Women's Legal Mentorship Program Outline

What is the Women’s Legal Mentorship Program (WLMP)?

The WLMP is a national, comprehensive, feminist legal mentorship program that works in partnership with the University of Ottawa. The goal of the WLMP is to help women develop a support system that will help them throughout their legal careers from the classroom to the courtroom and beyond.

The program — the first of its kind in Canada — facilitates peer mentorship, student-lawyer mentorship and professional development and leadership events.

How did the WLMP start?

The WLMP was founded by Charlotte Wolters (Core Founder) in October 2010, when she approached her law school professor about creating an integrated feminist mentorship program. The concept stemmed from her previous professional experience and from observing the law school’s student culture. Ms. Wolters then brought together eight female law students to establish the first chapter and pilot project at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Common Law with her.

Within one month of the pilot program’s launch in September 2011, the program eclipsed its three-year benchmark with over 90 registered participants and a growing waiting list. In 2012, the WLMP again surpassed itself with over 200 female law students registered as Participants.

Why is the WLMP necessary?

  • Only 38 per cent of lawyers in Ontario are women, even though women make up more than 50 per cent of law school graduates.
  • At age 40, women lawyers earn 75 per cent of the average income and 85 per cent of the median income of men the same age.
  • Women represent 60 per cent of lawyers who change jobs.
  • Of the women lawyers who left private practice, 27 per cent quit their law careers entirely.
  • More than 20 per cent of women lawyers who quit their jobs cited work-life balance as the reason.

The WLMP is focused on stopping this trend by linking women with feminist mentors to give them support and guidance before they begin their careers. The WLMP is open to all female law students, regardless of their race, class, ability, religion, age, gender identity or sexual orientation.

How does the WLMP’s Mentorship Program work?

Each chapter is student led and governed by a strategic coordinating committee that establishes and runs the WLMP’s mentorship model. This model has three integrated components: Peer Mentorship, Professional Development & Leadership Events and Student-Lawyer Mentorship.

How does the WLMP set-up a law school WLMP Chapter?

The WLMP does extensive research before contacting a law school to setup a WLMP Chapter. An invitation is extended to both Faculty and female law students and the work begins. The WLMP hopes to establish its second Chapter no later than 2015.

WLMP’s Informal Certification Program

In 2012, the WLMP introduced an informal certification program to showcase both the mentorship and leadership skills WLMP participants develop throughout the year. The WLMP certificate allows participants to highlight for employers the skills development and volunteer work they engaged in during the academic year.

WLMP’s Peer Mentorship

The WLMP matches first year law students with second year students, second years with third year students, and when possible third year students are matched with articling students.

Each student peer mentor makes a time commitment of two hours per month to meet with her mentee. This part of the WLMP is particularly beneficial to first year students, who have a chance to get support and guidance from upper year students who have a better grasp on the law school experience.

WLMP’s Professional Development & Leadership Events

The WLMP offers participants a series of skills based workshops focused on developing and supporting professional development and women’s legal leadership.

Workshops offered include: Effective Mentorship, How to Become a Judge, Networking, Resiliency training, How to Chair a Board Meeting and Anti-Oppression training.

Student-Lawyer Mentorship

Students are then matched with a feminist lawyer or with a woman who holds a law degree but is employed in another field. Each legal mentor and WLMP mentee commits to meeting for two hours per month.

WLMP mentees are encouraged to request a legal mentor who is interested in a similar area of law or comes from a similar background. For example, a student mentee may request to be matched with a First Nations legal mentor with an interest in health law.

WLMP’s Virtual Mentorship

To facilitate WLMP mentees interested in working across Ontario, Canada, and North America, we created a Virtual Mentorship experience. WLMP mentees meet via Skype, email or phone with their legal mentor.

What is expected of Legal Mentors?

The legal mentor and WLMP mentee will together decide how to spend their two hours a month. The WLMP recommends that the legal mentor guide their mentee through issues such as law school course selection, the articling process, bar admission, career development, and developing a healthy work-life balance.

How do lawyers become WLMP Legal Mentors?

When the WLMP sets up a Chapter we work with the Chapter student leaders, the law school’s Faculty and Administration to first provide the structure and materials needed for success. We then work with that law school’s WLMP Chapter to connect with the regional legal communities and law school’s alumni back to them. Using the WLMP’s matching program, we link female legal mentors with students. Any female lawyer who has been called to the Bar and is in good standing can be a legal mentor.

How do interested Lawyers become WLMP uOttawa Chapter Legal Mentors?

If you are a female lawyer interested in committing two hours per month to the WLMP uOttawa Chapter, please fill out the online WLMP uOttawa application form.

Become a mentor

If you are a female lawyer interested in committing two hours per month to the WLMP uOttawa Chapter, please fill out the online WLMP uOttawa application form.

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