Career Advice

Adegoke Arowosebe Yesterday, I recalled an interesting but adventurous story of two tourists I read many years ago. One beautiful Summer, these Edmontonians drove through Whitehorse, Yukon to Fairbanks, Alaska. On their return trip, they decided to spend a couple of nights in Whitehorse to see Mount Logan, the highest mountain in Canada and other tourist attractions around the city. Thrilled by its hospitability, the availability of outdoors opportunities, and the warmness of its residents, they decided to relocate there a year later.   Every Summer, thousands of people drive through the Canadian-Alaska Highway. The majority of these travelers swing by Yukon, of which a handful of them would entertain the thoughts of living in the territory if only they could get jobs there. If young lawyers and law students are among these travelers they will be curious, as well, about Yukon’s legal markets and how to secure law jobs in the territory.   At this time of shrinking legal job market in Canadian urban areas, intuitive job seekers should consider being geographically flexible by considering rural communities and even the North for legal career opportunities .  Yukon is one place where lawyers and law students often neglect while searching for job opportunities. Perhaps due to the dearth of information about their legal career prospect in the territory.   This post provides some guides to people pondering on how to get law jobs in Whitehorse or any other locations in Yukon. Image: Signpost Forest along Alaska Highway   Legal Jobs Market in Yukon Even though there are occasional ads for legal positions in Whitehorse, there is no publicly accessible statistics on the available legal jobs in Yukon Territory. However, a comparison of the number of lawyers in Yukon to the population offers some clues about the size of the legal jobs market in the territory. According to a report released by Canada’s Department of Justice, there is a shortage of private lawyers available to represent parties in family and civil disputes litigation in Yukon. Based on the Law Society of Yukon’s membership directory as of July 20, 2017, only about half of the 143 lawyers that are resident in the territory and that have an active practicing status are in private practice. And with an estimated population of 37,800 , the ratio of lawyers to the residents of the territory is disproportionally high. Given this deduction, it does appear there is a market to be served by lawyers in Yukon. If you truly like it up North and you are thinking of where to set up your law practice, you may want to consider Yukon as one of your choices.   Practicing Law in Yukon To practice law in Yukon, you must be a member of the Law Society of Yukon. Information on how to become a member of the society and other licensing requirements are available here . Lawyers looking to set up their law practice in Yukon should, in addition to consulting the Society about the licensing process, ensure they have a business plan that will guide them in setting up and running their law practice in Yukon. There are quite a number of law firms in Yukon. They include Tucker Carruth , Austring Fendrick & Fariman , Lamarche & Lang , Woodward & Company , Shier & Jerome , Morris & Sova , Roothman & Company , and Lackowicz & Hoffman .   Non-Traditional Law Jobs Legal paraprofessionals (legal assistants, paralegals, legal secretaries, law clerks, conveyancers etc.) are always needed in law firms, government departments and in the judicial branch. Similarly, there will be need for talents in non-traditional law jobs such as contract administrators, compliance specialists, and privacy specialist in both private and public sectors.   How to get Law Jobs in Yukon To find a legal job in Yukon, you can use one or more of these three options. First, search job board from time to time for new postings and set up job alerts. Second, given not all organizations use job boards to advertise their employment vacancies, it is good to search their websites. Third, you could also consider making unsolicited calls to law firms and lawyers to find out if they are hiring and if they are not, request they keep you in mind. For general tips on how to search for law jobs, read Getting your First Job After Law School .   Conclusion The essence of this post is to highlight the opportunities available for lawyers and law students who are considering pursuing legal careers in Yukon. Job market conditions do change from time to time, therefore, the information provided in this post is only applicable to the prevailing market conditions at the time of publication. Candidates should do adequate consultations and thorough assessments of the living conditions of the territory to determine if they will like it there and insist they get a written job offer from their to-be employers before making any relocation plan. Also, having a career opportunity in Yukon should not be the sole basis for relocating there. Rather, you must ensure the lifestyles up there align with your long-term goal.
Legal Embassy Are you on social media? If you are not I have a message for you: up to 84% of employers use social media for their recruitment . Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Flickr, Vine, Pinterest, Vimeo, Tumblr, Instagram are top on the list of social media that legal professionals are using for greater leverage. If you are looking for legal jobs in Canada , you can’t afford to ignore the power of social media, particularly, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Social media have trumped the mainstream media as the quickest, cheapest and most efficient means of reaching a targeted audience. They are interactive and allow quicker feedback. Thus, if you aren’t using them yet to engage your audience, search for a job, identify leads, advertise services, and increase brand equity, it is never too late to get on the bandwagon. These said, social media have many downsides. Yes, many are the evils and disasters they could cause if they are not well used. Recently, Harvard University withdrew its offers to some incoming freshmen that shared explicit memes via a Facebook chat group. Employees have been terminated or disciplined for posting indecent pictures or messages on social media. And of course, many employers check the social media profile of their candidates during recruitments. So if you care about your PR, just like organizations do, then you need your own individual social media policy (ISMP). Unlike organizations, your ISMP doesn’t have to be formal or written. Here are some tips to consider in your ISMP so that social media does not hurt your career or law job-hunting efforts. #1.      Avoid unprofessional, defamatory or potentially ‘harmful-to-business’ post: Do you have the habit of posting inflammatory or provocative messages or any pictures that will make you look less of a professional? This is not a cool habit. Please stop it. This applies to posts you like or share. Since sharing them or liking them implies you are endorsing them. Taken there could be some occasional ranting or deep expression of your mind, but make sure you do them within the bounds of acceptable standards. In fact considering that there is a high possibility that your ranting could be misinterpreted and sensationalized, it is better to avoid posting anything in a feat of anger. Allow your temper to cool down. Remember what you spit out cannot be recollected. #2       Don’t post confidential or sensitive information: Apart from the fact that posting of confidential or sensitive information could expose you or your family to security or identity theft threats, this habit will make you come across to potential employers (or clients) as likely to be careless with their confidential or proprietary information. As legal professionals, don’t forget you have an oath of secrecy with your clients and your professional duty of confidentiality extends beyond when you are acting in a lawyer-client capacity. #3       Choose your style and stick to it : To derive the optimal benefits from your use of social media, it is important to figure how you want to be perceived on social media. Do you want to be seen as opinionated or open-minded on issues? Do you want to be welcoming, entertaining and/or just informative? Do you want to be a frequent or an occasional user of social media? Ultimately, you need to choose a style that matches your real lifestyle so that your employer and co-employees don’t think you are living a double life or a lifestyle that is different from the one they see at work. Then, your profile and background pix, as well as your profile intro should reflect your preferred style. And don’t forget the era of using selfie for Linkedin profile pix is gone. Try investing in a professional headshot. It is also not a bad idea to use Photofeeler to seek instant unbiased feedback on your social media profile pictures. #4       Choose your platform: There are so many social media platforms that it is just not possible to be on all of them. The ideal thing is to determine the ones that align with your goal for being on social media. If your goal is to build your professional network, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook are your go-to platforms. If you are looking to connect with recruiters, LinkedIn is the hub for job hunting.       #5       Choose your audience: Granted that the essence of being on social media is to “socialize” with people but you need to do so in grand style by developing a personal philosophy on how you grow your network contacts or determine groups to join. When building your network on social media, you need to determine right off the bat whether your focus is on quantity or quality of your audience. Both have their upsides and downsides. If you want to use social media to advertise your service or content, having a large network of contacts or followers will enable you to target a wide audience, without having to pay a dime for promotion. The downsides with quantity, however, are that you may not have a close interaction with your network contacts. Also, there are so many fake social media accounts and you should be able to give some level of accountability about your contacts, particularly in this age of cybercrime and other online vices . Ultimately, you need to vet your contacts so as to protect the privacy of other members of your network. Hence always strike a balance between quality and quantity. To sum this up: please keep in mind that the Internet does not forget. What is posted on the web is almost always available to the whole world and it stays forever. Your ability to restrict your audience selection or change your profile to a private mode doesn’t give you absolute control over the contents you post on social media. If you follow these tips, you will have a credible social media profile, great brand and will be seen as honest as the day by your network contacts, followers and the public.
