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Professor Mary Jane Mossman receives 2022 President's Award

Another fabulous Annual Awards Gala! On June 16th WLAO members and guests enjoyed the first "in-person" event since the March 2020 International Women's Day event - a long break from seeing friends and colleagues! The Sassafraz in Yorkville was a beautiful venue to step back out into life beyond Zoom.

Our congratulations to this year's President's Award recipient, Professor Mary Jane Mossman, pictured here with outgoing WLAO President, Jennifer Gold.

And we would like to acknowledge the other amazing women who received awards at the Gala:

Alexa Abiscott, General Counsel and Secretary, ApplyBoard Inc. 2022 General Counsel Award


The Honourable Sandra Chapnik Women-In-Law Award 2022 winner Chiedza Mitchel Mutize, University of Windsor Law


2022 Aird & Berlis LLP Equality Award winner Chantelle Hospedales, Osgoode Hall Law School


Laurie Pawlitza with 2022 Torkin Manes LLP Trailblazer Award winner Naomi Stuleanu, Osgoode Hall Law School


Women’s Law Association of Ontario would like to recognize all who have contributed to and helped support our 2022 Annual Awards Gala

Our sincere appreciation to our event sponsor, the LLP (Law Practice Program).

Thank you to the law firms and individuals who generously partnered with WLAO to provide the student and lawyer awards presented, including: Aird & Berlis LLP, the Honourable Sandra Chapnik, Torkin Manes LLP, and the WLAO General Counsel Chapter.

We would like to acknowledge the law firms and organizations that purchased tables for the Gala including Aird & Berlis LLP, Blakes LLP, Hagel Estate Lawyers, Lerners LLP, McCarthy Tétrault LLP, Torkin Manes LLP and Wood Gold LLP.

And to the Law Society of Ontario who provided funding for the closed captioning.

To our committed Board of Directors, members, event coordinating team and volunteers, our heartfelt thanks - without you our events and programs could not take place.

More pictures of this fabulous night are available in our gallery:


Mary Jane Mossman to receive 2022 President’s Award - June 16, 2022

The Women’s Law Association of Ontario is honoured to announce that Professor Mary Jane Mossman is the recipient of the 2022 President’s Award.  As a professor and trailblazer, she has positively influenced many in the legal profession.  Her research on the first women lawyers in Ontario is important and culminates in her upcoming publication, “Quiet Rebels: A History of Ontario Women Lawyers”.

WLAO invites you to celebrate Professor Mossman at our Annual Awards Gala on Thursday, June 16th, 2022.

We will also be presenting are our General Counsel Award, the Aird & Berlis LLP Equality Award, the Honourable Sandra Chapnik Women-In-Law Award, and the Torkin Manes LLP Trailblazer Award - winners of which will be announced very shortly!

And we will take a few moments to acknowledge two of our recent President's Award winners, Dr. Signa Daum Shanks (2020) and Joanna Birenbaum (2021), with whom we were unable to celebrate in person due to the pandemic.

2022 Annual Awards Gala
Thursday, June 16, 2022 (Tickets are limited so please register early)
6:00pm reception; 6:45pm dinner (cash bar)
Sassafraz Restaurant, 100 Cumberland Street, Toronto (Yorkville)

Our event will also be available through streaming but we hope you are able to attend in person.

The WLAO President's Award recognizes a woman, firm or organization who has made a substantial contribution to the legal community and as a recognized leader, demonstrates a commitment to the promotion of women in the law: engaged, aware and connected to issues, substantive and personal, facing women in the legal profession today.

This event will be Closed Captioned.

Purchase a ticket here.

Sponsorship Opportunities are available for this program - show your support! Click here.

We hope you are joining us at our celebration honouring fantastic women and their remarkable accomplishments!

Thank you to our Award Partners:


Pension and Retirement Assets Upon Relationship Breakdown - April 5, 2022

Pension and Retirement Assets Upon Relationship Breakdown (April 5, 2022, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm ET)

WLAO members can use code WLAO-10 to save 10%.

Program Chairs:

Georgina L. Carson, MacDonald & Partners LLP

Anne Slivinskas, Senior Counsel, Legal and Enforcement, Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario

Designed for those who practice in family law or work in pensions, this must-attend program will provide them with the key knowledge and practical strategies needed to tackle the most challenging issues in pension and retirement assets that arise upon separation.

