February 18, 2021 | 8:45 am - 3:25 pm EST

8:45 am

Registration and virtual orientation

8:55 am

Orientation remarks from Key Media

9:00 am

Opening Remarks from Summit Co-Chairs

Rose Leto

Partner, Neinstein LLP

Sonia Nijjar

Lawyer, Neinstein LLP

9:10 am
9:30 am

Panel discussion: Sharing responsibility: Addressing COVID’s disproportionate impact on women in the legal profession

COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted women in the legal profession, furthering inequities after years of progress. The ability of the industry to limit the fallout will depend on how effectively it responds with changes to workplace models, policies and internal practices. What are some of the cultural and structural barriers that have inhibited progress and may have been exacerbated by the pandemic? What are the critical lessons and success stories that could be carried past the pandemic to drive future positive change and promote true equality?

  • The unique challenges faced by female lawyers because of changes made during the pandemic
  • Identifying and evaluating how the industry has responded during this crisis to better accommodating and supporting women
  • Has the pandemic impacted efforts to reduce inequities for female and racialized lawyers?
  • Lessons learned that can be applied post-pandemic to improve pathways to advancement


Cynthia Clarke

National Group Head, Clients, Sectors & New Services, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP


Yola S. Ventresca

Partner, Lerners LLP

Julia S. Shin Doi

General Counsel, Secretary of the Board of Governors, and University Privacy Officer, Ryerson University

Kate Broer

Partner, Dentons Global Client Development

Jennifer Gold

President, Women's Law Association of Ontario, Partner, Wood Gold LLP

10:15 am

Opportunity in Crisis: The Power of Female Leadership

In examining periods of crises from the political, health, and financial sectors, there is empirical and anecdotal evidence to suggest that female leadership is associated with improved outcomes. How can we use these lessons and successes to meet new challenges impacting the legal industry? Does the current crisis offer an opportunity to establish that female leadership, especially in the law, is necessary for continued progress?

  • Barriers vs. Opportunities: Focusing on the latter without diminishing the reality of the former
  • Considering the benefits of the relational leadership model
  • Diversity requires equity – substantive progress needs focused leadership
  • The “glass cliff” problem and the role of allies

Rose Leto

Partner, Neinstein LLP

Sonia Nijjar

Lawyer, Neinstein LLP

10:45 am

Networking coffee break

11:00 am

Panel discussion: Strategies for boundary setting at home and in the office

One of the greatest challenges of working virtually has been the blurring of boundaries between the work environment and your personal home space. Although remote work has brought many benefits, such as flexible workdays, for many it has also increased stress loads and decreased overall performance. What are some practical ways to maintain a better work-life balance? How can you set expectations in advance and better advocate for yourself?

  • Setting realistic expectations with clients and colleagues to communicate boundaries
  • Practical ideas and tips for ensuring your boundaries are respected
  • How firm leadership and practices are adapting to better support women
  • How to have difficult conversations and stay true to your work-life balance goals


Lara Jackson

Partner, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP


Sudevi Mukherjee-Gothi

Partner, Pallett Valo LLP

Alysia Davies

Staff Clinician, Homewood Health

Heather Platt

Chief Legal Officer, Metrolinx

11:35 am

Breakout presentations

All about data: Gathering, measuring and using workplace demographics effectively

The collection and tracking of internal data are critical to measuring a firm’s performance in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and whether its policy and practice changes have been effective at achieving positive outcomes. What are some of the ways data and information can be used to track progress, and what are their limits? What role does leadership have in ensuring that the use of data aligns with a firm’s goals? How can firms improve their data transparency?

Sandeep Tatla

Chief Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Fasken

Success stories in solo practice management

Solo practice management is an opportunity to chart your own course, carve out a niche, or have more autonomy and flexibility. It can empower you to set, determine and thrive under your own terms and values, free from potential institutional and cultural biases. Yet starting a solo practice can be intimidating, isolating and financially risky. Join us to hear a success story of a solo practitioner.

Amee Sandhu

Founder & Principal Lawyer, Lex Integra Professional Corporation

12:00 pm

Panel discussion: Practical tactics for ensuring visibility, inclusion and recognition in a hybrid work setting

Virtual offices, flexible workspaces and non-traditional hours are trends in the legal industry that will continue well past the pandemic. Although advantageous in terms of flexibility, they can create additional challenges when colleagues, work teams and management are more dispersed. Further, working remotely may impact business development opportunities, career advancement and the potential for leadership roles. What are some practical ideas and tactics to ensure you stay visible and recognized in the remote legal landscape?

