Key Contacts: Ardy Mohajer, Partner | Tamara Prince, Chief EDI Officer | Tenisha Younge, Manager – Diversity & Inclusion
Report: Cassels Community Report – Our Communities. Our Commitment.
A diverse environment is a rich environment, and an open, inclusive atmosphere benefits everyone who works within it. Fostering such an environment enables us to respond with a greater agility to the challenges faced by our clients in a diverse, multicultural world.
Our goal is to always exceed client expectations and be the most attractive place to work. We achieve this because we recruit, retain, reward and develop our people with regard to their abilities and contributions and without reference to their background, gender, age, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, political belief or disability.
Our mission is to attract, retain and promote individuals of exceptional ability and talent from as broad a range of backgrounds as possible. We strive to treat everyone fairly and consistently, and do our best to tap into cultural differences to achieve organizational success and support staff satisfaction.
Although management provides the leadership framework and associated policies, it is the responsibility of everyone at Cassels to sustain a culture that supports principles of diversity and inclusivity.
In recognition of our work to achieve these goals, our Inclusion & Diversity Committee was honoured at the 2016 Lexpert Zenith Awards.
Our Key Goals
- to promote and maintain a working environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect
- to ensure that everyone is aware of their own personal responsibility regarding the principles of diversity
- to provide and communicate clear employment policies and ensure that they are applied fairly
- to ensure consistency and fairness in all of our human resources processes
- to ensure that any failure to adhere to these principles is dealt with promptly, and where possible, action is taken
There is both a business and moral imperative in supporting diversity at Cassels. To achieve both goals, we need to do the following:
- hire from the widest possible pool to attract high quality individuals
- motivate our people by providing a supportive culture where everyone feels that they are treated fairly and can do their best
- offer clients ideas and solutions that can only come from tapping a broad base of talent
- ensure we comply with all relevant legislation
Our Inclusion & Diversity Committee is charged with the responsibility of implementing this policy.
The Cassels Inclusion & Diversity Committee is proud to have implemented a policy pursuant to which all firm members who share a common background or personal characteristic (and their allies or supporters) may form an affinity group to support, champion and mentor one another. The goal of affinity groups is to provide a supportive environment in the workplace that encourages mentorship and peer support, as well as networking, business development and professional development opportunities, as appropriate, among firm members who identify with a shared personal characteristic or background. Firm members who share a particular personal characteristic or background that has created historical disadvantages, as well as their allies, are encouraged to form and/or join an affinity group formed for that group.
2SLGBTQ+ Affinity Group: The 2SLGBTQ+ Affinity Group welcomes all firm members who identify as 2SLGBTQ+, as well as firm members who wish to be active as an ally to the firm’s 2SLGBTQ+ members, to attend meetings and events to support one another’s career development and discuss issues particular to the 2SLGBTQ+ community. The main goal of the 2SLGBTQ+ Affinity Group is to ensure the firm has created and continues to foster an environment where all 2SLGBTQ+ members are enabled and motivated to succeed to their maximum potential, while being comfortable bringing their full and complete selves to work. The 2SLGBTQ+ Affinity Group also works to support the recruitment, retention and promotion of 2SLGBTQ+ talent to and within the firm. The 2SLGBTQ+ Affinity Group meets at least bi-monthly and all firm members are welcome to attend.
Asian Affinity Group: The Asian Affinity Group is a resource to all members of Cassels and is committed to, among other initiatives, promoting and supporting the recruitment, retention and career advancement of Asian members of Cassels, increasing awareness and visibility of diversity issues, providing mentoring and guidance, and encouraging participation in events and dialogue that impact the Asian community. The Asian Affinity Group meets at least bi-monthly and all firm members are welcome to attend.
