The Lasting Impact of BCLI’s Guide to Gender Diversity in Legal Writing
January 25, 2024
BY Alison Wilkinson
When BCLI first created the guide to “Gender Diversity in Legal Writing: Pronouns, Honorifics, and Gender-Inclusive Techniques,” we hoped it would be an important reference for the legal community and beyond.
At the time, BCLI saw a gap in resources to support legal writers who were moving to a more inclusive writing style. There were clear directives from the courts and the broader community – we must do better at respecting gender diversity. Yet, there were few concrete tools to help people untangle how to do that. This guide was intended as a solution to that problem.
Given a topic with so much complexity and nuance, BCLI focused on approachability. The guide is simple, clear, and concise. It provides tools, examples, and explanations. It is backed by the expertise of both legal writing experts and members of the impacted groups.
The broader community responded to the guide with enthusiasm. The reception of the guide has far exceeded our initial hopes. Here are a few examples:
- The guide won a 2022 Clawbie Award for being “timely, well-written, and [an] important new language resource that reflects a modern understanding of gender and gender identity”.
- The Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia published our article on “Why Language Matters” in the Verdict in the summer of 2023.
- BCLI provided presentations to several different organizations, across a range of legal fields. For example, BC Courthouse Libraries, Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia, the Canadian Bar Association, BC Council of Administrative Tribunals, Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, and the WorkSafeBC.
BCLI is thankful for this recognition.
But fundamentally, the guide is about more than legal writing. It is about respect for human rights and human dignity. The real legacy of the guide is its place in an important and necessary shift in the legal profession towards inclusion.
Download your copy
The guide has both a downloadable glossary of common terms and misconceptions, and a condensed pocket guide. The glossary provides definitions and describes pitfalls related to certain words and phrases. The pocket guide contains at-a-glance solutions to common writing questions.
This project was made possible with the sustaining financial support of the Law Foundation of British Columbia. BCLI gratefully acknowledges the support of the Law Foundation for its work.