Gowling WLG partners win 2019 Lexpert Zenith awards for diversity & inclusion, pro bono efforts

19 June 2019

Gowling WLG partners Roberto Aburto and Laurent Massam have been named among the winners of the 2019 Lexpert Zenith Awards in recognition of their achievements in the areas of diversity & inclusion (D&I) and pro bono.

Presented yesterday evening at a gala in Toronto, this year's Zenith awards celebrate "change agents in law."

Both partners have proven track records as leaders within the firm when it comes to making positive change in their communities.

"Whether they're launching ground-breaking diversity & inclusion initiatives or finding innovative ways to improve access to justice, Roberto and Laurent lead by example when it comes to driving positive change in the legal profession," says James Buchan, firm managing partner, external, of Gowling WLG Canada. "We extend our warmest congratulations to them on this prestigious honour."

Roberto Aburto

A municipal law partner in Gowling WLG's Ottawa office and co-chair of the firm's national D&I Council, Aburto is deeply committed to promoting the principles of diversity and inclusion.

Under his leadership, the council initiated the rollout of unconscious bias training for everyone in the firm, with a goal of 100% of firm personnel being trained by the end of 2019. It also launched mental health first aid training to help firm leaders and managers recognize and support people who are dealing with mental health challenges.

By spearheading Gowling WLG's partnership with the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD), Aburto solidified his position as an engaged ally of the LGBTQ+ community. The pro bono partnership involves firm professionals notarizing and commissioning the forms and affidavits required to update birth certificates, passports, driver's licenses, and other formal documents for trans and non-binary individuals.

Aburto also co-hosts Gowling WLG's Diversonomics, a popular podcast on diversity in the legal profession that tackles topics such as gender identity in the workplace, corporate responsibility, unconscious bias and allyship. The podcast won a Canadian Law Blog Award for "Best Legal Culture Blog" earlier this year.

Laurent Massam

Practising both civil litigation and intellectual property litigation, Massam is a Toronto-based Gowling WLG partner and serves as national director of the firm's pro bono program.

Guided by Massam, professionals from across the firm deliver legal services at no charge in support of numerous charities, advocacy groups, and community organizations that advocate for the public good in matters of broad public concern. The firm also offers pro bono services for individuals who lack the means to retain their own counsel.

Through Massam's leadership, many organizations benefited from the firm's pro bono work in 2018. These include Pro Bono Ontario, the Mi'kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland, and the Children's Family House Society of BC, among many others.

Last year alone, more than 300 Gowling WLG professionals logged a total of 5,380 hours of pro bono time, translating to $2.1M in equivalent fees.

A complete list of this year's Lexpert Zenith Award winners is available in the June issue of Lexpert magazine.