Knowledge Center


  • Lawyers wishing to practice law in Canada must be a member of one of the 14 law societies governed by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada.1*
    • In 2010, there were 22,261 practicing women lawyers and 37,617 practicing men lawyers.2*†
  • For new lawyers practicing 0-5 years, in many areas, women are the majority, or close to the majority, and their numbers and percentages increased from 1998 to 2010 3,4:
    • Manitoba: 60.0% of the newest lawyers are women, up from 44.1% in 1998
    • Saskatchewan: 52.1%, up from 45.6%
    • Ontario: 52.0%, up from 47.1%
    • British Columbia: 53.0% up from 46.9%
    • Barreau du Quebec:61.3%, up from 58.0%
  • Only 16.5% of women in Ontario and 14.9% in British Columbia have been members of the Federation of Law Societies for 26 years or more.5

Flexibility in Canadian Law Firms

Catalyst conducted a nationwide survey of lawyers working in law firms across Canada and presented its findings in a series of reports. Some highlights include:

  • Of the women lawyers in the study, 28% reported participating in a flexible work arrangement, compared to 21% of men.6
  • 69% of lawyers who had never used a flexible work arrangement expressed that they would like to use one, and 86% of those who had already used one stated they would like to use another.7
  • 50% of lawyers said they felt their firms were doing "poorly" or "very poorly" in their provision of flexible work arrangements.8
  • Percentage finding it difficult to manage the demands of work and personal/family life:
    • 75% women associates9
    • 69% women partners10
    • 66% of men associates11
    • 46% of men partners.12
  • When an associate leaves—potentially because of work-life tension—the average cost including investment costs (such as training and development) and separation costs = $315,000.13


A longitudinal survey of Ontario lawyers from 1990-2002 found that women and men have differing partnership arrangements.

  • 51% of women were senior partners compared to 71% of men.14
  • 40% of women had an alternative partnership arrangement, such as part-time or salaried compared to 18% of men.15

Visible Minority and Aboriginal Lawyers

  • A recent study of lawyers in Ontario found that racialized women accounted for 16% of all lawyers under 30, compared to 5% of lawyers 30 and older in 2006.16
  • Racialized men accounted for 7% of lawyers under 30, compared to 6% of lawyers 30 and older.17
  • Visible minority lawyers accounted for 11.5% of all lawyers.18
  • Aboriginal lawyers accounted for 1.0% of all lawyers.19
  • Women and men have similar earnings at the beginning of their careers, but a gender gap opens up at age 30 and the increases with age.
    • In 2005, the median earnings of women aged 35 to 39 was 15 percent below that of men of a similar age and that number increases to 16 percent lower for lawyers 45 to 49.20













* The Federation collects information from 10 provinces and 3 territories, with Quebec reporting separate numbers for notarial professions (Chambre des Notaires du Québec) and lawyers (Barreau du Québec). Further information about the practice of law in Canada here:

†2007 gender data for Nunavut not available.


How to cite this product: Catalyst. Catalyst Quick Take: Women in Law in Canada. New York: Catalyst, 2012.