  • How to stay top of mind with leadership, colleagues and valued clients
  • Tips for avoiding the mistake of overcompensation
  • How a remote environment can lead to increased discrimination, and tools to counter this
  • Strategies for navigating workplace isolation, loss of socialization and virtual networking
  • Building allies and being a self-advocate


Aaron Bains

Partner, Aird & Berlis LLP


Neena Gupta

Partner, Gowling WLG

Jacquelyn Stevens

Partner, Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers LLP

Anna Keller

Senior Legal Counsel, Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC)

12:35 pm


1:00 pm

Retention strategies to counter racial and gender disparities

Although women make up the majority of law school graduates, those in partner and leadership roles fall far short of this number. To achieve better parity, an effective retention strategy is critical to addressing historical high attrition rates in the legal profession. Why do women leave law firms? What are some of the practical strategies and tactics law firms can use to achieve higher retention rates and increase advancement opportunities?

  • How current cultures, policies, and practices can impact retention patterns
  • Addressing the steep road for racialized lawyers
  • How early dialogue can advance the pathway to achieving career goals
  • Examples of successful retention programs

Nikki Gershbain

Chief Inclusion Officer, Chef de l’inclusion Inclusion Now Office, Bureau de l’inclusion, McCarthy Tétrault LLP

1:35 pm

Breakout presentations

Building sustainable business practices without unconscious bias

Although many organizations have introduced training programs to address unconscious bias practices, there is real risk of reverting to previous discriminatory practices if structural and cultural barriers are not properly addressed. Achieving long-term progress for female and racialized lawyers means implementing systemic changes that can impact policy, procedures and processes. What types of structural changes can firms make to achieve sustainable progress? What are some examples of bias-breaking activities that have had durable success?

Sylvia James

Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Winston & Strawn LLP

Remaking law firms: A case study in alternative service models

As society modernizes and the legal profession changes, alternative business models are reshaping the future of the legal industry. Driving this change are new technologies, changing client needs, and dissatisfaction with current law firm structures and practices. What are some of the newer models, and how do they differentiate from traditional firms? How are existing law firms adapting and responding as these new models become more prevalent? What role does technology play?

Rob Miller

Co-founder and CEO, Miller Titerle Law Corporation

Joelle Walker

Principal, Miller Titerle Law Corporation

2:00 pm

Moving the dial: progressing women with leadership opportunities

Lawyers deal in the laws and institutions that affect all Canadians. In practice, whether in-house or in private practice, we are individually accountable for the work we do. As women in law can our knowledge of the law and the independent nature of our work be sources of leadership opportunities? Can we find leadership opportunities both at work and in our day-to day lives? The opportunities women in law have and the potential benefit of those opportunities is explored with a view to providing a path to testing and honing leadership skills.

Susan G. Lawson

Senior Counsel, DD West LLP

2:20 pm

Panel discussion: Beyond mentorship: Becoming allies, champions and advocates for the next generation of leaders

Mentors have always played a critical role in offering guidance, inspiration and support for women in the profession. Yet their role is only part of the equation for driving change and achieving true equality in leadership positions. What are some practical ways that mentors and champions can help others achieve their career objectives? How can one move from being a mentor to becoming a champion and advocate? What are some examples of concrete actions that have been effective in improving leadership opportunities?

  • Mentor vs champion: What is the difference, and where do they fit?
  • Leveraging the right allies and constituencies to promote equity and inclusion
  • What are some actions men can take to be better allies?
  • Going beyond your organization – using external advocates and champions
  • Tips for engaging potential champions as your advocates


Erin O’Donovan

Treasurer, Toronto Lawyers Association, Senior Legal Counsel, Corporate Finance, Ontario Securities Commission


Maggie Wente

Partner, Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP

Gillian Dingle

Partner, Torys LLP

Marianne Smith

Partner, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

Zena Applebaum

Director, Customer Insights & Proposition Strategy, Thomson Reuters

3:00 pm

Closing address: The legal profession’s role in driving systemic change and progress

Charlene Theodore

President, Ontario Bar Association

3:20 pm

Closing Remarks from Summit Co-Chairs

Rose Leto

Partner, Neinstein LLP

Sonia Nijjar

Lawyer, Neinstein LLP

3:25 pm

Summit closes

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