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Duncan Craig employees at the Edmonton Food Bank food drive.Provided

Samantha Jones joined Edmonton-based Duncan Craig LLP in 2006 after completing a two-year paralegal program at Red Deer Polytechnic. She left on two occasions to pursue other professional opportunities but got an offer to return for a third stint with the firm and was delighted to accept.

“I keep coming back for a reason,” says Jones, an estates paralegal. “The morale is fantastic. The firm takes time to hear you, not just listen. And they provide great work-life balance.”

Duncan Craig is one of Alberta’s oldest law firms. It has been based in the provincial capital for 130 years. “We’re well-grounded and rooted in the community,” says managing partner Darren Bieganek. “We have acted for one client that I’m aware of since before Alberta became a province in 1905.”

Loyalty and longevity are woven into the fibre of the firm. “We have a lot of staff who have been here for their entire careers,” says Bieganek. “One of our longest-serving staff members just retired last year. She’s been here for just over 40 years.”

Bieganek adds that the firm has created policies and programs to build a sense of camaraderie and to encourage teamwork. Duncan Craig also supports professional development for its lawyers and staff.

The Law Society of Alberta requires lawyers to complete a continuing professional development plan annually. Duncan Craig encourages associates and partners to actively participate in professional development opportunities. As well, there are financial incentives for completing courses.

The same applies for staff. “We have on-site learning and development,” says Jones. “I’ve taken seminars offered by an outside company on how to deal with difficult clients and how to resolve personal conflicts in a professional manner.”

Edmonton is becoming a much more diverse community and Duncan Craig has responded in a number of ways to reflect that diversity. “Our human resources department has spent a lot of time reviewing our hiring practices in order to be more inclusive,” says Bieganek. “We have included some criteria in our screening processes to ensure that diversity occurs.”

In recent years, women have played an increasing role in the leadership of the firm. Of its 21 partners, nine are women. “That’s not going to diminish,” says Bieganek. “In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next five years the majority of the partners are female. Our associate group is largely female.” Duncan Craig contributes generously to the Edmonton community through several channels. The firm makes regular donations to the Edmonton Food Bank. It also has a community giving committee that approves donations suggested by staff members.

“They can request a half day off, with pay, to volunteer at an organization of their choice,” says Bieganek. “Last year, we had groups doing volunteer work at the Hope Mission, the food bank and The Mustard Seed, which is essentially a food service for the less privileged.”

The firm’s social committee provides opportunities for staff members to celebrate holidays and causes that are important to them. “We’ve held events to celebrate causes like pride and truth and reconciliation,” says Bieganek. “We’re trying to include as many events as our employees want to be part of and they’ve been well received.”

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