Congratulations to Meghan Dawe, recipient of the 2019 Dennis William Magill Canada Research Award

February 1, 2019 by Sherri Klassen

Congratulations to Meghan Dawe, who was recently awarded the 2019 Dennis William Magill Canada Research Award. The prize is awarded annually for a paper or dissertation of exceptional merit that deals with a sociological aspect of Canadian Society.

Meghan’s dissertation “Stratification in the Canadian Legal Profession: The Role of Social Capital and Social Isolation in Shaping Lawyers’ Careers” provides new evidence on emerging forms of stratification in the Canadian legal profession. By documenting how factors such as race/ethnicity, immigration status, and gender shape co-worker and mentorship relations, influence exposure to discriminatory practices, and ultimately affect the attainment of professional rewards, the dissertation sheds light on several important aspects of Canadian society. Meghan defended her dissertation in 2018 and is currently a Research Social Scientist at the American Bar Foundation, and Project Manager for the "After the JD" Study of Lawyers' Careers. She is also teaching  Law and Society at Northwestern University. Meghan has co-authored articles published in the Canadian Review of Sociology, the British Journal of Criminology, and the International Journal of the Legal Profession, and has a forthcoming article in Law & Social Inquiry.

The abstract of her dissertation is as follows:

The North American legal profession has traditionally excluded marginalized social groups via formal entry barriers and other social closure mechanisms. While many of these obstacles have eroded over time and the legal profession is more heterogeneous today than in the past, formal and informal obstacles maintain the ongoing professional dominance of white men from privileged social backgrounds. Although lawyers represent a powerful and elite social group, the legal profession’s internal hierarchies reflect the unequal distribution of status, opportunities, and rewards among its members, making it an important site for examining professional stratification. Using a national survey of a cohort of recent entrants to the Canadian legal profession, I examine stratification in the legal profession and the mechanisms that sustain workplace disparities and discrimination. I find that traditional hierarchies persist and that new lines of demarcation have emerged. Moreover, I find that social capital and social isolation are key mechanisms driving divergent outcomes and experiences for traditionally disadvantaged groups of lawyers in their early careers. Specifically, I find that spending time with partners and other senior attorneys increases earnings and decreases experiences of workplace discrimination; having a woman mentor and a higher proportion of racial and ethnic minorities in the workplace reduce the odds of experiencing discrimination; and having a racial/ethnic minority mentor increases the odds of expressing mobility intentions for lawyers working in private law firms. Workplace relationships operate as both assets and liabilities in lawyers’ careers; having partners notice and invest in you and being surrounded by coworkers and mentors who ‘look like you’ can bolster the careers of lawyers from traditionally disadvantaged groups, yet socially similar mentors can also exacerbate the consequences of outsider status if they too are outsiders within the profession. Thus, social capital both facilitates and constrains lawyers’ careers and stratification in the legal profession.