On November 14, NCA Network organized its first ever live event on Instagram for current and prospective NCA students striving to qualify as lawyers in Canada. Students could tune in and participate from the comfort of their homes, offices, or anywhere else in the world via Instagram Live. Hosting the event on Instagram not only made the event extremely unique, but also accessible to all.
The online panel consisted of four special guests: Jordana Bergman, Career Counsellor at Osgoode Hall Law School; Josh Cohen, past NCA student and Estates Litigation Lawyer in Toronto; Thelma Zindoga, past NCA student and Litigation Lawyer in British Columbia; and Andrew Duran, current NCA student and President of Global Lawyers Canada in Alberta. Each panel member engaged with NCA students answering a wide range of questions and shared their own unique journey, experience, and tips with NCA students who participated in the event.
The panel kept the event simple, interactive, and most importantly fun! They addressed many common questions and handled even the toughest concerns with sound advice. The panel addressed the less frequently discussed struggles that international lawyers and students often face in the Canadian legal market with words of wisdom and encouragement. From tips about applying to articling positions, associate positions, quasi-legal positions, and professional development – this panel covered it all! Not only was it informative, but also an honest discussion around entering the legal market as an internationally trained lawyer.
Articling: “Start with your soul-search, it makes the job-search a lot easier than you think.”
The legal job market is saturated. If you are an internationally trained lawyer (especially in a dense city such as Toronto), this statement should not come as a surprise. However, it is essential to be mindful of the fact that the dynamics of the legal market are changing rapidly, and legal job opportunities are evolving. With this in mind, take time to introspect about your interests or inclinations. Having a strong understanding of your likes and dislikes will significantly narrow down your search. Think of it as a pre-requisite to the articling or job search.
Secondly, try not to be overly rigid regarding your choices. It sometimes limits your options. Articling is 10 months hands-on legal training that can demonstrate your ability to practice law. While the articling positions on Bay Street are highly sought after, remember that Bay Street is not your only option. Ontario is a vast province, and Canada is a big country, full of innovative teams who are seeking equally innovative internationally trained lawyers. You may consider expanding your search in terms of practise areas, region and/or work environment. Finally, keep a keen eye out for employers who practice what they preach in terms of diversity and inclusion hiring and forming innovative teams. In addition to their strong legal training, NCA students also bring new perspectives to employers, international exposure, and cultural awareness to the workplace – this a huge positive for businesses! CLICK HERE for a list of 10 questions you should ask about a firm’s (or other legal employers’) commitment to diversity.
Don’t be afraid to say no.
If you are offered articling for no remuneration, you can say no! There are other great options out there such as the LPP program. During the event, the NCA Network panel discussed that the LSO was reviewing changes to the licencing process in Ontario. The LSO held a special convocation on December 10th 2018 to address the future of the lawyer licencing process in Ontario. The result of that convocation is that the LSO’s governing body has approved an option for lawyer licensing that retains the two, current transitional training pathways, with significant enhancements, as recommended by the Law Society’s Professional Development and Competence Committee – CLICK HERE to read the full report.The LSO also implemented required salary for all licensing candidates pursuing articles or LPP work placements, with limited exceptions.
Work Experience: “Experience- volunteer or paid, make it your priority.”
Internationally trained lawyers may lack experience in the Canadian marketplace. Therefore, it is crucial to start to build on your experience as soon as possible, even if you start as a volunteer. For newcomers, building a professional network can be challenging. Therefore, volunteering, getting involved in community events or organizations, can help grow your professional network immensely.
Resume: “Advocate for yourself.”
To succeed in business, you need to sell yourself and your ideas. To win a favourable decision, you need to make persuasive arguments. Similarly, to be hired for a job, you must sell your unique skills to an employer, impressively and persuasively. Consider your resume as the first opportunity to advocate for yourself.
Keep updating your resume with new experiences and activities. Keep in mind that your resume should always be a work in-progress – growing, changing, and evolving as your professional experiences grow.
Networking: “Who you know, matters a lot.”
Believe it or not, networking is very important! And, it has worked wonders for internationally trained lawyers. “How to network effectively?” is a question that is asked by almost every student and young lawyer starting out. Start by simply building a list of everyone you know, whether directly or indirectly, in the legal profession. The list might consist of a few of your professors, a lawyer, a friend of a friend, or anyone who you have recently connected with. Write emails or call and ask for a quick coffee date, be prepared with questions and a well-written resume in-hand and don’t be shy to ask for tips and/or introductions to their professional network. After a few coffee meetings, you will begin to gain a better understanding of the legal profession, and with some luck and persistence you will begin landing interviews.
Keep in mind that relationship building is an important skill for lawyers.
Not every meeting will bring you a job opportunity, but it may offer a great mentor-mentee relationship.