Six success strategies to help internationally-trained lawyers (ITLs) advance in their Canadian careers
Published February 3, 2023.
Estimated reading time: 2.5 minutes
- The journey to become a lawyer in Canada can be isolating and complicated for internationally-trained lawyers (ITLs).
- However, demand for lawyers in many parts of the country is projected to be strong in the coming years, meaning there will be opportunities for foreign-trained lawyers to achieve career success.
- It’s critical to get to know the Canadian legal system and intricacies of the lawyer licensing process to more easily transition into career opportunities in your new country.
In much of Canada, the job prospects for internationally-trained lawyers (ITLs) look promising.
Demand is projected to be strong in provinces like Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia in the years ahead. As an increased number of older legal professionals begin to retire, there will be a growing number of younger foreign-trained lawyers arriving from abroad, ready to take their place.
But the path to becoming a lawyer in Canada can be complex, isolating and expensive. The lawyer licensing process involves multiple steps, demanding exams and can cost in the thousands of dollars.
Read more about the Canadian lawyer licensing process in our recent blog post.
Through her own, at times, lonely and frustrating experience navigating the Canadian lawyer licensing process, Gale became deeply passionate about fostering a community for international law students and foreign-trained lawyers. NCA Network is comprised of a group of professionals who studied law internationally. It is open to all students and lawyers living in Canada who are pursuing or have an international degree. The organization promotes professional connections with past National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) alumni who now hold successful legal practices and fosters meaningful mentoring relationships.
NCA Network Founder Kim Gale shares six success strategies to help foreign-trained lawyers advance in their Canadian legal careers.
Appreciating the challenges of becoming a lawyer licensed to practise in Canada, Gale offers the following success strategies to help ITLs reach their career success goals in their new country.
ITL Success Strategy #1 – Get to know the Canadian legal system
It’s so critical for ITLs to stay up to date with Canadian laws and legal precedents. This can be an asset your future employers will appreciate. Stay curious and absorb as much legal knowledge as you can. This will serve you well even when you do reach your career aspirations.
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ITL Success Strategy #2 – Understand your financial bandwidth and stick to a plan
Who thought Canada could be so expensive? Well, it is. Especially, in a time of record inflation and cost of living. Have a plan to budget your dollars carefully. Legal accreditation and the licensing process is an expensive one. Charitable organizations like Windmill Microlending can help you pay for these costs with their affordable loans of up to $15,000, even if you lack Canadian credit history.
ITL Success Strategy #3 – Explore a side hustle
You may not get a legal or law job as soon as you land in Canada. Don’t let that get to you. Consider taking up other jobs that might support you while you work towards your dream job. Explore other interests you have and find work in those areas. Have you considered learning about Canadian law as a legal assistant or clerk? This can help you familiarize yourself with the intricacies of the Canadian legal system. Whether you choose to work in law, or another sector, your side hustle can help you pay the bills as you begin the lawyer licensing process.
ITL Success Strategy #4 – Build a supportive ecosystem
Moving to a new country can be so challenging and isolating. It can also be both financially and emotionally draining. You need to build your support system. You may be moving to Canada without any friends or family. Explore ways of finding people with similar career aspirations or personal interests. Look into Facebook and LinkedIn groups, networking events (such as those offered by NCA Network) or other functions, either in-person or virtual, to help you make connections with people that can become friends and future colleagues.
ITL Success Strategy #5 – Show the job market what you’ve got
Canadian law firms may not appreciate all you have to offer, at first. That’s why you must let them know that while you are new to the Canadian job market, you are not new to the legal profession. Highlight and communicate the skills, knowledge and experience you possess and seize every opportunity to demonstrate them through informational meetings, networking events and job interviews. Never say no to an opportunity to share your story with employers. It could be the difference in the success of your Canadian legal career.
ITL Success Strategy #6 – Put those legal research skills to use
Look it up! It’s never a bad idea to put your legal research skills to use to better understand the lawyer licensing process in Canada or Canada's legal system. The websites of the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA), a provincial law society, Canadian legal blogs and podcasts can provide you the latest information on getting licensed in your new country. This upfront research will help you understand the costs, timelines, trends, nuances and steps you need to take, making the path to career success an easier one to follow.
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