  By Adegoke Arowosebe Photo Credit: Flickr/ Flazingo It is no news that the employment outlook for lawyers is not as great as it used to be in the 90’s or early 2000’s. Despite this though, one thing is crystal clear - you can still find your dream law job in Canada if you are ready to be geographically flexible. If you are flexible with the location of your office, you should have no problem finding work in the legal field.     Lawyers and law students often neglect the Territories while searching for a legal position. In this piece, I highlight why I think Yellowknife and other parts of the Northwest Territories (NWT) should be a top pick for law students and lawyers seeking legal jobs in Canada.   There is no available stats on the exact amount of law jobs in the NWT, but several indices suggest that there might be something in there for legal professionals. According to a 2016 report , the residents are lamenting the shortage of lawyers in the NWT as people often wait for many months before they can have access to the duty counsel in the courts. Also, as noted in the report, the “lack of lawyers in the NWT generally, and family law and private lawyers specifically” is hampering access to justice in the Territory. Apparently, this suggests the demand for legal services in the NWT surpasses the supply.   Let’s put the revelations in the report aside, are there other factors that point to a positive outlook for law jobs in the NWT ?   In any geographical location, there are two primary drivers for law career opportunities: 1) a growing population and; 2) a thriving economy. Other drivers include the presence of law courts and the availability/proximity of law school(s). Let’s take a look at how these drivers shape or could shape the availability of legal jobs in Yellowknife and other parts of the NWT .    Image: The Northern Lights   #1. Population In 2016, the NWT had an estimated population of 44,397 . Its capital city, Yellowknife, is the most populous city in the Territory with about 20,637 people . But the ratio of lawyers to the residents of the Territory is disproportional. According to the Law Society’s membership directory , as of May 31, 2017, there are only 152 lawyers resident in the Territory that have an active practising status. The remaining 228 lawyers with an active status are non-resident. This shows there is an average of one lawyer to about 292 people in the NWT. What an opportunity!   #2. Economy The key industries driving the economic activities of the NWT include mining, oil and gas, commercial fishing and tourism. Essentially, the expanding activities in diamond mining, oil and gas production, and urban planning and infrastructural developments by governments have spurred secondary industrial activities as well as construction activities in the Territory. The top employers in the NWT include the governments (federal, territorial, and municipal) and mining companies ( Dominion Diamond Corporation , Diavik Diamond Mines Inc. , and De Beers ). In fact, the NWT boasts as having the highest employment rate in Canada .   #3. Court Generally, the court of law is associated with lawyers. In any cities or town, law offices are sited around court buildings. Although today, many lawyers ply their trade outside the courtrooms as in-house counsel, transactional counsel, or in other advisory roles, yet, there are many lawyers who represent litigants before the courts. The judicial arm of the Government of the NWT administers justice through the following levels of court : Court of Appeal for the Northwest Territories Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories Domestic Violence Treatment Options Court Wellness Court Civil Claims Court Youth Justice Court of the Northwest Territories Justice of the Peace Court of the Northwest Territories In addition to the traditional courts, there are also a number of administrative tribunals in NWT where legal representation of parties will be needed.   #4. Law School There is no law school in the NWT. Aurora College is the only post-secondary institution in the NWT and it does not offer any law related program such as legal assistant, legal administrative assistant, paralegal, or criminology and justice administration.   Other Attractions of NWT The list of attractions in the NWT is inexhaustive but here are few: Northern Lights: Yellowknife is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights. The ideal time to see them is from mid-August till the end of September and from mid-November until mid-April. Financial Benefits: Residents of NWT enjoy lower tax rates than the national average across all income levels, travel deductions, tax breaks, absence of territorial sales tax, and northern allowance. Accessibility: There are a number of airports in NWT. But the Yellowknife Airport is the largest of them and it receives direct flight from many major cities in Canada including Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna, Vancouver Regina, and Winnipeg Tourist Attractions: There are several tourist attractions in NWT. They include Nahanni National Park Reserve, Great Salve Lake, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage centre , Great bear Lake, and Northern Life Museum. For a fact, NWT receives over 60,000 tourists annually thus meaning there are many amazing things about the place. Low Membership Fees – The membership fee of the Law Society of NWT is one of the lowest in Canada; about half of the membership fees of the Law Societies in some jurisdictions. For the calendar year April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, the annual fee is $1,250.00. This low membership fee could also be an indication that there is low competition among lawyers. Bilingualism: The official languages are English and French. So if you are bilingual in French and English, this may be a factor that could weigh in your favor in securing a law job in the NWT.   Practicing Law in the NWT Licensing Requirements To practice law in the NWT, you must be a member of the Law Society of the NWT. To find out about how to become a member, click here.   Law Firms in the NWT National or regional law firms with offices in Yellowknife include Field Law , Lawson Lundell LLP , and McLennan Ross LLP . Other law firms include Ahlstrom Wright Oliver & Cooper , Ken Allison, Smith & Associates, Rehnlaw , Wallbridge Law Office , Marshall & Company, MacDonald & Associates, Keenan Bengts Law Office, Marshall and Company, Nightingale Law Office, McNiven Law Office , Boyd Thomas, Bengts Elaine Keenan, Phillips Law Office , Denroche & Associates , Dragon Toner Law Office and McIlmoyle Law .   Non-Traditional Law Jobs Traditional law jobs and legal support roles go hand in hand. Practically, lawyers and law offices cannot function without the services of legal paraprofessionals (legal assistants, paralegals, legal secretaries etc.). Also, there will be need for court clerks in the judicial branch. And also, the presence of the primary drivers of law jobs – thriving economy and growing population - are indications of the likely availability of non-traditional law jobs such as contract administrators, compliance specialists, privacy specialist etc. Therefore, even if you are not on the look out for traditional legal roles, you may still want to keep NWT on your radar.   Things to Note In weighing in on whether to apply for or accept, a law job in the NWT, here are two of the key factors to keep in mind: #1        Inclement Weather Conditions The NWT climate is unique, as it possesses a distinct four-season cycle including fall, winter, spring and summer. However, it is one of the coldest places in Canada. Its Winters are long and harsh, with average highs of mid negative 20° C, average lows of negative 40 °C, and shorter daylights. Summers are short and cool with average highs of 15° C, average lows of 5° C, and longer daylights. For more on the weather conditions in the NWT, visit Weather Canada’s website .   #2        High Cost of Living The average household income in the NWT is higher than the national average. In Yellowknife, for instance, notes the Canadian Encyclopedia , households spend 50 percent more than the average Canadian home.   How to get a Law Job in the NWT To find a law job in the NWT, I recommend you use these three options. You may search job board from time to time for new postings and set up job alerts. Considering not all organizations use job boards to advertise job vacancies, I will recommend that you also search their websites and set up a job alerts there too. You could also consider making unsolicited calls to law firms and lawyers to find out if they are hiring and if they are not, request they keep you in mind. For tips on how to search for law jobs, read Getting your First Job After Law School .   Conclusion The essence of this post is to create awareness of the hidden opportunities for lawyers in the Diamond Capital of North America and other locations in the Territory. By so doing lawyers and law students who are unable to land their dream law job in the South can give NWT a whirl. Albeit, this must be after they have done their due diligence and are convinced they will like it up there.   Despite the inclement weather conditions in the NWT, if you are convinced it’s time to look North for law jobs and are passionate about making the place a home, then don’t be discouraged. Just keep in mind that there is no bad weather but rather just bad dressing. Once you dress appropriately for the weather condition, you will be just fine like the 44,397 residents of the NWT.     Adegoke Arowosebe is a Calgary-based corporate lawyer. He holds an LL.M in Energy, Natural Resources and Environmental Law from the University of Calgary and an MBA in Global Leadership from the University of Fredericton.
