Today’s Canadian legal market for up and coming lawyers ain’t a pretty one. There’s no need to put blush or makeup on the situation. As much as getting into law school was a task, finding a paying Canadian articling position in a major Canadian city is difficult. Getting hired back is more difficult, and being able to make a name for yourself as a junior lawyer another beast in its own right.
Recently, I’ve seen a lot of articles written by well-intentioned young lawyers and students purportedly offering go provide roadmaps on how to attain those positions/navigate the ropes . In fact, I was one of those well-intentioned students back in the day that provided advice left, right, and centre to anybody who would listen.
It is only now that looking back on things, I really didn’t know what I was talking about. I still don’t and I should probably stop trying to influence others with too many advice blog posts. The fact is, the journey into law, through law, and for many, eventually out of law is a personalized one. Just like it is impossible to fit a square peg into a round hole, you cannot box all law students and law firms into one. We all come at law with a different angle, with different hopes and dreams, and we will all eventually define our success differently.
My own journey is one where I wrote in my grade 7 year book that I wanted to be a lawyer. I didn’t even know what a lawyer was, but just heard (likely from my parents) that it is was an honourable profession. In my undergraduate days, thanks to some pro bono experiences and heavy community engagement projects, I thought I was going to be a human rights lawyer or an international arbitrator. In law school, having been caught up in the typhoid fever of 2nd year and the sexification of law through Suits, I thought I wanted to be a corporate M&A guy working on Bay Street.
Today, I stand to you as a humbled Articling student in Canadian immigration law, a soon to be associate, who struggles with the law on a daily basis. I grew up knowing no lawyers, won no awards in law school, was an average student at best, and today can say no more than I give it my best effort to help my clients with hardwork and creativity. However, I will strive to know the law better and represent them competently with the highest degree of ethics and compassion.
Funny enough, for all the countless stressing I did in law school and during my various legal interships, today I can finally say that the law does not stress me out. I enjoy it. I enjoy when it defeats me because I know that the beating I took today will save someone from a beating tomorrow. I am happy because I work in an area of law where it is all about the clients I work and I become an integral part of their most important days and decisions that’ll affect the rest of their lives.
Furthermore, I can use the law as a stepping stone to engage with the community and educate others. Law should not be a language spoken by the few to the many but should be utilized by the many with the few (us lawyers) ensuring that justice and the rule of law are not abused by institutions, governments, and vexatious litigants.
So my one advice to young students these days is always the same. You Do You, I Do Me = pursue your passion and commitment to something greater than yourself. Listen to everybody who has advice for you, but follow only the advice in your heart.