Executive Profiles: Introducing Sajjad Malik

  • December 06, 2022
  • Angela Ogang, Newsletter Editor, OBA Citizenship & Immigration Law Section

1.    What are your primary areas of immigration practice? photo of Saijjad Malik

I practice immigration and business law. When I started my practice in Canada, I decided to be my own boss instead of working for someone, which meant that I had to forgo the benefits of being part of an existing law firm with its organized learning and mentoring structure. So, I had to revisit my toolkit and think of how I would use it to establish myself in a new country and a different environment. One of the decisions I made was to select an area of practice where I could gain a strategic advantage by applying my past business, legal and public relations experience. 

I thought that I could leverage my past experiences in the corporate world as a corporate affairs professional who was managing public affairs, corporate communications, and regulatory functions. Being a former civil servant, I understood the bureaucratic mindset and could utilize this experience in my practice too. That’s what motivated me to practice immigration law and business law, especially the domain where they overlap. I felt comfortable with my choice because I could use my practical experience and apply my academic knowledge of my MBA and LL.M. in Business Law in my practice. I knew I could provide more value to my clients through my unique experience. My working abroad as an international lawyer, tax professional and business consultant helps me understand the goals, aspiration, and challenges of international entrepreneurs when they venture into the Canadian business environment.

With time, my practice around those areas has evolved to helping businesspeople establish and acquire businesses and immigrate to Canada. I also assist Canadian small and medium entrepreneurs who are selling or acquiring businesses, starting new business ventures, conceptualizing start-ups, and I do corporate business work as well. 

2.    What motivated you to join the OBA Citizenship & Immigration Law Section Executive? 

After being called to the bar for the second time and this time in Canada, I realized that I needed to find a niche through which I could distinguish myself. I knew I could do it with the experience that I bring as an international business lawyer, so I had to create my own HR development plan, in which new learning through mentors in my practice area was paramount. In pursuit of that goal, I came across one of the OBA’s CPD programs online and I registered for it. It was my first CPD program and I recognized at that moment that joining the CBA and the OBA could provide me a lot of value. The OBA chapter gave me a platform where I could interact with senior immigration professionals and learn from them. 

Marvin Moses was one of the first lawyers I met during that period and I found him extremely cordial and supportive. He was a member of the OBA Citizenship and Immigration Law Section Executive at that time and he introduced me to the CBA Immigration Law Section Listserv, which is an invaluable resource for all, whether they are new or veteran lawyers. Following the Listserv regularly allowed me to build my knowledge in the immigration space. I felt that OBA’s Citizenship and Immigration Law Section provided a platform which extending formal and informal mentoring opportunities. The support, knowledge sharing by the fellow professionals and the practical tips and knowledge that flows every day through the Listserv helped me bridge the gaps as a newcomer to Canada and as a new professional in this bar at the time when I needed it the most

3.    What do you enjoy most about practicing immigration law?  

I enjoy the diversity of backgrounds of clients and the variety of issues in the Canadian immigration space. In my previous assignments, it was more of governance and high-end business experience but in the immigration practice, it’s more human interaction. When I worked in the corporate environment, my role was in public affairs and I was engaging with government stakeholders, external counsel, the media, or PR. In my immigration practice, however, I come across a variety of people from different countries, age groups, professions, backgrounds, and education levels. I deal with skilled professionals, entrepreneurs, and sometimes refugees, family class people and students.  That is what I enjoy the most and I never get bored. 

4.    What do you find to be the biggest challenges for immigration lawyers?  

People’s financial ability. Most of my clients are successful businesspeople and generally have better affordability, but it can be a bit frustrating at times when we come across not so affluent clients who have challenging legal issues and we know that there is a solution through a prolonged and time-consuming representation, but the clients don’t have enough resources to take the pathway towards it. 

Being a former physician, I maintain interest in the health care industry in Canada and witness that patients in Canada are less worried about most healthcare costs as the government provides strong support in the health sector. In my view, the legal space and access to justice is as important, if not more, as the present and future of people is at risk. Their present and future are often tied to immigration outcomes, and not having access to affordable legal services adds to their misery. As a lawyer, you can shoulder some of that burden by providing free or discounted services, but the need is far higher than what we can do as individuals and a better system to provide free services to needy individuals through experienced legal professionals is required. Legal aid is not enough, and a better compensation structure could improve the quality and quantity of legal services to those in the need.  

5.    Do you have any practical tips for those who are interested in practicing in your field? 

Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your colleagues. In our bar, different lawyers have developed different niche practice areas. If you don’t hesitate, then you can gain access to a pool of professionals who you can reach out to and get a super-specialized mentorship from. The Listserv will also give you an idea of who is super-specialized in a particular area so you can reach out to the right person. And if you reach out to the right person, you can be certain that you will get the right answer. 

6.    Please tell us about one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you. 

The most interesting thing about me which others may not know may be that I have undergone a military attachment with a military infantry unit as a civil gazetted officer where I also participated in war exercises. This was a part of my bureaucratic training and gave me a deep insight into the sacrifices soldiers extend to secure borders of a country. Another interesting fact that I’d like to share is that I started as a doctor and then fully transitioned my career to law. On multiple occasions, I had the opportunity of switching back to my medical practice career, including the time when I immigrated to Canada, but every time I decided to pursue law as a career and never had regrets. 

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