By Adegoke Arowosebe Every year, a multitude of law grads and lawyers seeking law jobs in Canada besieged the large law firms (the “Big Laws”) with their applications. Of course, this is expected. The Big Laws epitomize the ideal standard by which the society defines lawyers - class, prestige, glamor, wealth, and brilliance. Not only that, lawyers who work their way to the top of the ladder at these firms could transform that feat to a sort of genetic lottery which they could hand down to their heirs like fee simple . All these “goodies” make the recruitment process at Big Laws extremely competitive. And for foreign-trained lawyers (FTL), it is more competitive.   It is not that FTLs don’t have what it takes to be a fit or a purple squirrel that the Big Laws in Canada are looking for. They do. In fact, many FTLs have actually worked in large law firms that are comparable in sizes to the Big Laws in Canada in their home country.   Why are FTLs finding it difficult to get into the Big Laws? Many factors put FTLs at a disadvantage in getting into the Big Laws compared to their Canadian trained peers. Some of these factors are overt, practical, and are within the control of the FTLs. Surprisingly, the majority of the factors are things that are commonplace but they are often overlooked because they are seen as unimportant.   If you are an FTL, these are the lowdown of what may work against your getting into the Big Laws: lack of recruitment information, acceptable references, writing samples, and academic transcripts. These four factors constitute the key reasons why it is difficult for FTL to get into the Big Laws.   The others factors are covert and unfortunately are not within your control. So, there is no point talking about them. Rather, let’s focus on how to overcome those factors that are within your control.   Step #1: Get recruitment information Lack of information about the legal job market is the greatest bane of FTLs in getting law positions in the Big Laws. There is a bunch of recruitment information that you will need to familiarize yourself with if you want to get into a Big Law. From applications deadlines, specific requirements, recruitment tips, to interview types and all that. Although the Big Laws recruit round the year, they have specific recruitment season when they do massive recruitment for articling positions. And the timeline varies from one province/territory to the other. Ditto there is a specific time to apply as well. Once you miss the deadline for one application season, there is little possibility of submitting an application through the normal channel. In fact, you will need to know an insider who can make a special case for you and this will only be possible if there is a vacancy, which rarely occurs.   It is not that the recruitment information of the Big Laws is not publicly available. Actually, they are there on their websites. But it is going to be a herculean task visiting all the websites of top firms one by one. That is why it is helpful to have all the recruitment information about the firms in one piece. Have the requisite information handy gives you an edge in getting into the Big Laws. Information is power!   The career services office of any law schools is the best place to get the pack of recruitment information. But don’t forget that their obligation is to their students; so don’t be disappointed if your attempt to get hiring information from them didn’t turn out successful. But if you approach the staff in a polite manner, they may help you.   If you are unlucky in getting the information from the career services office, you could turn to students. If you have friends who are doing a program in any of the law schools (be it JD, LL.M or Ph.D.), they could give be a good source of recruitment tips that you will find useful. And if you don’t have a friend in any of the law schools, don’t lose hope. You should turn to LinkedIn and search for students in nearby law schools. Recent grads too will still have useful information. So don’t leave them out of your search.   Step #2: Get Acceptable Referees You need to be able to furnish a list of referees that will be acceptable. By acceptable referees, I mean people whose opinion will wow the hiring committee. As advised by Kamaal Zaidi, a lawyer and a legal instructor in his book, Jobs in the Canadian Legal Marketplace: A Resource for Students and Professionals , the best references for application for law jobs in Canada are those from past employers, instructors, and community members. Applicants should “avoid using friends and family as references, as there is personal bias,” says Zaidi. Usually, somebody who can speak about your competence, work ethics, character and who can be easily reached will be a great choice for a referee. Preferably, the referees should be people who have known you for a reasonable period of time, as this will add strong weight to their judgment about you. The big challenge for FTLs is having somebody in Canada who meets these criteria.   The more intimate the referee is to the firm, the better. You can imagine if your referee is well known by the person doing the reference check. If you really want to work with a Big Law, it is advisable to work towards building a network of potential referees who can make a strong case for you and of course somebody whose opinion will be respected in the legal profession. Generally, lawyers trust fellow lawyers’ opinion because it will be a professional misconduct for a lawyer to misrepresent facts to anybody or even worse to another colleague. So having at least a reference from a practicing lawyer in Canada should be a target.   So how do you build relationships with a potential referee? I will discuss four sources of potential referees. A. Vo lunteer – Volunteering with organizations (mainly legal clinics) that provide legal services is one of the fastest ways for you to get quality Canadian legal experience, and of course solid references. There should be one in your area; identify one or two of these organizations in your locality and request for volunteering opportunities. And assuming there is none in your area, that shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. You should still reach out to any of them and request to help them with tasks that can be performed off site. For instance, legal research, or updating the legal information or frequently asked questions on their websites could be performed without being co-located with the employer.   I understand that the time may not be there to spare, but try. Even if it is just two hours a month that you can commit to, please do it.   Volunteering provides you tremendous opportunities to mix and interact with the organizations’ staff lawyers and other volunteering lawyers. As long as you do your assignments in a timely, skillful, workmanlike manner, and with utmost diligence, they will reward you with good references.   B. Summer Internship – As mentioned in the article, Getting your First Job After Law School , most people end up articling in the firms they “summered”. Hence I will suggest that FTLs get on the bang wagon of summer job hunting. Absolutely, it will be wise to seek out summer internship or any kind of internship at the larger law firms (even if you are an older lawyer) and even if it is unpaid. It will certainly help - if well planned with your arrival to Canada/NCA writing etc. This is something FTLs can start work on immediately they decide to come to Canada. It will help with the building of an organically grown network and give you a direct way to begin impressing the firms.   As you get your ducks in a row, get on the radar of the directors of recruitment at these firms - it does have to be a well thought through meeting so they don’t get the wrong impression (i.e. you are to bias their recruitment opinion). When you have succeeded in developing a rapport with the directors, you can ask for an information interview. But of course be prepared to talk about yourself in a way that markets you to their firm and why their specific firm is of interest to you.     C. Mentorship - Mentorship is another way to build a relationship with lawyers who can provide references for you. If you are an FTL and you don’t have a mentor, I will encourage you to have one. It is always good to listen to someone’s success story and guidance. For your mentorship experience to be effective, ensure that it is asymmetrical. You as the mentee must be prepared to commit something to the relationship. If it is one-sided, it may not work as expected. There are organizations that link immigrants to mentors, find out if there is any in your locality.   I would also recommend that FTL very early in the game start seeking out a sponsor in contrast to mentor. According to Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in her award-winning book, Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor: The New Way to Fast-Track Your Career , she opines that while mentors can build your self-esteem they are not your ladder to the top. When I am referring to sponsorship I am thinking of people (either within or outside the firm) who carry some weight at the table and can create opportunities for you. They are your “career-angel” so to say. You can seek these people out through networking, organized mentorship etc. The truth is that FTL will have to be a little creative on this one. Every lawyer in the Big Laws needs such persons throughout the entire junior/mid ranks journey. And of course, the desirable end result, should the tables turn and when you are in a more senior role can become a sponsor too.   D. Direct Networking – I know you must have heard this like one thousand times but because it isn’t just true it is important, it bears repeating. If you are looking for a new job or a lateral move or seeking career advice, networking skill can easily get you there. Information is power and the broader your network of friends and acquaintances, the more the pool of information at your disposal. As illustrated by Max Gunther in his book, How To Get Lucky “Luck flows along linked chains of people until it hits targets…” To corroborate Gunther’s statement, it has been said that 70% of job vacancies are filled by people who heard about them through their contacts .   So it is not a matter of “maybe” you should network it is a “must do” if you really want to be a highflier in the profession called law. Having a wide circle of contacts could not only help you to get a law job, but it is the magic for building and retaining clientele.   