Pension and Retirement Assets Upon Relationship Breakdown


Member, The Honourable Sandra Chapnik, C.M., O.Ont. receives the Order of Canada

Governor General announces 135 appointments to the Order of Canada

December 29, 2021

OTTAWA—Today, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, announced 135 appointments to the Order of Canada. The new appointees include 2 Companions (C.C.), 39 Officers (O.C.), 1 honorary Member and 93 Members (C.M.).

The list of appointees, with short citations, can be found here.

Included is one of our WLAO life members!

The Honourable Sandra Chapnik, C.M., O.Ont.
Toronto, Ontario

For her leadership in the community and in the legal sector, where she has promoted the advancement of women and encouraged best practices in the field.

They will be presented with their insignia at investiture ceremonies to be held on future dates.

The Order of Canada is one of our highest honours. Created in 1967, it honours people whose service shapes our society, whose innovations ignite our imaginations and whose compassion unites our communities.

More than 7 500 people from all sectors of society have been invested into the Order of Canada. Their contributions are varied, yet they have all enriched the lives of others and have taken to heart the motto of the Order: DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM (“They desire a better country”).


“Canada is defined by the people that make up this great country. These most recent nominees to the Order of Canada are shining examples of the commitment and outstanding contributions Canadians have made to the well-being of communities throughout this land, whether it be social, environmental, scientific, economic, cultural or related to mental and physical health. To all of the nominees, congratulations and thank you.”

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada

Quick Facts

  • Appointments are made by the governor general on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada. For more information about the Order of Canada program, visit
  • Appointees to the Order of Canada wear a striking, six-point white enamel insignia that symbolizes Canada’s northern heritage and diversity, because no two snowflakes are alike.
  • Bestowment of Honours by the governor general are the result of nominations submitted by the general public to the Chancellery of Honours, which administers more than 30 different distinctions awarded to worthy Canadians each year, notably the Order of Canada, Decorations for Bravery (which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022,) Meritorious Service Decorations (Civil Division), the Polar Medal and the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

Every Canadian is invited to learn about these programs and to submit a nomination for an inspiring community leader, a dedicated volunteer or an individual who is bettering their community, region or the country. For more information visit

A History of Women Judges in Ontario

The Honourable Pamela Thomson is a retired judge and a member of WLAO since about 1963.

Justice Thomson has written a book briefly surveilling women judges from Ontario who have been appointed to the Bench.

A new edition been published on the Osgoode Legal History Society website and  during a seminar on the book she realized women lawyers might find some encouragement from reading about their ancestors.

The book on women judges in Ontario was originally published in 2019 and has been updated. Here is the updated version from September 2021.

A brief history of Ontario women on the bench from the first woman appointed in 1922 to 1990 with appendices to the present day.


Position Available - Strategic Policy Counsel, Policy - Law Society of Ontario



Strategic Policy Counsel provides advice and support for the policy-making function of the Law Society where it tackles issues that require creative, proactive and strategic approaches.  Strategic Policy Counsel takes on some of the toughest policy challenges confronting the Law Society and is required to think big and differently.  Strategic Policy Counsel has in-depth understanding (local, national and international) of developments, emerging issues and trends in the regulation of legal and other professions; of developments and trends in the delivery of legal services by lawyers and paralegals, of practice, ethical and business issues related to the delivery of legal services by lawyers and paralegals, of the challenges in the administration of justice and in promoting access to justice and of equity, diversity and inclusion challenges in the legal professions. Relying on this knowledge, Strategic Policy Counsel thinks creatively to craft options for approaches to policy challenges that strategically align with the Law Society’s priorities, are comprehensive, are practical, are creative, innovative and progressive and ensure that the Law Society, not only keeps pace with developments, but also leads, in regulation.  Strategic Policy Counsel works with working groups and task forces that are established to deal with a discrete issue within a fixed period of time.  Strategic Policy Counsel also works with standing committees of Convocation when they are dealing with more complex issues.





