I am very proud to be an international student.
I went to the UK in 2013 with the plan to move there permanently. During my studies, I applied to hundreds of firms in London (UK) and Toronto. I got rejected from all of them.
I networked. I did coffee. I flew back to Toronto to do the same. I got the highest mark in my class for some of my courses with a high average. None of that seemed to matter. Rejection isn’t for the faint of heart and it got to me. I became gravely concerned if I would ever have the opportunity to become a lawyer (in UK/Canada).
I targeted one international firm in the UK. I entered the firm’s student contests, attended an open day, and knew all of the recruiters on a first name basis. I was not accepted into their two-year training contract program, which is similar to articling and I was devastated. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I wanted to move back to Toronto but I was in a serious relationship and the job opportunities in London were some of the best in the world. I had to stay for a bit longer. It was 2015. I graduated with no job offers. A month went by and I worked up the courage to ask the same firm for feedback. On the phone with the recruiter, I told her that I was still interested in working for the firm. They said they had a paralegal position open and offered me an interview.
I was so ecstatic just to get an interview.
I got the paralegal job and got the hands-on experience working at a big firm. For all students, apply for clerk or secretary positions at a reputable firm. The experience is invaluable and sets you apart. You get to see the inner workings of a firm and you learn the procedure and “science” behind the law. Also, you can experiment with a practice area without getting too deep into it. I actually worked in banking, specifically structured finance. It was not my cup of tea. I was itching to get back to litigation, a practice area I worked in briefly prior to law school.
While working in London (UK) full-time, I wrote my NCA exams and sponsored my boyfriend to come to Canada. My boyfriend became my fiancee (he put a ring on it) and we left our secure jobs in the UK to move to Toronto!
I was accepted into the LLM program at Osgoode and actively sought articling positions while I was a LLM student. Before I embarked on my law school journey I volunteered with a sole practitioner in litigation and returned as a volunteer while waiting for my NCA Certificate (it takes a couple months from the final exam to get the certificate and you can’t article until you get your certificate). A couple months later, I got my NCA Certificate of Qualification and articled right away. I would recommend all students to seek out articling positions with a sole practitioner because the experience is phenomenal – I talked to clients, went to court and drafted materials. I wore many hats and I learned more than I could imagine. The caveat is that sole practitioners fly solo and it is unlikely they are able to double their practice overnight and hire an associate.
Another piece of advice would be not to get lured into the mindset that you have to be looking for articling/first year associate positions in the same cycle as everyone else. Positions pop up all the time which are great opportunities and there is a benefit to be able to start right away.
In January 2018, I was called to the bar. It was my proudest moment in my life (aside from my wedding – of course).
I continued my job search and created a blog, lawformillennials.com. The blog was a result of endless conversations with friends where I would explain to them the law and they would be shocked to hear my answer – being a common law spouse isn’t the same as being married? Isn’t it against the law to do (x,y,z)? Sometimes I would be told a longwinded explanation of a legal issue and when I would give my response I was told it was the most simplified and easiest to understand answer they heard (or googled). I realized the need to write law in a fun way, that people want to read and can actually understand.
I also encourage lawyers and law students to co-write blog posts with me as a way to showcase their writing skills. Writing is one of the reasons I became a lawyer – I love to read and write. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love the library and I am usually reading either a chick flick (Danielle Steel, Emily Giffin), inspirational or goal setting book (I’m currently reading Arianna Huffington’s – The Sleep Revolution, highly recommend). I also like people and negotiating. Thankfully there is a job that allows me to practice these skills. To date, all of my authors for my blog have been former or current NCA students.
In April 2018, I attained a position as a lawyer in estate and commercial litigation. I have had the opportunity to attend motions on my own and strategize settlements for clients. At the very first motion I attended by myself, the client gave me a hug after with tears in his eyes and said “that was the best advocacy I’ve ever seen.” I thought to myself that this is the reason I became a litigator. I enjoy being a fierce advocate for clients.
So that was my experience in a nutshell and I am continuing to grow and learn as a young lawyer. Everyone’s experience is so varied but there is one thing that connects us – we all have been through the same exams and we all have crucial advice and knowledge that we can pass on.
While I was in London and writing the NCA exams I felt completely alone in the process. Not many students know that you can write the NCA exams in London but I did my own research and called many sources to figure this part out. The whole process was an endless amount of research and calling places. I did a great online course which counted for a NCA credit and I had to find an exam invigilator in London. I called the world asking for recommendations and it became a two-week affair to find one. I have a name in case you need it. Had this network existed, I would have saved myself weeks if not months of research.
Since becoming a lawyer, I strongly feel the need to give back to the community. I know from firsthand experience the need and benefits for a network group.
I am so excited to be starting this group! I met Sam at a lawyer networking event and we shared our passion for making a change in the legal community. Meeting Sam at a networking event is the perfect example of the power of networking.
Sam and I hope this group will promote diversity and inclusion in the field of law and support all international students in Canada to achieve their fullest potential. Knowledge is power and there is so much jumbled information about this process. Having a mentor and a support network is so crucial. There is unity in diversity.