Many think network building is a difficult task. It isn’t at all. Once upon a time, I felt the same way too. But networking is easy. It is about meeting new faces and showing genuine interest in them. And naturally, the gesture will flow back to you.   Law events such as CBA meetings, law firm seminars, as well as events by non-profit organizations like Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL) , Global Lawyers of Canada , Canadian Association of Black Lawyers , and the like are great avenues for networking. And if they don’t have a chapter in your locality, find them on social media and reach out to them to see how they could be of help. Interestingly, many of them provide mentorship opportunities as well. So take advantage of all they have to offer.   I have to mention that joining professional groups on LinkedIn and Facebook are also good avenues for networking. Interestingly, I met the people that became the first set of my professional friends in Canada on the NCA Facebook page. We became one another’s support system throughout the thick and thin of our bar licensing and job search journeys. Our professional friendship metamorphosed into a personal friendship. We were and are still close friends. I also know people who met through the same platform and later formed a successful law partnership. And also, I have heard about those who became life partners after they met on this same NCA Facebook page. (For tips on how to use leverage social media for job search and networking, read: How To Use Social Media To Advance Your Legal Career )   Step #3: Get Writing Sample Writing is an essential part of a lawyer’s job hence special emphasis is placed on applicant’s writing sample. Pretty much, almost all mid- to large-sized firms will require that you submit a recent writing sample. Essentially, it is to assess your ability to articulate a legal issue in a coherent, logical and organized manner and with proper grammar usage. Something in the range of 5 to 10 pages will suffice.    If you don’t have one handy, I will encourage you to start working toward getting it not just for the purpose of law job applications but for publication purpose. Having a published work will boost your application. Don’t be surprised that recruiters “google” you and it will be a real leg up for you in the competition if they see that you have publications in reputable journals or professional blogs.   How do I get started with writing? Start by determining what you want to write on. Then research the topic very well to the extent that you are convinced that you have mastered it. And then set out to write the paper. After that, you will approach the editor of the platform, be it an online or a print journal. If you don’t get a positive response from the editors, don’t be discouraged. LinkedIn and Pulse have provided free platforms for anyone to share their wealth of knowledge. As long as the work is educative, entertaining, informative and inspiring, people will not only read it but will share it. So, the focus should be on developing a write-up that meets these four qualities, and viral it goes. Read the Tips for Writing Effective Articles to learn more about effective writing.   Step #4: Get your Transcript One of the essential requirements of job application at the Big Laws is to include a copy of your transcript (unofficial). But as with many FTLs, it is difficult to obtain transcript at short notice. In fact, many foreign institutions, do not issue transcript to non-academic institutions or even to students. Whereas, that is not the practice in Canada where a transcript can be issued to employers or even to students. In other words, there is no way a recruitment committee will relate to the fact that you are unable to get your transcript since getting a transcript from a Canadian law school is a standard practice.   But all hope is not lost still. The way out is to request from NCA, a certified copy of the transcripts that you submitted to them. They will provide it to you at no cost.   Bonus Step: If possible, get a Canadian degree If you haven’t done an LL.M and you can afford the tuition cost, you could consider doing it. There are scholarships opportunities for some graduate programs in most schools. Please check to see if you can get funding through this means. I will discuss how you can obtain scholarships for LL.M and Ph.D. in Law at a Canadian university in another post.   A Canadian degree will help a great deal and it is the shortest cut to tackle all the concerns identified above. If you are going this route, and you have not done your NCA exams yet, you may consider doing it at Canadian law schools like the University of British Columbia and York University , that have an LL.M program with a specialization in Common Law. Essentially, the courses you will take consist of the basic NCA courses.   Closing We have talked about the steps you should take to increase your chances of getting a law job in the Big Laws . We have also alluded to their prestige and remunerative values. But that is not to say life at the Big Laws is an El Dorado. There are downsides to working there too.   If you are looking for work-life balance, the Big Law setting may not be the right place for you. From pressure from clients, demands for billable hours, unfriendly timelines, to pressures from top hierarchies of the firm, all make work-life balance almost impossible . If you are looking for a 9 to 5 type of job, then please you may want to look elsewhere from the Big Laws.   If you follow all these steps and you have a resume that is law job ready , you stand a better chance of securing an interview. Just be determined and it will happen. Many FTLs have made it to the Big Laws, few even made partners, so you can.
Legal Embassy   Having a resume that is ideal for law jobs in Canada is as important as having the requisite qualifications for the jobs. Over the last decade, millions of essays have been penned by experts on how to write a perfect resume. This heightened interest in resume does not mean the experts reeling out the essays are flogging the topic. Rather, it is an indication that having an impeccable resume is key to securing a job.   But why is resume writing so topical?   According to a 2012 study by TheLadders , an online job-matching service, recruiters spend 6 seconds in screening a resume. This is because recruiters have a limited amount of time to go over the avalanche of resumes that prospective job applicants send in. For law-related jobs, the competition is fiercer. And as the competition for law jobs in Canada becomes intense, so should job applicants become creative and adaptive to current trends for resume writing if they are to improve their chances of getting a job in the field of law. (For tips on getting law jobs by law students and law grads, read: Getting Your First Job After Law School ).   Therefore, let's talk about some industry-tested strategies that can increase your chances of landing an interview for legal jobs in Canada .    Treat your resume as an interview Before you type the first word in your resume, first of all, imagine yourself sitting before an interview panel and ask yourself these questions: What do you need to tell the panel to land the job? What aspects of my qualifications and work experience are relevant for the desired law position? Once you have the answers to these questions, then you are on track to producing a resume that is law job ready.   Your resume is your biography. In the opinion of leading human resources experts, Zinni, Mathis & Jackson, in Human Resources Management , your resume is the most important opportunity to present your background information and advertise yourself. In the same vein, TheLadder affirms that recruiters spend 80% of their resume review time on the following items: name, education, previous and current employers, and previous and current titles with the start and the end dates.   Pretty much, your resume is an expression of your life story, qualifications and character in black and white staring at the recruiter. Therefore, it makes sense to devote sufficient time and attention to preparing it.   When a recruiter screens your resume she is asking herself a number of questions. Are you qualified? If yes, can her fellow employees trust/like you? If yes, are you a "flight risk"? Therefore, every effort you put into your resume should be aimed at answering these for you in the affirmative.   That sounds like a difficult task … ehn ? Not at all. It is what you have always done. Remember when you went for your first date: how you dressed and how you rehearsed your lines? Apply this “date” mindset when you are preparing your resume. The more you think about your resume answering those questions for you as if you are in an interview, the more you come close to crafting a detailed, yet concise resume.   Use power words Your resume must be laden with strong descriptive verbs, not verbs that are weak and overused. According to Work It Daily , a leading career website, the use of power words in your resumes, will increase your chance of getting hired by 80%. Please make sure the verbs you used are testy and sticky. In short, ensure your resume has words and phraseology to create a halo effect on the recruiter. Then you have increased your chances of getting a call. It is that simple. To find excellent examples of power words that you can use for law job resume, check Work it Daily , The Muse and Workpolis .    Use industry relevant terms In order to come across as competent and professional, your resume should incorporate industry terminologies that are relevant to the law jobs you are applying for. This is not to say you should stuff your resume with legalese. No. That won't help you either. But instead of saying you drafted a legal document, you should mention the name of the particular document you drafted. Is it a lease, a share purchase agreement, a memo, or a factum ? Let the legal recruiter or hiring manager know.   