Black Affinity Group: The Black Affinity Group is a resource to all members of Cassels and is committed to, among other initiatives, promoting and supporting the recruitment, retention and career advancement of black members of Cassels, increasing awareness and visibility of diversity issues, providing mentoring and guidance, and encouraging participation in events and dialogue that impact the black community. The Black Affinity Group welcomes all members of the firm to join the group and participate in meetings and initiatives. Recent initiatives and events include sponsoring several screenings of Marvel’s Black Panther movie and participating in a job shadow program.
Indigenous Affinity Group: The Indigenous Affinity Group (IAG) aims to provide a safe space for its members to discuss important issues, implement charitable community initiatives, educate all firm members, and provide mentoring and championship opportunities amongst its members. The IAG will prioritize support for all Indigenous identifying members of the firm, as well as engage allied members of the firm in cultural and educational events and initiatives. Recent initiatives and events include education around Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and participation in Orange Shirt Day.
Jewish Affinity Group: The Jewish Affinity Group is a resource to all members of Cassels and is committed to, among other initiatives, promoting and supporting the recruitment, retention and career advancement of Jewish members of Cassels, increasing awareness and visibility of diversity issues, providing mentoring and guidance, and encouraging participation in events and dialogue that impact the Jewish community. Recent initiatives and events include lunch and learns with various speakers, the creation of a firm branded Jewish holiday calendar, and firm-wide themed holiday celebrations for Hanukkah and Purim.
Parents of Young Families Affinity Group: The Parents of Young Families Affinity Group was created to provide a forum for working parents at Cassels to share ideas and experiences about raising kids. Group events are typically organized around a theme or issue that group members have faced or will face and include speakers, discussion groups and workshops. The group also provides an advocacy role at the firm to support the careers of parents and to provide input on various initiatives and policies to make working life more comfortable for parents.
Ukrainian Affinity Group: The Ukrainian Affinity Group was formed in response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine to provide a forum for its members to discuss their concerns and determine ways in which they can assist those who have been so severely impacted, promote awareness of ways in which firm members can support those impacted, and provide general education about Ukrainian culture and customs, information about the current situation in Ukraine, and education about historical atrocities against Ukrainian people and discrimination against Ukrainians in Canada.
Wellness Affinity Group: The Mental Wellness Affinity Group welcomes all firm members who wish to support solutions to improve mental wellness. The group is committed to creating a space to share resources and plan educational initiatives and events that lead to a more welcoming and inclusive environment where all firm members are enabled to succeed to their maximum potential. The group also strives to increase awareness and visibility of issues related to mental wellness affecting members of the firm and to help reduce stigma. The Mental Wellness Affinity Group meets at least bi-monthly and all firm members are welcome to attend.
Women’s Affinity Group: The Women’s Affinity Group is a resource to all members of Cassels and is committed to, among other initiatives, promoting and supporting the recruitment, retention, career advancement and leadership potential of women at Cassels, increasing awareness and visibility of diversity issues, providing mentoring and guidance, and encouraging participation in events and dialogue that impact women at the firm. This group works closely with the firm’s Women’s Advancement, Voices and Equity (WAVE) Committee.
Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network
Cassels is a signatory to the Statement of Principles of the Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network (LFDIN). In signing this document we have agreed to work together to promote diversity and encourage a culture of inclusion not only inside the firm, but in the broader legal profession as well.
Diversity and inclusion are core values of LFDIN members. Each signatory believes that valuing and enhancing diversity and inclusion will assist in attracting and retaining the best talent to better serve clients and assist in expanding the constantly evolving global marketplace. LFDIN members undertake to practice and advance diversity and inclusion by:
- sharing ideas for the promotion of diversity and inclusion in connection with recruitment, retention and advancement within law firms
- working with Legal Leaders for Diversity and other general counsel, law departments, business leaders and professional associations in their efforts to advance diversity and inclusion
- supporting outreach programs in law schools and the broader community
- promoting thought leadership and constructive dialogue on issues of diversity and inclusion
- evaluating our efforts
Cassels provides diversity training to all employees and lawyers of the firm on a regular basis. We worked with the Law Society of Ontario’s Equity Advisor to develop tailor-made training that would resonate with our firm and help our lawyers and staff recognize diversity issues and make respectful choices when dealing with each other, our clients and the public.
