, as well as supporting our lawyers and summer and articling students active in these organizations. The organizations we support include: