The Law Society of BC recently voted in favour of approving Trinity Western University’s law school. The private Christian school, located in Langley and about an hour’s drive from Vancouver, has an anti-gay covenant that, essentially, discriminates against anyone who isn’t heterosexual. There is plenty of ink spilled and many keyboards pounded on the subject of the LSBC’s decision and the distaste for TWU’s exclusivity that’s worthy of reading. What strikes me though, is the question about the value of a TWU law degree.
When the first crop of law students begin looking for summer articles will they be met with resistance from employers? Are these students lifetime ambassadors of TWU’s Christian covenant and will they carry these attitudes with them into their career?
Surely the school has contemplated the value of such a degree from their school, but have future students? The ultimate value of a law degree is in an individual’s employability and/or the ability to develop one’s own law practice. Doing so depends on either an employer or clients, and usually both.
Diversity within law firms (and many companies) is on the rise, and it comes, in part, at the request of clients. Most mid to large-sized firms have received requests from prospective clients to report on their firm’s diversity. Evidently, being a good corporate citizen is important to many clients. In response, many firms have struck diversity committees and are actively working towards a more inclusive workforce in their firms.
As awareness on this front rises and firms are now more diverse than ever, would they consider hiring TWU grads – who, some would say, are the antithesis of diversity? How would a summer or articling student integrate into a firm where openly gay professionals and staff work? No firm wants to create a culture of oil and water.
My guess is, they need not apply to Dentons, McCarthy Tétrault, or Stikeman Elliott – unless these firms’ celebrated diversity policies include TWU law school grads too.
As potential employers decide whether to take a risk on hiring a TWU law school grad, so too will clients. To the chagrin of many lawyers, clients don’t hire their lawyer based on where they obtained their law degree – ok, maybe ONE client did in the last decade. However, if I were a forward-thinking, inclusive, socially responsible company maybe I would start now. And maybe I’d want assurances that a potential TWU law school grad could work with all walks of life. Time will tell.
Consumers and clients support companies who align with their values. Perhaps we’ll see some discriminating choices.