The talk in the Canadian legal community can be pretty depressing. Everyone’s stressed out. Women are leaving private practice in droves. There’s a dearth of articling positions. The legal aid system is collapsing. The traditional firm model is failing.
But I’m feeling really positive. Why? Because I spent the past few weeks hanging out with law students from across the country. The students I met were intelligent, thoughtful, and committed to using their law degree to make a positive difference.
In Calgary, I went to an amazing event organized by a formidable UofC law student, Tiffany Butler. The event focused on social justice career options and featured Justice Rothstein as the keynote speaker. (As an aside, Justice Rothstein read some hilarious email exchanges between him and his wife – they definitely have the makings of a bestseller some day!). I gave my two cents on how to pursue an “international law” career and participated in a roundtable version of career advice/speed dating. The students at my table were very interested in understanding the options available to them and were committed to working hard and taking the “path less travelled” to get there.
University of Calgary Public Interest Career Event
The next week I participated in a panel discussion on international internships organized by the CLA Chapter at the University of Ottawa. The panel was made up of students who had either gone through an organization (like CLA) for their internship and students who organized the internships on their own. The students gave very frank advice: be flexible, go for as long as you can, reach out to professors for ideas of possible host organizations. Given the turnout, it’s quite clear that there is a lot of demand by students to spend a summer doing work with an interesting NGO.
The highlight of the past few weeks was CLA’s leadership training for Executives from our Student Chapters. These students came to Ottawa from across the country (from UNB to UVic) to spend two days discussing leadership and how to build a successful organization, engaging with experts on this year’s CLA theme of children’s rights and talking about their career aspirations. They also participated in the amazing Canadian Council on International Law conference on the Arctic. When we discussed what the students want to do with their lives, some of them had a pretty good idea – everything from working for the UN to becoming a JAG lawyer to working on northern aboriginal issues. Others weren’t quite sure how yet. I’m sure some will end up at firms, some in government, some with NGOs, and some likely won’t practice at all. But I’ll be watching them. Because I know they’ll do great things both in Canada and abroad.
The next generation: CLA Student Executives from Queen's, UofT and Windsor Law
I have to end with a shout out to our amazing Student Program sponsors: LexisNexis Canada, Weir Foulds LLP and The Dominion. Thanks for making our Student Program possible and for believing in the next generation!