More than half of Quebec Bar members are women

The number of lawyers in Quebec has grown by 17 per cent over the past decade, with women leading the charge and now representing more than half of the Quebec Bar, according to a survey by the Quebec legal society.

There are 26,512 lawyers enrolled in the Quebec Bar, as of March 31, 2017, compared to 22,575 in 2008, according to a French-language report entitled “Sous la loupe de la diversité 2017” that was published by the Barreau du Québec.

It’s no wonder why young Quebec lawyers face bleak prospects. Even the new president of the Quebec Bar, Paul-Matthieu Grondin, remarked recently that it boiled down to a matter of supply and demand. A troubling report by the Young Bar of Montreal revealed last year that Quebec law students are having a harder time finding articling positions, getting paid less for them, and receiving fewer job offers after articling,  and it urges the provincial law society to establish “reasonable” and variable quotas to curb the “uncontrolled” rising number of lawyers in the province.

The survey traces a portrait of the number of Quebec lawyers who are Aboriginals, minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), and handicapped.

Women make up 52 per cent, or 13,899, of Quebec Bar members. The average age of Quebec female lawyers stands at 41 (compared to 45 for men), and have on average been practicing for 14 years (compared to 21 for men). The majority of women, or 58 per cent, identify themselves as belonging to an ethno-cultural group.

The number of lawyers who identify themselves as being part of an Aboriginal, an ethno-cultural, or handicapped group has grown by 156 per cent since 2008, from 864 to 2,215 members in 2017. That represents 8.4 per cent of the total number of Quebec lawyers. The numbers are broken down as follows:

  • 128 lawyers view themselves as being Aboriginal
  • 134 lawyers say they are handicapped
  • 455 lawyers say they are LGBT
  • 1,953 lawyers say they are part of an ethno-cultural group.

And here is a breakdown of the eight most prevalent minority groups:

  • 3% say they are Eastern Asian
  • 3% Southern Asian
  • 7% South-eastern Asian
  • 33% Western Asian
  • 6% Chinese
  • 10% Latin Americans
  • 21% black
  • 17% other minority groups (including 30% Jews; 12% either mixed, mulatto, or Métis; 9% Greek, and 8% English)

Here are more interesting figures. Lawyers with less than 10 years of experience represent 50 per cent of LGBT members, 47% of Aboriginal members, and 60 per cent of ethno-cultural group members. Nearly half, or 45 per cent, of ethno-cultural group members stated that French was their maternal language, (compared to 82 per cent of overall Bar members), followed by 14 per cent who said English was their maternal language, 10 per cent Arab, and 7 per cent Spanish.

One in nearly three, or 29 per cent, LGBT members work in the public or parapublic sector (compared to 22 per cent of overall Bar members). As well, 32 per cent of Quebec Bar members who are handicapped also work in the public or parapublic sector compared to 17 per cent of minorities and a paltry 8 per cent who are Aboriginal.

Only 30 per cent of LGBT Quebec Bar members work in the private sector, compared to 29 per cent who are handicapped, 41 per cent who are Aboriginal, and 42 per cent who are minorities.

“Diversity and inclusion represents a challenge we have to step and meet over the next few years to progress towards a profession that is an image of society,” said the survey. “It’s a question of credibility for the profession.”

Grondin said recently that the Quebec Bar can and should do better.

“Within the Bar’s Board of Directors, with perhaps an exception or two, we unfortunately all have French names,” said Grondin, before adding that it’s only a matter of time before diversity makes inroads in the Quebec Bar itself.

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