  • An LL.B. / J.D. and a lawyer licensee in good standing with the Law Society*.
  • Strategic Policy Counsel is expected to work collaboratively as well as independently, conducting research of considerable importance to the Law Society and providing creative and proactive guidance and advice on policy to benchers and staff, requiring a minimum of 10 years’ experience working for a professional governing body, government, legal organization or in legal practice or similar professional setting.  A minimum of 5 years (of the 10 years’ experience) must be in a position wherein the incumbent provided strategic policy advice.  Equivalent experience may be considered.
  • The incumbent may be required to travel in Ontario and throughout Canada (and, on occasion, internationally), primarily related to consultations, but also to present at meetings and conferences.
  • Solid understanding of the Law Society Act and its regulations and by-laws, Law Society policies, and the Law Society’s mandate and its policy-making processes, or willingness to learn.
  • Proven ability, on a superior level, to quickly and thoroughly research and analyze complex legal and policy issues.
  • Strong statutory interpretation skills.
  • Proven ability, on a superior level, to work in a wide range of legal areas and fields of policy.
  • Substantial knowledge of public policy, public administration and regulatory policy processes and procedural issues.
  • Comprehensive knowledge and use of research tools including data analysis.
  • Familiarity with consultation and analysis techniques.
  • Proven ability, on a superior level, to prepare concise, well-written reports.
  • Proven ability, on a superior level, to communicate both orally and in writing complex information in audience appropriate language and format.
  • Expressive and persuasive in both spoken and written language facilitating effective decision-making.
  • Computer literacy, including familiarity with word processing and applications, and social media.
  • Sound judgment, tact and sensitivity to functioning as non-partisan staff in a “government” setting.
  • Proven ability to work under pressure.
  • Proven ability to assess challenges from multiple and different perspectives, to think big and differently and to craft creative solutions.

*By submitting your application for employment, you agree to a clearance check of your regulatory history with the Law Society, and to the use of this information in assessing suitability for employment at the Law Society.


Client / Customer Service Delivery


  • Provides support to benchers and staff by assessing problems, situations and challenges, identifying core and consequential issues, analyzing research and other input and, drawing on their assessments, analyses and knowledge, advising on possible solutions, their impacts and risks.
  • Prepares a variety of reports, documents and papers in aid of providing support to benchers and staff as outlined above.
  • Assists in developing and analyzing consultations with stakeholders, legal professionals and the public.
  • Attends at meetings and functions, including external consultations on policy options.
  • Makes presentations to committees, working groups and task forces, including providing “in camera” information and analyses.
  • Conducts a variety of comprehensive legal, policy and other research, consults with internal and operational staff on challenges and opportunities, synthesizes and analyzes data/information gathered from the research and consultations, prepares a variety of reports, documents and papers as a result of the research and consultations and delivers oral briefings on the research and consultations.
  • Acts as secretary to committees, working groups and task forces, drafts and circulates reports for the committees, working groups and task forces, prepares agenda, minutes, and summaries of meetings, and manages time lines to meet reporting requirements.



  • Has strategic and in-depth understanding (local, national and international) of developments, emerging issues and trends in the regulation of the legal and other professions, of developments and trends in the delivery of legal services by lawyers and paralegals, of practice, ethical and business issues related to the delivery of legal services by lawyers and paralegals, of the challenges in the administration of justice and in promoting access to justice and of equity, diversity and inclusion issues in the legal professions.
  • Conducts a variety of comprehensive legal policy and other research; consults with internal and operational staff on challenges and opportunities; analyzes research and other information; undertakes risk analysis and evaluation of policy options and mitigation strategies; assists in the preparation of financial and resource impact analyses; assists in developing and analyzing consultation with stakeholders, legal professionals and the public.
  • Strategic Policy Counsel is required to conduct research in areas where there may be few, if any, precedents, requiring ingenuity and innovation.

Special Projects and Initiatives

  • Drafts submissions, correspondence, presentations, articles, etc., on behalf of benchers and staff.
  • Attends, addresses and participates in meetings, conferences, symposia, etc.
  • May lead and/or support consultation and stakeholder initiatives related to policy development.
  • May undertake a variety of other projects as assigned or required.

Relationship and Alliance Building


  • Acts as a public face of the Law Society to outside parties, locally, nationally and internationally, including other law societies, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, other legal organizations and law schools, and Canadian provincial and federal governments.
  • Prepares and presents submissions on behalf of the Law Society, and other stakeholders as assigned, in order to influence and inform policy, regulations and legislation affecting the legal professions.
  • Develops and maintains a network of key stakeholders and decision makers, communicating the position of the Law Society, and building good will and credible influence among interested parties.

Team Development


  • Works closely with other staff within the Law Society at all levels, to ensure a strategic, comprehensive and consistent approach to policy development within the Law Society.
  • Facilitates the development of a broader team‑based approach throughout the Law Society by ensuring comprehensive and timely dissemination of information, as appropriate, and coordination and collaboration of efforts by staff.


