A Day in the Life of an Immigration Lawyer

  • April 23, 2017
  • Cathryn D. Sawicki

"Every day offers a new perspective of the world."

I was on the phone with my best friend who inquired about my day. I told her that I was in court as my client had been denied a work permit to Canada and we were challenging the decision.

"Why was your client denied?", she asked.

Nonchalantly I explained that the Government determined that my client was participating in nuclear proliferation, specifically pertaining to weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and “some other stuff”. I told her how awkward it was arguing a case when part of the evidence was Top Secret and I was not privy to such information. She laughed and told me how crazy and distant my world seemed to her. Her words made me pause, as it was just another day for me in the life of an immigration lawyer.

Immigration law consists of spousal sponsorships, corporate employee transfers, individual applicants, students, refugees, parental sponsorships, citizenship applications, etc. but it also consists of people who have issues pertaining to security, terrorism, war crimes, crimes against humanity or criminal convictions.

Immigration law is both inspiring and demoralising. It offers insight into the beauty of the human soul, the “togetherness” of the world and the miracles that are bourne out of the pure kindness of the human spirit. However, it can also offer a view into the most inhumane and horrific acts of humankind – some of them imprinted on your memory forever.

In the early days of my career, I got to help clients with a wide variety of issues.  In a “normal day” I might draft an argument about why a former member of the <<insert spy agency name here>> should be granted special permission to enter Canada to see his new grandchild, attend a client consultation and listen to a couple tell me how they met and fell in love.

My day might end with a straight forward NAFTA work permit request for a client who is excited to start her new job in Canada or plan my arguments for a “detention review” being held the next day. 

Every day offered a new perspective of the world – it still does.

Now, my primary focus is on corporate immigration to Canada and global business immigration services, however my colleagues and I also accept individual clients. 

My client was in the hospital, giving birth to her first child and yelling “get my lawyer! Get my lawyer! Where’s my lawyer?” The Doctor tried to calm her down by reassuring her that everything he was doing was “by the book”, but she kept screaming.  Unbeknownst to the Doctor, I had offered to hold her hand and comfort her, since she was in Canada alone on this special day.  By the time I came out from my hearing I had several voicemail messages from a frantic nurse on my cell phone.  I arrived at the hospital 20 minutes too late, but upon my arrival everyone knew exactly what room to point “the lawyer” towards.

My day still remains quite varied and can include such things as client consultations, high level corporate meetings, organising a charity event, researching case law, planning out a company’s corporate mobility strategy or simply, sharing a piece of cake with a client who just became a Canadian citizen. 

On occasion, it’s hard to believe that after a decade of working in politics, I decided to take a leap of faith and become a lawyer. I went to law school when I was 30 years young, with my Obus Forme backpack in tow and ready for the next adventure in my life. Never did I imagine the impact that immigration lawyers have on the lives of their clients each and every day.  Moreover, I don’t think any of us (immigration lawyers) imagined how our clients would impact our lives, and that’s what makes me love what I do for a living.

About the author

Cathryn D. Sawicki is team lead of PwC Canada’s Global Business Immigration Services.

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