Career Series: Legal profession in Canada

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Fire dancing in Boracay

Happy Laboracay weekend everyone! Frugal husband and I are currently in Boracay for a little vitamin sea. It is post-labor day, the department of labor again boasts of its job fair success to improve the unemployment statistics. Meanwhile, most Filipinos languish in a state of job mismatch where registered nurses work as call center agents, and business grads work in tech support.

Those in perpetual unemployment choose further study- some take up law. This career series is dedicated to you, the undecided law student or even the current lawyers who are still mulling over migrating to a foreign country in search of greener law pasture.

I have yet to practice law in a foreign jurisdiction. I’ve often felt that litigation is one of the most, if not the MOST, stressful practice ever. It appears that litigation is also stressful in Canada, as is the long drawn-out court process.

Our dear reader, Brad** was nice enough to take the time answer some questions in order to give us a little insight into what it’s like to practice law in Canada. He is a practicing lawyer in Ontario, Canada engaged in the field of corporate law with his student loan fully paid up!

As told to 20 something lawyer

What I do

I am a 30-something lawyer in Ontario, Canada with my own law practice. After attending law school in Australia, I took the bar in Ontario. Before starting my own practice, I worked for a couple of different litigation law firms.

I started my firm about four years ago and currently do corporate law. I employ one assistant. We work entirely virtually, although I have access to office space to meet with clients in Toronto, when necessary.

I made the switch to corporate law as litigation was tough. It was hard to see clients tearing businesses apart, whether in the middle of shareholder disputes or seeing executive employees being terminated. I decided I wanted to help businesses on the corporate side of law practice. I love working with entrepreneurs and seeing the different kinds of innovative and new businesses that are building.

I knew I wanted to start my own firm pretty much from day one. It was just a matter of timing it with student loans and other obligations.

My typical day

My hours are fairly easy. When you have really low overhead, you can work fewer hours than many of your colleagues. My typical workday starts at 8:30 am – 12:30 for drafting and working on client matters. From 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm, I schedule all my phone calls, meetings and administrative matters.

Money matters

I make about $15,000.00 Canadian a month, or about USD 10,800.00 a month NET. Real estate in Toronto, Canada may be expensive right now but the salary is enough to live comfortably.

Work requirements

To practice law here, you must have a law degree. If you have a foreign law degree there is a transfer process where you take a few exams before you are allowed to take the bar exam.

For my undergraduate degree, I studied international affairs. I had planned to go into foreign affairs. After law school, I decided I wanted to practice law first. In Australia, I managed to complete my degree in two years, but that was without summer breaks.

College and law school were not cheap! Total cost was $ 75,000.00 AUS (USD 56,000.00) plus living expenses. When I graduated, I remember thinking I made a huge mistake. How was I ever going to pay that off? It wasn’t easy, but I paid off my student loans in 3-4 years.

Would you recommend this job to fresh law grads?

I worked in litigation for about 3 years. There were rewarding aspects but overall, it was draining and mentally tough. I didn’t have it too bad in terms of hours, but most young lawyers working in Toronto do. I don’t think I met any young lawyers in my first three years of practice that truly loved what they were doing.

Nevertheless, making the change to corporate and startup law was a great change. I am now 33 years old and feel really good about the decision to become a lawyer. I have a good career and enjoy what I do. I dictate my own hours and have lots of freedom. I started an almost entirely virtual practice and have worked and travelled in the US and across Canada. This summer I’ll be working for a month in Italy.

Impressions and Misimpressions?

A lot of people think that being a lawyer is like what they see on tv. It would be nice if you could litigate the resolution of a matter in a 30-minute episode! It doesn’t work that way in real life. I worked on a file in Canada that was over 10 years old. Justice can be slow and sometimes that, in itself, is an injustice.

Perks of being lawyer

The legal profession does have its perks. For me, it’s about running my own business and getting to feel entrepreneurial! That is what keeps me going.

**Real name withheld

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