Upcoming FACL conference focused on AI’s impact on profession, advancing careers of Asian lawyers

Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers planning in-depth survey of challenges for Asian lawyers

Upcoming FACL conference focused on AI’s impact on profession, advancing careers of Asian lawyers
Hillson Tse, Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers

The influence of artificial intelligence on the legal profession and how to advance the careers of Asian lawyers are the two main focal points of the upcoming annual conference of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL).

FACL’s 17th annual conference is on March 2 at the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto. This year’s theme is “Innovate, Inspire, Ignite!” The conference will include nine panel discussions, and FACL president Hillson Tse says many speakers are from startups and the legal tech industry.

Tse says one focus of the conference this year will be how to work towards a situation where the top jobs in the legal profession reflect the significant presence of Asian communities in the profession, generally.

“We've been seeing, over the years, more and more Asian law students. But when it comes to the higher levels of firms in terms of the management or partner track, we're hoping to see more of that representation.”

While it takes time to build up a presence in partnerships and firm management, he says the conference intends to help members – whether law students, new calls, or associates aiming for partnership – become aware of the supports and tools necessary to be successful.

Tse says the conference will also serve as a call to action for the profession to get people more involved in the community and maintain connections and networks. But this starts with building a profile and advancing personally in their legal career, he says.

FACL is also planning to collect better data on how the work to spur the advancement of Asian lawyers is progressing. Tse says the group plans to replicate the Canadian Association of Black Lawyer’s 2023 survey, “Examining the Black Experience in the Legal Profession,” which will help identify where there are challenges for advancement. He says they want to determine whether Asians face the same challenges as other equity-seeking groups or face issues distinctive to Asian lawyers.

This past year, FACL celebrated the retirement of one of the group’s founding members, the first female Asian judge in Canada, Maryka Omatsu. The conference will also host a discussion on Asian representation in the judiciary. 

“We want to continue seeing established lawyers and good candidates for the bench be seen there as well,” says Tse. “Because a more diverse bench and a bench that better reflects the community that they serve, is a win for everyone.”

“Our concern as well this year is ensuring that the members that are eligible to apply to become judges do get that support,” he says. “And that the government is strongly considering candidates who have diverse backgrounds, in addition to qualifications to become judges.”

Tse is a criminal defence lawyer practising in the Greater Toronto Area.

The conference begins at 9 am and ends with a gala from 6:30 to 9:30. It opens with a panel on the realities and challenges of leadership for Asian Canadians. After a networking break, the uOttawa student panel, “Blackbox of Toolbox? The Future of AI in Law,” will go from 10:25-11:30.

Following another networking break, the co-founder of Arteria AI, Abrar Huq, will give a keynote address. Then, after lunch, there will be three breakout panels: “AI unplugged: navigating issues of ethics, human rights, and unconscious bias,” “The culturally competent lawyer,” and “Diversity on the Bench,” which will include two justices of the Ontario Superior Court and one of the Ontario Court of Justice.

After a third networking break, there are three more breakout panels from 2:30-3:35: “Working as counsel in startups,” “Inspiring leadership and inclusion: innovations for social impact and community building,” “Navigating your legal path: strategies for career growth and successful recruitment.”

From 3:45-4:50, Annie Hu of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP will moderate a mental health and wellness panel.

FACL will present around ten awards for law students and lawyers making significant contributions to their community.

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