The Law Society of Ontario values and respects diversity.  We are committed to creating an accessible, barrier-free and inclusive workplace in compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Please make any requirement you may have for accommodation during the recruitment process known when contacted.  If you are unable to apply to this position due to the requirement for an accommodation of any kind, please email us at or call 416 947-3475.


Federal Court of Appeal and Federal Court 50th Anniversary Events

Federal Court of Appeal and Federal Court 50th Anniversary Events

To celebrate 50 years of service to Canadians, the Federal Court of Appeal and the Federal Court are publishing a book that reflects on the work of the Courts both from a historical perspective and looking forward. 

A formal launch will be held virtually on October 1. It will feature remarks from the Chief Justices of both Courts, an opening address by the Honourable Frank Iacobucci, and a discussion about the book by four of its authors, moderated by Justice Johanne Gauthier. Throughout the months following the book launch, the Courts will present three webinars addressing issues that touch on three main areas of work for the Courts – immigration, national security, and intellectual property.  The webinars will allow experts in those fields to address these topics and encourage questions from participants about the issues raised. Members of the judiciary, the Bar, Academia and the wider public are invited to participate in these events.

Please visit the National Judicial Institute website for further information.


Discrimination and Harassment Counsel (DHC) Program

The Treasurer of the Law Society of Ontario, Teresa Donnelly,  has written a blog on the Discrimination and Harassment Counsel (DHC) program funded by the Law Society of Ontario.  The DHC program is a very important part of the work of the Law Society on EDI.

English – 

French –

The blog can be found at the links above as well as on the Law Society Gazette.  The blog has been  tweeted about it at @LSOTreasurer.

The Pandemic and Reshaping Firms - Opinion

Our world turned upside down in 2020!

As the COVID-19 pandemic grasped the world, it shone a spotlight on gender inequality and systemic racism. As the world navigated tremendous societal upheaval and tragedy, I questioned my personal beliefs, biases and privileges as many others did. I wanted to understand the intersectionality of lived experiences that disproportionally impacted women, Black and Indigenous people and people of colour and use the upheaval and reflection to advance women in the legal profession.

The profession recognizes that women in leadership roles are integral to business success, financial performance, and corporate culture. Having different leadership styles and perspectives will better address client needs and reflect society as a whole.

In February 2013, Ontario’s Law Society of Upper Canada developed the Justicia Guide to Women’s Leadership in Law Firms. The Justicia Guide identified challenges facing women in leadership, including leadership fatigue, work-life balance, systemic biases and attitudes, compensation, tokenism, law firm culture and politics, and lack of access to mentors and sponsors. This list is dishearteningly similar to what women still face in law in 2021, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Justicia Guide also identified strategies to overcome the challenges both for women and law firms, including developing leadership skills and goals through coaching and training, finding role models and sponsors, creating inclusive leadership structures, and promoting women to leadership in law firms and the profession.

Based on the LSUC database as of Aug. 3, 2012, the Justicia Guide reported that only 7 per cent of partners in private practice were women. The 2020 Law Society of Ontario Annual Report, released on May 6th, 2020, reports that women represent 11.16 per cent of lawyers in private practice (sole owner and partners) and 26.47 per cent of partners in private practice.

While women leaders made inroads into law leadership since 2012, these advances have occurred at a glacial pace. But perhaps there is hope and opportunity to accelerate the advancement of women into law firm leadership.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for practising law, accessing justice, engaging with clients, and managing additional duties of home life (childcare/eldercare/education). However, as we move through the COVID-19 pandemic, we see a renewed focus on wellness and work-life balance, lawyer engagement, and commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion as critical elements of law firm culture.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also taught a profession entrenched in tradition that modernization and effective change is possible. The COVID-19 pandemic broke the “facetime” model for law practice within days, and at most, weeks. It is now clear that lawyers can work from home productively and profitably; we are and have been for 15 months. With these benefits, though, comes increased stress and juggling home and professional responsibilities.

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin encouraged the attendees at the Canadian Lawyer 2021 Women in Law Summit in February 2021 to think about equality for all in our discussions. She said, “we are at a time when many of the ideas and institutions that we took for granted are unravelling. Something will have to take its place. The wounds will have to be knit up. A new society, a different society will emerge.”

The opportunity the COVID-19 pandemic offers to reshape law firm leadership cannot be allowed to slip through our fingers. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the responsibilities of families, caring for one another and building strong communities. Continued flexible and WFH options, implementation of equity, diversity and inclusion policies, focus on authentic leadership, and opportunities for promotion and advancement increases the bottom line, meets client demands, and allows women to lead in law.