We regularly work with a diversity specialist to deliver programs to our lawyers and students to raise awareness of diversity issues in a variety of forums, including hiring decisions. Diversity training is also part of our summer law student training program.
Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Policy
We work to ensure that we provide a working environment free from harassment and violence and that is respectful of others.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act – Customer Service Policy
Cassels is committed to:
- providing its goods and services in a way that respects the dignity and independence of persons with disabilities;
- ensuring persons with disabilities do not experience barriers in accessing our services; and
- providing exceptional customer service to all of our clients, third parties and members of the public.
Women at Cassels
We are proud that our women hold significant leadership positions at the firm.
- Lindsay Clements, Co-Chair, Business Law Group
- Jane Dietrich, Deputy Chair, Financial Services Group
- Jennifer Hansen, Member of Executive Committee and Deputy Chair, Business Law Group
- Lara Jackson, Member of Executive Committee and Deputy Chair, Advocacy Group
- Laurie Jessome, Chair, Advocacy Group
- Signe Leisk, Member of Executive Committee
- Kristin Taylor, Managing Partner
The 30% Club
Cassels is proud to be a member of the 30% Club. Members of this club are listed companies or leading professional services firms. By joining the 30% Club, we publicly indicate our support for the notion that it is good business practice to have women holding 30% of board seats and share the aspiration to collectively reach this goal. We believe businesses, business leaders and law firms should drive this change.
Cassels has pledged its support to the Law Society of Ontario’s Justicia Project, designed to retain and advance women lawyers in private practice. The project is the first of its kind in Canada and is committed to identifying and adopting principles and best practices that promote the retention and advancement of women. Cassels has been an active participant in this project.
Women’s Advancement, Voices & Equity Committee (WAVE)
Although progress has been made in recent years, female lawyers continue to face challenges in the legal profession and the compensation, advancement, and business development opportunities of female lawyers continues to lag behind their male counterparts. Together with the Women’s Affinity Group, WAVE provides a forum for meaningful discussion and change.
Cassels believes that it is in the best interest of the firm, our clients, and our communities, that all lawyers be given the opportunity to become and remain strong contributors to the firm’s partnership and recognizes the gender-related challenges facing women lawyers at all levels in their careers. The WAVE Committee strives to assist the firm’s women lawyers in overcoming these challenges by making recommendations on firm policies, providing mentoring, marketing and training resources as needed, and generally facilitating women’s professional and business development successes and overall advancement within the firm and the broader legal community.
A History of Inspirational Women
Margaret Hyndman: First Canadian Woman to Appeal Before the Imperial Privy Council
Cassels has a long history of women lawyers who have broken gender barriers, starting with Margaret Hyndman. Margaret Hyndman’s call to the bar in 1926 was greeted with, as she described it, “apprehension”. However, her ability, intelligence and integrity won her the respect of the legal profession and the judiciary, which she enjoyed for the rest of her life. She was an important part of Cassels until her retirement in 1984.
Margaret’s many accomplishments included being appointed a King’s Counsel in 1938, only the second woman in the British Commonwealth to receive this honour.
Margaret was the first Canadian woman to appear before the Imperial Privy Council. She was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 1973.
Margaret organized the first legal aid in Ontario for the families of soldiers during World War II. She received the City of Paris Medal from General de Gaulle for work for the Free French. She became president of the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs of Canada and of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women.
Cassels is also proud to have formed the Women’s Practice Development Committee (the WPDC), the first program of its kind on Bay Street, recognizing the particular challenges facing female lawyers. The mandate of the firm’s WPDC is now divided between the WAVE Committee and the Cassels Women’s Affinity Group.