UAlberta Law Dean Paul Paton to receive Leaders in Diversity Award

Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers - Western Chapter recognizes Dean Paton's commitment to fostering inclusion and diversity in the legal profession.

Priscilla Popp - 23 March 2017

UAlberta Law Dean Paul Paton will receive a 'Leaders in Diversity Award' from the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers - Western Chapter (FACL Western) at the organization's second annual Diversity in the City gala in Calgary on March 23.

The award is presented annually to two individuals, corporations, or organizations based in the prairie provinces, Yukon, Northwest Territories, or Nunavut that have demonstrated a commitment to fostering and promoting diversity in the legal profession.

Since he joined UAlberta Law in July 2014, promoting diversity and inclusion in law school and in the legal profession has been a signature priority of Paton's Deanship. Inside and outside the Faculty, Dean Paton has worked to transform not only the message but the culture, endeavoring to ensure that all students, staff and faculty are valued for their perspectives and experience.

Dean Paton has been visible, present, and supportive both publicly and privately of student efforts to focus on issues of diversity in the legal profession.

In 2014-15, he was recognized by Law Students for Access Together, a disability rights advocacy group, with its inaugural award for the promotion of accessibility for his quick action to remedy policies that had historically disadvantaged students with physical disabilities. He has also promoted efforts by the Indigenous Law Students' Association to foster and encourage dialogue and constructive responses to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, through transformational curricular and co-curricular activities. Working with OUTlaw, he sponsored and hosted the keynote event for the University's Pride Week in 2015-16, the first time UAlberta Law had been so directly engaged. He has also worked with Law Students for Inclusion and Diversity and the Women's Law Forum in their efforts to promote diversity, inclusion, and respect.

Most recently, Dean Paton enlisted first-year students Bernadette McMechan and Alyssa Kim to assist him with organizing and then had them host and moderate a Women in Law Speaker Series to provide students the opportunity to meet with and hear from prominent women in the legal profession, including former Law Society of Alberta president Anne Kirker, Q.C., Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta Justice Kristine Eidsvik, Dentons partner Sara Hart, and lawyers in government and in-house counsel settings.

The series was designed for students to hear about the guest speakers' experiences in various practice settings, to provide an opportunity for dialogue between the students and guest speakers about the challenges the speakers have faced to date in their careers, how those challenges have been dealt with, and - looking back - what those guest speakers would recommend to their law student selves.

"The Women in Law Speaker Series is just one of many examples which highlight Dean Paton's leadership in bringing people together to celebrate all voices," said McMechan.

As one student wrote:

"I believe that you are making a difference in our lives by presenting us with this opportunity. Not only does it signal that you, and by extension the Faculty, care about the issue of sexism in our profession, but it also helps young women like myself continue fighting this issue, to not give up. These conversations make us feel like we are not alone and that there are people who have gone through what we are going through. I am very grateful for that."

Third-year student Brandyn Rodgerson commented:

"To many, Dean Paton is a talented lawyer and professor, admirable in many regards. As an executive member of OUTlaw - UAlberta Law's only LGBTI+ student group - I have been fortunate to get to know Dean Paton on a different, more personal, level. He is eager to attend our many meetings, and always reiterates his support for the efforts we are making to enhance the experience of LGBTI+ persons both in law school and in the job market. This support extends to ensuring that fundraising and charity events reach their maximum potential and that faculty members integrate minority sensitive learning into the classroom. Dean Paton is always willing to organize lunch with our group to hear any concerns or suggestions."

Rodgerson's comments were echoed by former OUTlaw president Andrew Lawrence:

"The task of combating prejudice and promoting inclusion is never complete, but there has been a marked improvement in the culture at the law school, particularly for LGBTQ students… The administration's efforts in these areas have not gone unnoticed, and improved my experience… You have accomplished much in a difficult environment. There are many students who share my sentiments."

"Dean Paton has provided the Law Students for Inclusion & Diversity (LSID) with his unwavering enthusiasm and support since our inception in fall 2015," said third-year student Carina Chiu.

"He has established an atmosphere of diversity and inclusion at UAlberta Law, and in this environment, LSID is able to carry out its goal of educating students on these issues effectively, confident that we have the Dean's support in our activities," she said.

For more information on FACL Western's second annual Diversity in the City gala, please click here.