It cannot be said enough that using legal terminologies in describing a situation that requires technicality gives you a strong edge. If the law position you are applying for is highly competitive then you should know that recruiters would receive too many applications that it may be impossible for them to manually sort each application. In this case, they will need to use some keywords in the job description in the advertised position to search the pool of resumes database, to scale down the received resumes to a sizeable number that will now be manually reviewed. For this purpose, if the designation of your law degree is different from the traditional designation in the jurisdiction you are applying for jobs, ensure you specify in parenthesis that your degree is an equivalent of the designation issued in that jurisdiction. This will make your resume to scale through in case the keyword used in the search query for academic qualification is different from the designation of your degree. Read our post on the tips to use if the designation of your law degree is different from the traditional designation in the jurisdiction you are applying to.   Proofread it carefully  The norm is that recruiters will pass over any resume that has grammatical errors: wrong spellings, typos or omissions. Recruiters are just not willing to pardon these mistakes because they suggest sloppy work ethic, laziness, and lack of attention to details on the part of the applicant. And as legal professionals, strong communication skills (writing and speaking) are an essential part of your job. Therefore, a higher editorial standard will be expected of you. (For more, read the 5 Critical Differences Between Legal and Business Resumes. ) The good news is that there are free tools you could use to make your resume error-free. But don't over-rely on Microsoft Office’s grammar check and auto correct functions. Depending on the version of Microsoft Office that you use, it may not pick some mistakes. Instead, use  grammarly .  And if possible, have someone review your resume for you before sending it out.   Follow the rules Some organizations have specified format and a number of rules job applicants’ resumes must meet. The rules often include items from font type, font size, paragraph spacing, number of pages to the information to include in the documents. This is quite common with jobs application process in some government departments and crown corporations in Canada. Also many international governmental organizations and international consulting firms have their own resume formats. (To find out about how to land an international law opportunity, read the 7 Strategies Canadian Lawyers Should Use When Looking for International Law Jobs ). Therefore, please ensure you find out if the organization you are applying to have resume specifications and if they do please ensure you comply with these rules to the letter. Otherwise, your application will be tossed out.   While it is impossible to have a perfect resume, however, if you follow these tips, you can produce one that is excellent. Always remember that what the resume does is to separate the wheat from the chaff . Therefore, it holds the ace to your getting a job. It is worth investing your time in.   Image Credit: Flickr/ Flazingo      
By Adegoke Arowosebe   During the concluding semester of my LL.M at the University of Calgary in December 2011, a friend of mine (let me call her Jade) who was then completing her first degree in law at the same law school had approached me with a question. She wanted to know between an LL.B and a JD designation, which one will give her a better prospect of getting a law job in Canada. My default answer at the time was an LL.B.   In November 2014, she approached me with exactly the same question, but at this time, my answer was different. I was convinced that a JD would be a more acceptable title on her resume when applying for law jobs in Canada .   JD is the acronym for Juris Doctor while LL.B stands for Bachelor of Laws. Both of them are designations for first degree in Law. While the US law schools have been issuing the JD designation for donkey’s years, it wasn’t until 2001 that University of Toronto blazed the trail by being the first Canadian university to issue a JD certificate to its law grads. Other Canadian universities followed suit. And in 2010, University of Calgary joined the list. But it was democratic with its approach. It allows its law grads to choose which of the designations they prefer and should they changed their mind, they have the grace to have their certificate replaced with the preferred designation, provided it was done within three years of graduation. Jade exercised her right to replace her LL.B certificate with the one that bears the JD letterings.   But why was my answer in 2011 different from the one in 2014? It was due to a confluence of events that I will explain.   In 2011, I was a foreign trained lawyer (FTL) who carried an LL.B-bearing certificate from a jurisdiction where LL.B is the default designation. Besides, with my LL.M in the pipeline, I thought the two degrees had to rhyme or follow a particular sequence. In term of their sounds, the flow of the LL’s and the crescendo from B to M in LL.B/LL.M don’t exist for JD/LL.M. So JD in my view then, didn’t rhyme with an LL.M.   Fast forward to 2014, I was already a member of the Canadian Bar and majority of lawyers in my network carried the JD designation. And most importantly, about 98% of the postings for law jobs specify a JD designation with the remaining few specifying a JD or an LL.B. Therefore, the obvious trend was that the society had moved away from the traditional LL.B and the new generation of recruiters is getting to forget that LL.B is an equivalent of a JD. Although there have been debates about whether the two designations are of equal weight; perhaps because in most of the Commonwealth jurisdictions (not all) that issue LL.B, it is not a prerequisite for admission into law school to have a University degree.    As noted by senior lawyer David Cheiftz in a post on Slaw , there is the perception that a JD is more prestigious than an LLB. Yes, the perception is there and very strong, particularly in North America.   Therefore, don’t assume everyone knows that JD and LL.B are the same degrees in different nomenclatures. I once had an encounter with someone who didn’t know.   In the final days of my MBA, a colleague asked me that since I have a master degree in Law as well as a master degree in Business, if I want to pursue a further study, will I be doing a DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) or a JD? Of course, I knew straight away he was equating a JD with a Ph.D. in Law. I didn’t correct him immediately so he doesn’t feel embarrassed. Eventually, I did, but not until after few months of the conversation.   The foregoing go to show there are people out there who don’t know the two designations are the same. But what if one of them is your hiring manager or recruiter? Don’t worry. I will show you what you should do.   Use these tips, if you find yourself in any environment where the traditional designation is different from the one you have:   1. Act local, think global This is one art that Corporate America and other global corporations have mastered so well. And they deploy it to strategically adapt in a new business environment. Originally, the term was used to mean that if businesses desire certain global environmental change and there is no local legislation for it, then they should be the agent of change by practising the standard they desire in the local environment they operate. But the term has taken a slightly broader meaning in recent years. Now it means that while organizations could have a global goal, they should learn to adapt to the taste of their local customers.   Law is a globally recognized degree but due to the jurisdictional restriction of the profession, most lawyers work locally. More so, the designation given to the degree differs in countries. As I have said earlier, don’t assume everyone knows this difference. If you have been assuming they know, you may actually be shutting yourself out of job interviews without knowing.   So if you are applying for law jobs outside of the jurisdiction you obtained your law degree, you will need to act “local”. Thus, if you have an LL.B and you are applying for law jobs in Canada or US , you should specify in your resume: “LL.B (an equivalent of a JD).” And if you have a JD and you are applying for a law job outside of North America, please specify this on your resume: “JD (an equivalent of an LL.B).” That little change could make a world of difference in your chances of getting a job.   2 . Say it loud Because the society is moving toward a slim, concise and precise resume style, there is the tendency to abbreviate everything that is abbreviative. (I am not sure there is a word like that but, for lack of a better term, permit me to create it). If you have been abbreviating your degree in your resume, make this one exception if the designation of your law degree is not the traditional designation in the jurisdiction you are applying to. Don’t abbreviate the degree on your resume. Write it in full and put the abbreviation in parenthesis: write Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) instead of just LL.B and Juris Doctor (JD) instead of simply writing JD. This reduces the likelihood of falling prey should the person screening the resume not be familiar with your abbreviated designation.   3 Cover the base in your cover letter In addition to the two tips mentioned above, cover letter is an opportunity to mention what may not be glaring from your resume. According to Robert Half , a leading global recruitment firm, your cover letter helps “you expand upon your most relevant selling points and direct the hiring manager to a particularly powerful piece in your professional history.” Use the opportunity your cover letter presents to explain that your law degree designation is the same as the one issued in the locality.   And back again to Jade. Two years ago she took her career aspiration to the international level where she now works side by side other lawyers from different nooks and crannies of the world, solving complex international law problems. (To find out about how to land an international law opportunity, read the 7 Strategies Canadian Lawyers Should Use When Looking for International Law Jobs ). The majority of her current work colleagues bagged their law degrees in Europe, Asia, and Africa, where LL.B is the traditional designation. But for her, there is no place like home and she will one day return home to relate with her colleagues with a JD.   By then it will now make sense why in 2014, she asked: give me my JD and take your LL.B .   Adegoke Arowosebe is a Calgary-based corporate lawyer. He holds an LL.M in Energy, Natural Resources and Environmental Law from the University of Calgary and an MBA in Global Leadership from the University of Fredericton.
