1) As a Canadian, what city & province are you from and why did you make the choice to come to London & The City Law School?
My decision to leave Vancouver, B.C. to attend law school in London was, well let’s just say, an easy one. Two years in one of the most active legal centres in the world? What more could you want! The work experience, travel experience and life experience that I would gain from attending law school abroad, was definitely enough to make me apply. City had come highly recommended from a friend of mine who had completed the GELLB program two years earlier. The advantages of City being in the centre of London were endless as well- it was an easy pick for me.
2) What were some of the challenges you faced while living and studying in London (please discuss culturally & academically)?
Since opting not to stay in student accommodation, finding a flat to rent was by far my biggest challenge. From not being able to rent a flat without a guarantor, to not being able to open a bank account without an address, to not being able to get a mobile phone without a bank account, made the first few weeks of law school seem like a breeze! Academically, the biggest challenge was teaching myself how to recognise the important concepts while skimming over the less important ones.
3) What were some of the drawbacks of being so far away from home, if any?
I would have to say the biggest drawback for me was the limited ability to network in the city I ideally wanted to work and live- Vancouver.
4) Did you partake in any extra-curricular activities while at City Law? If so, what programs, was it fun & was it valuable to your education & professional endeavours?
Being a bit of a keener, I definitely wanted to participate in everything that came my way. However, despite the little ‘in-class’ time you have, you quickly realise the large independent study component of the course and can really only partake in a few extra-curricular’s- or at least, that’s what I found. I joined the Canadian American Law Society (CALS) as Peer Mentor Chair, which was a great opportunity to help out the community. We were able to organise law events, raise money for charity and volunteer at organizations like Habitat for Humanity. I also participated in the Free Representation Unit (FRU) training and went to the bulk of the legal education career events and open days.
5) Some students are concerned with allocating time & energy between academic & extra-curricular’s, can you offer any advice to these students?
I would recommend staying on top of the workload. It’s so easy to fall behind with the surplus of readings and case law and while extra-curricular’s look good on a CV, I have been told by many that grades are the most important. Of course, learning how to balance academic excellence and participation in extra-curricular’s is a skill that would make you valuable at any firm you apply. There is always a happy medium and it depends on how well you organise your time.
6) Did you ever consider staying in the UK to undertake further studies or enter into a bar training course? If so, why did you decide to move back to Canada instead?
During first year I definitely contemplated sticking around London; however, after much thought and consideration on where I ideally wanted to work and start a career, everything pointed to Vancouver. I wanted to get my Canadian accreditation done as soon as possible so I could start my year of articles and get my career rolling. Do I regret that decision now? Maybe- I would go back to London in a heartbeat. Enjoy it while you can!
7) What area of law really interests you and what field of law would you ideally be working in?
With the UK divide between solicitors and barristers, it gets you thinking early on about what type of law you would ideally like to practice. I always saw myself practicing business law but I somehow landed in civil litigation, which I am really enjoying. It goes to show, you never know you’ll like something unless you try. I can see myself sticking in litigation for a while but I would definitely like to get some experience in other practice areas.
8) How difficult/time consuming has it been to complete the NCA exams? Have you had the opportunity to get any work experience during that time?
Honestly, very time consuming. Although it really depends on when you decide to take the NCA* exams. The NCA did not receive my transcript in time for me to write the October session and therefore I’m stuck writing all 7 exams in January. My articling kicks off in May so I didn’t really have a choice to split them up between two sessions. I was working full-time at a firm until November and am now putting in long study days trying to pull off these exams. If I you split them up between NCA sessions, you could definitely work at the same time.
9) Based on your experiences since being home, how helpful has your general City Law experience (academically & all-around) in London been in both your further academic and professional pursuits.
Living and studying in London has assisted me both academically and in my day-to-day. It’s nice hearing lawyers talk about cases you know and giving you tasks that are relevant to an area of law you studied at City. For example, contract law has a hand in almost every area of law and understanding its origin and scope deems useful when writing pleadings. Also, having that international perspective is nothing but complementary when discussions concerning the BBC, British affairs and legal scandals are popular topics around the office.
10) I understand you have secured an articling position in Canada… where is this opportunity and how challenging was it to find a position?
After applying to over sixty law firms and obtaining only two articling interviews, I was able to secure a spot at a small boutique litigation firm in the downtown Vancouver area. Securing articles is quite challenging and my advice would be to be persistent and network like crazy. I hate to say it, but a lot of the time it’s about who you know.
11) What general advice can you recommend students wishing to make the transition back to Canada upon graduating. Anything in particular we should focus on (just achieving good grades, contacting firms, building CV, etc.)?
It goes without saying that good grades, building up a strong resume and contacting firms are important; however, I have a few other tips that may be helpful during your transition back to Canada. Being on top of the NCA application is first and foremost. I would recommend having your transcript FedExed as soon as your grades are released so you can receive your assessment results before the deadline expires for the October exam session. However, if you are in no rush to get started on your certificate of qualification, having City send your transcript via regular mail will be fine. Also, be aware that you usually interview for articles a year in advance and I believe the deadline for most large firms is the end of June. I would suggest when applying for articles that you attach a grade conversion chart to your transcript. While you await the whole accreditation process, I would recommend trying to get your foot in the door and do some paralegal work or volunteer at a pro bono clinic.
12) Beyond academica, what were some of your favourite London activities?
I loved going to the markets- whether it was Borough, Portobello, Spitalfields- I enjoyed them all. I also loved the vintage shopping in Brick Lane and hanging out in London Fields on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Living in Shoreditch provided me with an abundant choice of pubs/bars/clubs. To name a few- Underbelly, Catch, The Bookclub, Favela Chic and the Hoxton Bar & Grill– were some of my faves. A few parks I loved to soak up some sun in were Regents Park, Victoria Park and Russell Square Gardens. And of course the rainy days left open some time to spend at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington and the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. A few of my favorite places to eat were The Wells pub in Hampstead, St John Bread & Wine in Clerkenwell and The Breakfast Club in Angel.
13) How often did you attend The Maple Leaf bar in Covent Garden?
I actually only went to the Maple Leaf twice! Once for a friend’s birthday (obviously another fellow Canadian) and the other to watch a Canuck’s game.
*NCA stands for “National Committee on Accrediation”, which is run by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, who governs the legal profession. For students obtaining their law degree outside of Canada, they must register and be granted the appropriate accreditation by this board in order to be eligible to complete their training and become a registered lawyer in Canada. You can see more by visiting their website.
Thanks to Cody Moskovitz for carrying out this interview. Cody is a GELLB1 student at The City Law School and a fellow Canadian!