Helping ESL / Foreign-qualified lawyers to overcome barriers in professional developments in Canada
In addition to race, colour, and other diversity barriers, language is a salient (and invisible) barrier. Many legal professionals face language-related challenges, as the number of English-as-second language (“ESL”) lawyers and internationally trained lawyers in Canada has significantly increased in the past decade. Such challenges manifest in many ways: stigma associated with a foreign accent; difficulty in networking due to unfamiliarity with mainstream “Canadian” culture; lack of practical and useful information geared towards ESL / foreign-qualified lawyers; unavailability of mentors with similar background; etc. These challenges often lead to exclusion and inequality.
Moreover, language barrier is faced not just by ESL lawyers, but more profoundly, by ESL clients and clients who do not speak adequate English. For those clients, the ESL lawyers are often their first, and perhaps only, choice when seeking legal advice in Canada due to the language barrier. Therefore, the inclusion and success of ESL lawyers would enhance the access to justice for those clients.
FACL Ontario’s ESL / Foreign-qualified Lawyers Committee aims to represent the ESL / foreign-qualified legal professionals and law students who share these struggles, and provide a platform for dialogue, networking and information sharing. Throughout the year, we provide a variety of networking, educational and social events that connect members of the bar and law students who are of ESL / foreign-qualified background, both among themselves as well as with our other members. FACL Ontario is committed to inclusion and opportunity for all members of the bar.