Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2017

Publication Title

Canadian Journal of Law and Society


Diversity, Legal profession, Legal services regulat ion, Quantitative legal analysis, Electoral system design


When lawyers elect the leaders of their self-regulatory organizations, what sort of people do they vote for? How do the selection processes for elite lawyer sub-groups affect the diversity and efficacy of those groups? This article quantitatively assesses the demographic and professional diversity of leadership in the Law Society of Upper Canada.

After many years of underrepresentation, in 2015 visible minority members and women were elected in numbers proportionate to their shares of Ontario lawyers. Regression analysis suggests that being non-white was not a disadvantage in the 2015 election, and being female actually conferred an advantage in attracting lawyers’ votes. The diverse employment contexts of the province’s lawyers were also represented in the elected group. However, early-career lawyers were completely unrepresented. This is largely a consequence of electoral system design choices, and can be remedied through the implementation of career-stage constituencies.

The Law Society's "benchers" are more demographically diverse than other elite lawyer sub-groups such as judges, and the open and transparent selection process may be part of the reason.