By Adegoke Arowosebe Photo Credit: Flickr/ thetaxhaven  “How do I get a law job after graduation?” asked Darlene Weatherford, a prospective law school enrollee during a post-secondary educational fair organized in the UK, in the summer of 2016.   Like Weatherford, this is the one million dollar question on the lips of every law student in Canada. And this question about how to get a law job in Canada reverberates incrementally as these students journey through law school.   Unlike in the US, there is no central employment statistics for Canadian law graduates. However, there are telltale signs that the prospect for legal jobs for new graduates in Canada is not promising. According to a report by Law Times , some law graduates are, out of frustration, resorting to unpaid articling positions, because all their efforts at securing a paid position have failed. Visible minorities, compared with their white colleagues, have a longer odd of securing law positions of any ilk. In a 2016 report by the Law Society of Upper Canada, racialized licensees face significant entry and advancement barriers in the legal profession in Ontario. Since Ontario represents the bastion for the legal profession in Canada, the situation in other parts of Canada can hardly be different.   Frankly put, the situation is pathetic for new entrants into the noble profession. And it becomes worrisome when you think of the debt obligations that many law students will have to confront after graduation. This is the reason they are curious, right from their first day of law school, about what the employment prospect of their chosen profession will be after graduation. The situation was well described in one ATL e-book thus: "While fewer people are going to law school, those that do are hyper-focused on employment outcomes."   Thus, the scrambling for summer law student jobs starts in the winter term of the first year of law school. By the fall term of the third year, any student that hasn’t secured an articling or a clerkship position has had the chances of joining a prestigious law firm or a corporate law department after graduation significantly reduced. This is the pressure that law students encounter in today’s competitive legal jobs market.   Let’s face the truth: it isn’t an easy task keeping an eye on the job market while trying to surmount the rigors of the academic work in law school. If a student fails to appropriately balance the two tasks, one of them is bound to suffer. Yet, both are important. Though having a sterling academic record is more important. The sure-fire way to pull through both is for law students to thoroughly understand the various career opportunities in the legal profession, potential employers and the strategy to employ in their job hunts.   Law school graduates have a number of career options. The major and most commonly pursued route is to article and become licensed to practice law in Canada. Indeed this is the primary essence of enrolling in law school; so it is the natural path 99% of law school graduates take . And even for those who don’t wish to practice law in the long run, it is usually better to be called to the Bar first before considering other career options.   Typically, lawyers who want to practice law can work as associates in law firms or as in-house counsel in companies, non-profit organizations, crown corporations or government departments. To be successful in your job search, it is equally advisable to draw up a list of organizations you like to work with and start applying for summer law student positions in these organizations from your first year. For more on choosing the company to work for, read: 20 Best Companies to Work for in 2017 and Possible Law Jobs Hubs. Don’t wait till your second year. You should also start building network with the lawyers and human resource personnel in these organizations right off the bat. Quite often, most law students end up articling in the law firms or law departments they “summered”. Please take your search for summer law positions serious!   Another common option is to pursue a career in international law. There is an impressive array of international law job opportunities in the international arena with international governmental organizations, law firms, think thanks, and consulting firms. For more on international law opportunities, read the 7 Strategies Canadian Lawyers Should Use When Looking for International Law Jobs .        But again, lawyers who are academically inclined can continue the law school journey up to graduate levels (LL.M and Ph.D. in Law). Thus, if you know you have a passion for teaching and advanced legal research, the academia might be the right place for you. If you fall within these categories of people, the right thing to do is to start discussing your plan with your law professors so they may guide you in the area of law to consider for your advanced legal studies. Also, talk to your professors about the possibility of publishing articles jointly with them in reputable journals while you are still in the JD program. Publication in peer-reviewed journals is a critical requirement for admission and scholarships for law graduate programs.   Many lawyers and law graduates also move on to pursue non-traditional law careers such as contract management, compliance, or law enforcement. Others take a totally different route from law, yet excel. The bottom line is that law school has made you an expert or a near-expert in many disciplines. The rigours of law schools as well as their rich academic curriculum has more than prepared law graduates to work in different fields across many industries.     For instance, many law schools have courses that cover the core legal aspects of different disciplines and emerging industries: Aboriginal Law, Admiralty Law, Agriculture Law, Aviation Law, Banking (Finance) Law, Bankruptcy Law, Construction Law, Climate Change Law, Employment (Labour) Law, Entertainment Law, Environmental Law, Family Law, Finance Law, Health (Medical) Law, Immigration and Refugee Law, Insurance Law, Internet Law, Media Law, Military Law, Mining Law, Municipal Law, Oil and Gas Law, Privacy Law, Securities Law, Telecommunication Law, Trade Law, Water Law etc. Clearly, any student that has taken any of these courses would possess a working knowledge of the discipline that the law relates to. And in the event a law graduate wants to start a new chapter of her career in these fields, there wouldn’t be any need to struggle. Having these pieces of information handy at the commencement of their law school program will go a long way in helping students to shape their future career plans, choose academic courses, and balance their options. Ultimately, they will be prepared for the challenges of the shrinking legal job market.   Hopefully, this gives you an overview of the various career options that you can pursue after law school. Usually, law schools do have resident career advisors that guide students by providing regular updates on available employment opportunities, industry trends, career tips, resumes reviews and lots more. Please take advantage of the services of these professionals if your law school has them. Good luck! Adegoke Arowosebe is a Calgary-based corporate lawyer. He holds an LL.M in Energy, Natural Resources and Environmental Law from the University of Calgary and an MBA in Global Leadership from the University of Fredericton.
Legal Embassy                      By Adegoke Arowosebe              Photo Credit: Credit Wikimedia Commons/ Gordon E. Robertson.   IT WAS Albert Einstein who said “once you stop learning you start dying.” This classic statement finds relevance in the Canadian legal community with the rendition that if you are a lawyer, you can never be too old to learn a new thing. On March 30, 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) put a seal of authority on the power of Law Societies in Canada to make rules mandating lawyers to undertake a continuing professional development (CPD) or continuous legal education (CLE) and to enforce compliance through necessary sanctions. That was the holding of the apex court in Green v. Law Society of Manitoba , where it finally laid to rest, the uncertainty surrounding the extent of the power of the Law Society of Manitoba (Society) to mandate lawyers in the Keystone Province to undertake CPD programs and to prescribe punishments for non-compliance.     BACKGROUND OF THE CASE THE APPELLANT, Sidney Green, was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1955. In his over six decades of legal practice, there was never a single complaint against him for professional incompetence or negligence. In fact, he had volunteered for the Society in providing legal education to members and he was a member of the Body of Benchers, the Society’s highest decision-making body for eight years, according to Legal Feeds .   IN 2012, the Society made rules requiring all practising lawyers in Manitoba to complete a minimum of 12 hours of CPD activities a year. Failing to report any CPD activities, the Society notified Green of his non-compliance and gave him 60 days to rectify his record or risk the suspension of his practising license. Rather than comply with the Society’s request, Green filed an application at the Court of Queen Bench in Winnipeg, Manitoba, seeking a declaration that the rules prescribing the CPD scheme are illegal and invalid, and ultra vires the Society’s legislative power. The motion judge dismissed Green’s application, declaring that the impugned rules are within the Society’s legislative power. Green’s appeal to the Manitoba Court of Appeal was dismissed for the same reason. Convinced by his belief, the unrelenting senior lawyer filed an appeal at the SCC. The SCC aligned with the lower courts and dismissed Green’s appeal on March 30, 2017.     MANDATORY CPD REQUIREMENTS HAS COME TO STAY THE CRUX of the appeal to the SCC was whether the Society has the power to make rules requiring a mandatory CPD program for lawyers and impose a suspension as punishment for non-compliance. Using the reasonableness standard of judicial review, the SCC held that the rules mandating the CPD scheme conform to the provision of the Legal Profession Act (“Act”) . In reaching this conclusion, it assessed the purpose, intents and language of the Act to establish whether they support a broad and purposive interpretation of the scope of the authority of the Society to make rules and impose punishment for non-compliance.   FOR A PROPER understanding of the legislative framework upon which the three levels of court based their decisions that the rules prescribing the CPD scheme and the attendant sanctions intra vires the Society’s power, the relevant provisions of the Act are rephrased thus: s. 3(1) states that the purpose of the Society is to uphold and protect the interest of the public by ensuring the integrity and competence of lawyers; s. 3(2) states that the Society shall establish standards for the education, professional responsibility and competence of lawyers; s. 4(5) empowers the Society to make rules to further the objectives of its purpose and duties; and s. 65 empowers the Society to make rules stipulating the consequences for breach of the Act or its rules.   BASED on the combined reading of these provisions, the SCC held that ss. 3(1) & (2) give the Society a broad public interest mandate and broad regulatory powers to accomplish its mandate. And this mandate, the court said, must be interpreted using a broad and purposive approach. The SCC adds that in order for the Society to implement its objectives of promoting the educational competence of lawyers, it created the CPD rules by virtue of the power conferred on it by s. 4(5). Given that rules require some measures of sanction in order to ensure compliance, the Society exercised the power vested on it by s. 65 to prescribe suspension as a punishment for contravention of the Act or the Rules. Therefore, in the circumstance of this case, the Society has the power to enforce the educational standards it created should any lawyer breach it.   TAKEAWAYS FOR ALL CANADIAN LAWYERS THE NEED for a CPD scheme for lawyers cannot be overemphasised . Just as legal changes are occurring every day at the speed of light, so are emerging technologies that affect the nature and mode of legal services delivery springing up by the second. Coupled with these are the disturbing trends of the increase in public complaints against lawyers bordering on professional ethics. Thus, to ensure that public confidence in the legal profession is not eroded, it is extremely necessary for the regulatory bodies to implement a standard scheme that will promote educational competence and professionalism of lawyers, irrespective of their age at the bar.   INDEED, the Canadian legal community has been championing the scheme for a mandatory professional development for lawyers for more than a decade. Mandatory CPD requirements started in Canada in 2006 when the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) made it compulsory for all lawyers in Ontario to complete a certain number of hours of CPD program a year. The LSUC’s rules for CPD program have since undergone several changes and as of today, all Ontario lawyers must complete at least 12 hours of CPD activities per year.   