The talent present this year at Osgoode’s Internationally Trained Lawyers’ Day (OITLD) was impressive. Participants came from all types of backgrounds of legal careers; some were well-established lawyers in their home countries, some were sole practitioners and others are working in legal positions for big firms. Despite diverse cultural and professional backgrounds, we were united by a burning desire to further our career development and to apply our international experiences in the Canadian legal industry.
As an internationally trained lawyer enrolled in the LLM in Canadian Common Law program at OsgoodePD, I am faced with heavy academic commitments and I often ask myself, “how will my participation in the program benefit my career?” It is a relevant question not only for those who have decided to build careers in Canada, but also for those planning on returning to their respective countries to do the same. The topics covered during OITLD were relevant to both groups and here are my take-aways:
- You already have what it takes. One misconception that was highlighted is that internationally trained lawyers need many years of experience practicing in an established law firm before going solo. This isn’t the case. It is possible to start your own practice right after being called to the bar, but the key is to carve your own path in a way that it is most comfortable for you. Dawn Bennett’s advice was to “find your authentic self so you can be satisfied and make your money too”.
- Don’t hide your rich experiences. Internationally trained lawyers should apply their knowledge from various legal systems into their practice, or consider practicing in different countries at the same time. ‘Mobile practice’, which is unique in its set-up, was presented to us and is innovative and can go beyond borders while you sit in your living room (or anywhere else for that matter)
- Invest in the set-up of your practice. If you don’t understand the nuances and intricacies of setting up a legal practice, do yourself a favour and address these issues in collaboration with professionals that understand the business and can offer you tailor-made solutions. Rebecca Lockwood stressed not to overlook foundational needs such as sourcing powerful client management software – you might not need it immediately, but it will make things easier in the long-run.
- Don’t try to do it all alone. At the end of the day, and regardless what path your career will take, admittedly, it is extraordinarily hard, and near impossible, to do it without help from others. This is where the value of networking and mentorship becomes apparent. Through networking you get access not only to professionals, but to individuals who like yourself, need friendship, support, and encouragement. It is through mentorship that you get the opportunity to draw on knowledge of those who have been where you are, who know the path and its struggles, and who are ready and willing to provide guidance and feedback.
I have often heard about the value of networking and mentorship, however, at the event, I was not just reminded of it, but capitalized on the chance to connect with interesting people and lay the groundwork for potential future relationships.
As a rising tide lifts all ships, so too do the relationships you establish with supportive and engaged professionals. I am excited about the times to come and I most definitely look forward to OITLD 2017.
ALEX FOMCENCO, Ph.D., LL.M., LL.B., is currently teaching and conducting research at Aalborg University, Denmark. His main research interests are International Business and Corporate Law, EU Law, and Contract Law. Concurrently, he is pursuing an LLM in Canadian Common Law at Osgoode Professional Development.