Lessons on Sliced Bread, and failing forward

Monday, June 03, 2019


Last month, I was interviewed by Naija Lawyer In Canada on my journey to being qualified to practice law in Canada. Snippets of that interview is shared below, for the benefit of other Internationally Trained Lawyers (ITLs) just getting started on (or planning to commence) their journey.

And even if not a lawyer, you could pick a lesson or two, on 'swag', failing forward, and the need for preparation. 😉
  
When did you land in Canada and how was the licensing journey?
My Canadian journey was a bit dramatic. I got a scholarship for my Masters in 2012. I came with a lot of ‘swag’ and ZERO preparation, and really struggled through my program. I barely managed to complete it, just above the minimum grade required for a scholarship student.

But it was nothing compared to the disappointment I felt when I realised after my program that my LLM degree was useless to actually practice as a lawyer, if I did not go through the licensing process. So I went back to Nigeria, and continued practicing.

When I was to return in 2017, this time I prepared well in advance, doing a lot of research, getting family to help send materials for study while I was still in Nigeria, and juggling study for the NCAs with my full-time law practice job in Nigeria.

Thankfully, I had a senior colleague and relative who had just gone through the process, and she provided me with mentorship, sharing some of her pitfalls with me. With all these, I was better equipped. I set my goal to conclude the whole exams within a year, and thankfully, I was able to do so.

What was the toughest aspect of getting licensed to practice law in Canada and how did you overcome it?
I think the toughest part for me was coming in 2012 with nothing but coconut in my head regarding the requirement to be able to practice in Canada as a lawyer; thinking my Masters was sufficient to make me the next best thing after sliced bread (Lol). I probably would have started the process earlier, but due to my lack of preparation, I could not. All the same, it worked out eventually. I failed forward, by using that teaching experience from my LLM to properly prepare for the licensing process.

The other part I found a bit daunting was not being able to practice fully as a lawyer during the licensing process, and wondering if I’d ever get a good job. Law practice is all I’ve known my work life. But the licensing process is a process anyone who wants to practice must go through.

What would you do differently in respect of the licensing journey, if you had the chance?
I think I eventually did differently what I had failed to do the first time. I came back the second time prepared; mentally, emotionally, physically, and in the actual studying. I did a LOT of research online, familiarizing myself over and over with the requirements and the materials.

More importantly, I connected with others who had gone through the process before me, and learnt from their experience.

What is your area of practice and where do you work?
My area of practice is International Commercial Transactions. I practice in-house in a global consulting company, and advise clients (and the firm) on private investments in public infrastructure development, as well as assist in negotiating cross-border commercial deals.

Any advice for new immigrants going through the licensing process?

Yes!!!

1. Do your research. Most of the basic information is online. After your own research, streamline your questions/areas for clarifications, then share these with predecessors/mentors. Ask them about different exam strategies. Identify early what works for your kind of person, and stick to it. Invest in past questions. If you can, purchase online Bar Prep videos from reputable sources.

2. Be prepared. Some may see that I wrote my exams between 2017 and 2018, and got called to the Bar in 2018, and just think it was “luck”. Truth is the actual preparation started in 2015, and when I wrote all NCAs in October 2017, I started studying February of that year. Other than my job in Nigeria at the time, I abandoned every other activity, and studied like my life depended on it.

3. Please don’t give up. Moving here can be quite a handful, especially because you’re going through culture shock, changes in weather, leaving your community in Nigeria, applying for part-time jobs, looking for an apartment and all. But place your eyes on the goal. Remember always that there is room for you at the top; we need more of us up there. Even if you fall once or twice, don’t give up. Others before you have done it. You too will do it!


Paz,


Meg.

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