INTERESTINGLY, every law society in Canada has implemented CPD requirements for its lawyers, though with slight variations in each jurisdiction. In Quebec, the Barreau du Québec requires lawyers to complete a CLE program of at least 30 hours every two years. In Saskatchewan , every practising lawyer is expected to complete a mandatory CPD program of 36 hours over a three-years term. In Prince Edward Island , there is a requirement of a minimum of 24 hours of CPD program every two-years term. In Newfoundland and Labrador , every lawyer is required to complete a minimum of 15 hours of CLE program every year. In the same vein, the provinces of British Columbia , Manitoba , New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories , Nunavut and Yukon territories mandate every practicing lawyer to complete a minimum of 12 hours of CPD program annually. In Alberta , the CPD program is self-directed in that lawyers are only required to develop an annual CPD Plan and no mandatory minimum number of accredited hours. Currently, the declaration is voluntary for Alberta lawyers but effective September 30, 2017, the Law Society of Alberta will be implementing a new rule that allows it to administratively suspend lawyers who fail to declare a plan by that date.   THE KEY significance of this seminal decision is that it has finally put a hold on any likely legal challenge of a mandatory CPD scheme and consequent penalties in existence in other Canadian jurisdictions. Admittedly, regulatory changes that affect people’s liberty or their wallet are difficult to implement. However, it must be emphasized that the goal of CPD schemes will be lost if excessive emphases are put on obtaining compliance through a retributive approach. More efforts must be made to encourage lawyers to comply with CPD requirements, voluntarily . I emphasized “voluntary” because a true learning experience comes without an external coercive effort.   QUITE FRANKLY, there is hardly any lawyer who resent CPD activities; although it is well possible that the bulk of their continuous educational activities are on substantive and procedural laws areas that relate to their clients’ deliverables. To encourage lawyers to undertake CPD on professionalism activities, some law societies prescribed that a certain percentage of the minimum CPD hours must be exclusively devoted to learning professional responsibility, ethics or practice management. These law societies also pre-screen the CPD activities to be undertaken by lawyers on professionalism to ensure that the learning activities being signed on to are not only relevant to legal practice but are sterling.     TIPS TO ENCOURAGE VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE WITH CPD PROGRAMS THERE are a few measures that can be taken to incentivize lawyers to voluntarily comply with CPD programs for professionalism activities. For starters, CPD training should be made available at low price points and the scope of eligible professionalism activities should be expanded to include diverse topical issues that are relevant to the majority of lawyers. A major put-off about CPD training on professionalism activities is paying for a course that is of little or no relevance to one’s areas of practice. Fledgling lawyers who are in solo practice may not have the budget to take a course just for the sake of fulfilling CPD requirements. According to Legal Feeds , the primary reason cited by Mr. Green for not complying with the Society’s rule was that the mandatory course on how to be persuasive is of no relevance to him. This reinforces the need to make relevancy a cardinal focus of every CPD program.   IN ADDITION to expanding the scope of eligible activities to cover a range of non-legal subjects that are related to professionalism, lawyers should be given the option to apply for approval of eligible CPD activities after the fact. What do these mean? Given the globalization of legal practice, the eligibility of CPD activities should lean more towards topics in emerging technologies and there should be little restrictions on the jurisdiction where the relevant knowledge can be obtained. Therefore, a Toronto lawyer who happens to be vacationing in Sydney, Australia between April 30 and May 2, 2017 , should be able to record a conference on clients’ billing method holding in the city during this period and that she will attend, as part of her mandatory activity for professionalism. A Vancouver lawyer who attends a seminar in Mumbai, India on how to develop a software code that can improve the effectiveness of his firm’s conflict check process should be able to count this as an educational activity in law office management. In the same vein, an Ottawa lawyer who by happenstance sits beside Professor Alice Woolley (a leading expert on professional ethics) on a flight from Calgary to Ottawa, and engages her in an hour-long discussion on the reasoning of the SCC in Green’s decision, should be able to record this intellectual conversation as a CPD activity for professionalism. While the aforementioned examples are clearly relevant to professionalism, however, because lawyers will need to get a pre-approval for CPD activities on professionalism, these activities may not count toward their CPD goal.   HOWEVER, despite the inconvenience and the costs of the CPD scheme, truth be told, there is no alternative to continuous education in the bid to achieving professional excellence by lawyers. Thus, lawyers must bear in mind that the overarching objective of a CPD scheme is to ensure that lawyers strive for excellence in the delivery of legal services. Therefore, all hands must be on deck to improve the administration of the CPD program by providing feedback to the law societies when recommendations for improvement are sought. It is only by doing these that we can have recherché , relevant, and robust CPD programs.   FINALLY, irrespective of which side we take in the arguments for or against a mandatory CPD scheme for lawyers, one thing is clear: Mr. Green must be commended for raising vital issues of law that have made an immense contribution to the scope of professional responsibility and discipline of lawyers in Canada. Also to be commended are the learned counsel for the appellant, the respondent, and the intervener, Federation of Law Societies of Canada, for their sound legal submissions. For the learned justices of the SCC, thank you for the expeditious determination of the appeal.   Note :  This publication represents the personal views of the author and is provided for general information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice. Whilst reasonable steps were taken to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this publication, the author is not responsible for any loss or damage that may arise from reliance on information contained in this publication.   Adegoke Arowosebe is a Calgary-based corporate lawyer. He holds an LL.M in Energy, Natural Resources and Environmental Law from the University of Calgary and an MBA in Global Leadership from the University of Fredericton.        
By Joseph Onele The First Beatitude Blessed are they who thirst after knowledge (both law-related and non-law related) like the future depends on it; for they shall have a fountain of 'flowing knowledge,' achieve mastery in no mean time and become envies of colleagues and delight of clients. The above Beatitude was inspired by a letter written by Lincoln on 25 September 1860 to a certain J.M Brockman Esq . which reads thus: Dear Sir, Yours of the 24th, asking "the best mode of obtaining a thorough knowledge jof the law" is received. The only mode is very simple, though laborious, and tedious. It is only to the books, and read, and study them carefully. Begin with Blacksone's Commentaries, and after Pleadings, Greenleaf's Evidence & Story's Equity... Work, work, work, is the main thing . Yours very truly A. Lincoln   The Second Beatitude Blessed are those who find great delight in finding the ratio decidendi of judgements on their own - who neither get carried away with the catchwords and/or case summaries by law reports nor rely heavily on secondary sources without 'first drinking deeply' from the primary sources but go the extra mile in understanding the primary sources, ratio decidendi in judgements and do not use precedents slavishly; for they shall achieve inimitable mastery of the law.   The Third Beatitude Blessed are those who do not despise their days of little beginning but keep investing in themselves through continuous legal education; for they shall reap a bountiful harvest when the time is ripe. This third Beatitude was inspired by two letters written by Lincoln. First was written on 3 August 1858 and addressed to a certain William H. Grigsby who applied for a job to his office. The letter Lincoln wrote is still very instructive as it captures what most lawyers should focus on in the formative years of their career in the legal profession. The letter reads: My dear Sir: Yours of the 14th of July, desiring a situation in my law office, was received several days ago. My partner, Mr. Herndon, controls our office in this respect, and I have known of his declining at least a dozen applications like yours within the last three months. If you wish to be a lawyer, attach no consequence to the place you are in, or to the person you are with; but get books, sit down anywhere, and go to reading for yourself. That will make a lawyer of you quicker than any other way. Yours respectfully, A. Lincoln The above Beatitude was also inspired by another letter written by Lincoln to James T. Thornton on 2 December 1858. Thornton had earlier written to Lincoln for mentorship on behalf of a certain law student. John W. Widmer. Lincoln wrote: Dear Sir, Yours of the 29th, written in be of Mr. John W. Widmer, is received. I am absent altogether too much to be a suitable instructor for a law student. When a man has reached the age that Mr. Widner has, and has already been doing for himself, my judgment is, that he reads the books for himself without an instructor . That is precisely the way I came to the law . Let Mr.Widner read Blackstone's Commentaries, Chitty's Pleadings...Greenleaf's Evidence, Story's Equity... get a license, and go to the practice, and still keep reading . That is my judgment of the cheapest, and best way for Mr. Widner to make a lawyer of himself. Yours truly A. Lincoln   The Fourth Beatitude Blessed are those whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole - ones who will stand for the right though the heavens fall - ones who will stop at nothing in achieving their goals; for they shall have integrity and good name unsoiled but will stand before kings and not mean men.   The Fifth Beatitude Blessed are they whose first professional duty as ministers in the hallowed temple of justice is not sacrificed in a foolish and sheepish commitment to the clients' demands - who do not truncate the course of justice for their own or clients' selfish ends but allow justice to take its natural course, having done all that is professionally expected of them; for they shall not be 'witch-hunted' by the Economic Financial Crimes Commission and made to face 'brutal sanctions' from the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee as the fear of both is the beginning of professional sanity.   The Sixth Beatitude Blessed are those who do not sacrifice family, healthy living cum healthy relationships and good networking opportunities on the altar of 'crazy deadlines' and 'never-ending-work' but are able to maintain a good work-life balance; for their joy shall be full and shall live to the fullness of their potentials while enjoying the fruits of their labour.   The Seventh Beatitude Blessed are those who never see anything as impossible but look at the word 'impossible' as I'M POSSIBLE - who keep pushing the limits, exceeding all expectations and delivering great results to clients, colleagues and 'constituted authorities' alike and non-alike; for they shall reap their rewards in no mean time. The seventh beatitude was inspired by Lincoln's letter to Ishaam Reavis . The letter dated 5 November 1855 reads thus: My dear Sir: ... If you are resolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself, the thing is more than half done already. It is but a small matter whether you read with any body or not. I did not read with any one . Get the books, and read and study them till, you understand them in their principal features; and that is the main thing . It is of no consequence to be in a large town when you are reading... The books, and your capacity for understanding them, are the same in all places ... Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other thing. Very truly Your friend A. Lincoln   The Eighth Beatitude Blessed are those who do not mix work with pleasure - who bill when they have to and follow through to ensure that clients pay timeously for work done while skillfully sustaining healthy relationships with clients; for they shall know more peace, have their 'bank accounts smiling to the banks' and know no taste of being denied payment for work done. *  Note :  This publication represents only the personal views of the author and is provided to highlight issues as well as for general information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice. Whilst reasonable steps were taken to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this publication, the author does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may arise from reliance on information contained in this publication. Joseph Onele , an Associate at Olaniwun Ajayi LLP is a guest writer at Legal Embassy. He holds an LL.B with a First Class Honours from the University of Ibadan. 
