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About our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee

As a Firm, we value diversity and are committed to providing a workplace that fosters a culture of awareness, appreciation and respect. We are a signatory of the Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network that promotes equity, diversity and inclusion in recruitment, retention and advancement within law firms, law schools and the broader community. We are also a proud employer partner of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion.

With the support of the Firm's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, led by CEO and Managing Partner, Lydia Bugden, K.C., our mission is focused on four key pillars:

  • Recruitment - Our Firm will reflect the diversity of the community at large.
  • Retention and Advancement - Lawyers, managers and staff from diverse and under-represented communities will be active participants in decision-making.
  • Education and Training - Ongoing training will be available to all lawyers and staff to ensure awareness of and knowledge about equity and diversity issues.
  • Leadership - We will promote and support the active participation of lawyers from diverse groups in client, business development and Firm leadership roles.

It is our belief that diversity, equity and inclusion enhances the delivery of legal services to our clients through the respected and valued input of diverse perspectives, ideas and experiences.

We are proud to be an Employer Partner of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion:

Diversity asterisk

To see our diversity, equity and inclusion numbers at a glance, click the infographic above.

JD Bridges Foundation

We are pleased to be a Truss Sponsor of the JD Bridges Foundation – a bursary and mentorship initiative working to remove barriers for Black students interested in studying law.

The bursary program provides financial supports for costs associated with law school admission test and study materials, prep courses and the test itself.

Bursary recipients are also paired with a mentor to help them as they prepare, working to ensure applicants are as supported as possible.

Our Women's Initiative: The Libby Project

The Libby Project is an initiative dedicated to supporting our women lawyers in achieving their career goals, including:

  • Advancing to Partnership
  • Developing leadership skills
  • Enhancing client relationships
  • Connecting with sponsors and mentors

It also provides educational programs, thought leadership and information to support these goals. The Libby Project represents the Firm’s commitment to the mentoring and sponsorship of women by women, educational programs and leadership.

The Libby Project was first established as the “Women’s Initiative”, and was renamed “The Libby Project” in 2021 in honour of the Firm’s first female lawyer, A. Elizabeth “Libby” Hoyt-Brown (1925-2009). In 1959, our predecessor firm in Saint John, McKelvey, MacAulay, Machum, became one of the first firms in New Brunswick to engage a female lawyer. Libby joined us and, in 1968, became a Partner. Libby was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1982 and was made a life member of the Law Society of New Brunswick in 2000.

The Libby Project is chaired by Charlottetown partner, Jennifer MacPherson, and is supported by women lawyer champions in each province:


To see our our progress in supporting our women lawyers, click the infographic above.

Our women leaders

In 2008, Cathy Lahey, K.C., was appointed Managing Partner of the Firm’s three New Brunswick offices, a position she held until 2016.

In 2015, Stewart McKelvey became the first Atlantic Canadian law firm to have a woman as CEO and Managing Partner. Lydia Bugden, K.C remains in that role today.

Also in 2015, the Firm’s Halifax office appointed Rebecca Saturley as Managing Partner.

In 2020, Maureen Ryan, K.C., partner in the St. John’s office, was appointed Chair of the Firm’s Partnership Board, another first for a woman to hold this position.

In 2021, Tauna Staniland, K.C., was appointed Managing Partner of our St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador office, a position she held until 2023.

In 2022, our Partnership Board achieved gender parity with 50% of the seats held by women.

Also in 2022, the Firm celebrated International Women’s Day (March 8) with a campaign centered around our women leaders, and what leadership means to them.

In 2023, Allison Whelan, LL.M was appointed Managing Partner of our St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador office.

In 2024, Deanne MacLeod, K.C., partner in the Halifax office, was appointed Chair of the Firm’s Partnership Board. Other women on the board include:

Also in 2024, Sarah Dever Letson, CIPP/C was appointed Managing Partner of our Saint John, New Brunswick office.

Celebrating diversity at our Firm

We believe in taking an active role in our communities and supporting the diversity that contributes to the richness and vibrancy of Atlantic Canada. Stewart McKelvey is proud to participate in events that celebrate our diversity and support organizations that foster inclusion and awareness. We encourage the involvement of employees in promoting our uniqueness as people, places and cultures.


“Stewart McKelvey shows high rates of inclusion overall: 8 out of 10 Inclusion survey questions received positive response rates over 70%.”

- Key findings from the 2016 “Diversity by the Numbers: The Legal Profession” survey by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion.

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