Building Community

By Patricia Lane on 2013/04/03

I love the energy of the Women Lawyers Forum. I love the vibrancy of the sharing of ideas and resources. It makes it that much easier for us to create a more welcoming profession, and equitable community. I love the camaraderie of a common project, and the possibility of effecting change. I love the connections forged on a personal level, and between our constituent branches in Canada, and with Bar Associations in the United States through the National Conference of Women Bar Associations (“NCWBA”) and the Commission of Women in the Profession at the ABA.

I believe that these connections offer us a tremendous opportunity to build our collective wisdom. I see this happening in many ways:

  • The WLF newsletters and the website are key to this process. They are just getting better and better.
  • One of the most valued exchanges at our annual in-person executive meetings is the reporting of our branch activities. The reporting of “Best Practices” serves the equivalent function at the annual August Women’s Bar Leadership Summit of the NCWBA. When I was recently viewing the vivid poster for Manitoba’s upcoming event “Performing Under Pressure”, and reading the PEI branch report featuring “In Her Heels”, it occurred to me that it could be very useful to create an “Event Bank” where we can deposit our materials for events held so that others can use them as prototypes. Then, not only could the exchange prompt ideas, but it could also provide some structural assistance, such as: a draft letter for sponsorship, a draft budget, an event planning schedule to help others foresee what might need to be arranged and generally assist in the planning of the subsequent event. Notes about any intellectual property restrictions or permissions for artwork, or the like, could be included.
  • We are already sharing our resources for conference planning. The NCWBA adapted the program from our first stand-alone conference held in Toronto in January 2011 for their first two-day conference, “The Leadership Workshop for Professional Women: Skills for Success”, held in Dallas this past February.
  • Both conferences featured one day of Sharon Ellison presenting her material on powerful non-defensive communication. They both also modeled how to put on a conference across professional lines to build meaningful connections with similarly situated women while acquiring important management skills. I see both developing management skills and having broad exposure to women in other professions, as critical factors in supporting women moving into positions of power in the legal profession.
  • The sharing of dynamic programs has been a mutual process: Dr. Arin Reeves and Kathleen Nalty provided stimulating presentations at the NCWBA August 2012 Summit in Chicago. Kathleen’s half day workshop on “Moving Beyond Diversity to Inclusivity” was excellent, and Dr. Reeves’ address was riveting. She had just launched her book “The Next IQ: The Next Level of Intelligence for 21st Century Leaders”. With hard data she makes the case that the more experiences and the more diverse the perspectives you can bring to the discussion, the truer the analysis will be, and the more functional the recommendations. Better decisions will be made. The unexamined norm will no longer be unexamined, as it will not be “the familiar” to all. Our collective intelligence is increased as we expand our range of experience. We will reap the benefit of the exposure to these two speakers at the NCWBA Summit, as the CBA Equality Committee has taken the ball and done the considerable work of turning what is a good idea, into the reality of bringing Kathleen Nalty and Dr. Arin Reeves to the 2013 CBA Canadian Legal Conference. For those of you that can make it to Saskatoon for the Monday August 19, 2013 programming, I can promise you that the experience will be rewarding.
  • The Commission of Women in the Profession sponsored an excellent program on Associate Evaluations in Arlington in October 2010. Not only did it stress the need for standardized evaluations, it examined a host of pitfalls of hidden biases. If you have not already looked at the Implicit Association Test sponsored by Harvard University, I heartily recommend that you do. The sessions only require 10 to 15 minutes to complete and allow you the opportunity to assess your conscious and unconscious preferences for over 90 different topics. Lauren Stiller Rikleen, one of the presenters at the Dallas Women’s Leadership Skills workshop, reinforced the importance of this Project Implicit resource. The link is

I am excited about the strong foundation we have created together, and what we can build upon it. Each person’s contribution makes such a difference, and I believe that as we capture and communicate the work produced, we will flourish and be energized by each other.

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