Legal Embassy Credit: Flickr/ Ken Lund Mary Symber had worked for a top Bay Street law firm in Toronto for 20 years before relocating to her hometown, Victoria, British Columbia last winter to live close to her aging, ailing mother. While at the law firm, Ms. Symber’s career journey started from the lowest rung of the hierarchy and metamorphosed from one job title to another - from Receptionist to Legal Assistant to Paralegal and finally Senior Paralegal . Upon her arrival in Victoria, she secured a job interview with Drew LLP, a boutique law firm in the city. Using a conversational style that simulates a real life interview for the role of a paralegal, this article summarizes the development of the paralegal profession in Canada, the day-to-day activities of paralegals, their education and work experience, salary expectations, challenges, and prospects. Please note that the character and the law firm featured in the dialogue are fictional. Credit: Nick Youngson   Drew LLP: In few sentences, can you summarize your experience working in a paralegal role? Ms. Symber: My experience as a paralegal extends to virtually every paralegal’s scope of practice. These typically fall into the following six areas: (1) Criminal Practice: Defence of summary conviction offenses and provincial offenses as agents. (2) Civil Practice: Representing parties in small claims court as agents. (3) Administrative Hearings: Appearance as agents before administrative tribunals such as the Landlord and Tenant Board, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the Human Rights Tribunal, and the Immigration and Refugee Board and a host of others, unless the rules of the tribunals specifically restrict the right of appearance to lawyers. (4) Legal research and writing. (5) Commercial practice: Preparation and filing of corporate documents, corporate search etc. (6) Real Estate practice: Provision of services as land title analyst, conveyancers to a real estate law firm or government land title departments. Given this broad range of experience, I can say I am the most fortunate individual on earth. I have had the opportunity of working in virtually every facet of the paralegal roles. I have watched the paralegal profession grown from an unrecognized trade to a recognized trade and now a regulated trade in the most populous province in Canada.   Drew LLP: What is the difference between a paralegal and a legal assistant? Ms. Symber: Technically speaking there is no difference. Trying to differentiate the two is like asking for the difference between a lawyer and a senior counsel. Historically, the terms “paralegal” and “legal assistant” were used interchangeably, but in recent times there has been a gradual shift in their classification. Within the legal circle, “legal assistant” is now being used to refer to legal support staff performing routine administrative, secretarial or clerical duties for law firms and corporate legal departments while paralegals (most especially, the experienced ones) perform substantive legal tasks, either independently or under the supervision of a lawyer. That said, with the exception of Ontario where paralegals are regulated and licensed to independently provide legal services, the classification criteria for paralegals and legal assistants vary from law firm to law firm.   Drew LLP: Just recently, it was announced that paralegals will be allowed to carry out limited practice in family law in Ontario, can you shed some lights on this? Ms. Symber: Yes, as you know Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada that regulates and licenses paralegals to carry out independent legal services in non-complex areas such as traffic ticket, documents review and drafting, and small claim court appearances. In fall 2017, the Office of the Attorney General in Ontario and the Law Society will develop an action plan that will define the level of involvement of paralegals in family law practice. Until the action plan has been released, there is just so much to talk about the scope of the practice.   Drew LLP: Given the complaints that by allowing paralegals to carry out independent practices, paralegals are taking lawyers' jobs, do you think it is a good idea to allow paralegals to practice family law? Ms. Symber: Allowing paralegals to undertake a limited legal practice does not amount to a usurpation of lawyers’ job. Unless we look at it using a system approach we will miss the objective the protagonists of the idea were trying to accomplish, which is creating more options for access to justice. Needless to say, there are so many legal tasks that the requirement of law license may be unnecessary provided those who undertake them are given adequate legal training or work under the supervision of a lawyer. If you take a look at the statistical record for litigation in Ontario (which I believe is representative of what occur in other jurisdictions), about 60% of litigants in family law matters are unrepresented because they cannot afford the services of a lawyer. Whereas most of the matters border on non-complex issues that experienced paralegals could handle at affordable fees. As long as the regulator (LSUC) set clear parameters for qualifying those paralegals that will be licensed to undertake these services, there will be no problem.   Drew LLP: If given a second chance would you rather be a lawyer? Ms. Symber: If there is reincarnation and I have the opportunity of reincarnating 10 times, I will always be a paralegal. I love the legal environment and I will always cherish every opportunity to work there; however, my preference for the paralegal profession is strictly based on my personality type. I possess excellent organizational and multi-tasking skillsets and I think these will be more of an advantage for me in a paralegal role than a lawyer role.   Drew LLP: Tell us about your educational background? Ms. Symber: I have a bachelor degree in Classic Art and a Diploma Certificate in Paralegal Training.   Drew LLP: Is this the typical educational route for anyone wishing to become a paralegal? Ms. Symber: The path to becoming a paralegal depends on the individual. You can become a paralegal through on-the-job training at a fast-paced law firm or a post-secondary education in the legal field, or both. However, in this age and time, if you really want to be marketable, then you should strive to have both the on-the-job training and educational training in the legal field.   Drew LLP: At the time you enrolled for your Paralegal Diploma, paralegals were not regulated and licensed in Ontario, meaning the law society at the time did not accredit paralegal curriculum in the schools, so how did you determine which institution was right for you? Ms. Symber: Because I had been working as a paralegal at the time, the decision came fairly easy for me. I already knew the whole gamut of the tasks of a paralegal. Therefore, I carefully reviewed the curricula of these schools then I settled for the one that offered courses on emerging areas in the legal field where I needed to upskill. These emerging areas include e-discovery and document review software as well as other legal software that can be used to enhance lawyers’ efficiency and improve clients’ satisfaction.   Drew LLP: What is your salary expectation? Ms. Symber: Generally, the compensations for paralegals depend on their level of education, level of skill, years of experience and level of responsibility. Using the 2017 Robert Half Salary Guide For The Legal Profession , the annual salary for paralegals with 20 years experience in the legal field in Victoria will vary between $101,000 and $115,000. However, I am open to negotiation.     Drew LLP: Do you have any questions? Ms. Symber : What is the ratio of lawyer to paralegal/legal assistant in your firm? Drew LLP: We have seven paralegals and 13 legal assistants working for 30 lawyers. Some paralegals and legal assistants work for a single lawyer while some of them work for two lawyers. In your case, you will be working with our Managing Partner who is currently on vacation but will be back in six weeks time… Any other question? Ms. Symber: None Drew LLP: Thank you for coming. Either way, you will hear back from us within the next one week.