Acknowledgement and acceptance by law firm leadership that there are many effective, productive and profitable ways to lead and that the solution is not for women to adopt the male leadership qualities is vital to increasing equality and women in law leadership.

Change can (and must) happen and at a pace never before experienced! Women and men in leadership positions are ideally situated to advocate for the benefits of inclusive leadership and embrace women in law leadership in our post-pandemic society.

Jacquelyn Stevens is the WLAO Past President.


2021 Annual Awards Gala Virtual Presentation

On June 10th, 2021 we had a wonderful evening celebrating five amazing and inspirational women at our
2021 Annual Awards Gala.

Please take a break grab a beverage of choice and enjoy the presentation.

President's Award recipient, Joanna Birenbaum;
General Counsel Chapter Award recipient, Hilda Wong;
Aird & Berlis LLP Equality Award recipient, Natalie Zhang;
The Honourable Sandra Chapnik Women-In-Law Award recipient, Amanda Welton-Hagen; and,
Torkin Manes LLP Trailblazer Award recipient, Madeleine Gottesman.


Again, our thanks to our special guests, The Honourable Chief Justice George Strathy, Attorney General Doug Downey, and the Treasurer of the Law Society, Teresa Donnelly, who offered their greetings and shared their wisdom during our presentation.


If you would like to contribute, we have a "Pay as you Can" portal below in support of our program.
Sponsored by:





The Women’s Law Association of Ontario is proud to announce that the 2021 recipient of the President’s Award is Joanna Birenbaum.


Joanna is one of Canada’s leading lawyers in the areas of women’s equality and sexual violence, including civil sexual assault claims, employment law, human rights and workplace investigations, representing complainants in sexual history and records applications in criminal sexual assault proceedings, and defamation law.


Current leading cases in which Joanna is counsel include anti-SLAPP applications in Ontario and B.C. to protect survivors of sexual violence from retaliatory lawsuits in defamation and malicious prosecution, and a systemic equality rights Charter claim against the London Police Services Board for discriminatory investigations of sexual assault.


Joanna also represented the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, the archive established to preserve the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s records, in its efforts to preserve the records and history of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools.
Joanna has lectured and published in the areas of violence against women and women’s equality rights; her most recent publication is a book, co-authored with Professor Karen Busby, Achieving Fairness: A Guide to Campus Sexual Violence Complaints, published by Thomson Reuters (2020).


Congratulations, Joanna! We thank you for your service in helping women attain equality and justice.
Please join us at the virtual WLAO Annual Awards Gala to celebrate Joanna Birenbaum and hear her message to the profession.


2021 General Counsel Chapter Award Winner - Hilda Wong.

Hilda is the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for First National Financial LP and oversees all aspects of First National’s legal affairs including formation of legal policy and strategy, compliance and regulatory matters, board and governance matters, contract negotiation and documentation. She is also First National’s Chief Privacy Officer and Chief Anti Money Laundering Officer.

Prior to joining First National in 2007, Ms. Wong was a partner with the national law firm of Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP and an associate with the law firms of Smith, Lyons LLP and Borden Ladner Gervais LLP. Ms. Wong holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Toronto and has been in practice since 1993. Ms. Wong also serves as a director on the boards of The Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic and the Women General Counsel Canada Network and is a co-founder of the National GC Network.

Please join us at the virtual WLAO Annual Awards Gala on June 10, 2021 to celebrate Joanna Birenbaum, Hilda Wong, and our student award winners.

Congratulations to our Student Award Winners and thank you to the individuals and firms who have supported these awards:
The Honourable Sandra Chapnik Women-in-Law Award
Amanda Welton-Hagen
Windsor University
Faculty of Law
The Aird & Berlis LLP
Equality Award
Ningjing (Natalie) Zhang
Queen’s University
Faculty of Law
The Torkin Manes LLP
Trailblazer Award
Madeleine Gottesman
University of Toronto
Faculty of Law


Please register to attend our program below.


Pay as You Can - 2021 Virtual Awards Gala

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Select a one-time voluntary amount in support of our program.

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If you are able to do so, WLAO appreciates your support of our 2021 Virtual Awards Gala. Any funds collected will be applied directly to the program expenses. Thank you!

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2021 Annual Awards Gala Virtual Presentation


Women’s Law Association of Ontario
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