Insights from the Early Career Immigration Lawyers Town Hall and Networking Social

  • May 02, 2024
  • Angela Ogang & Aqsa Nadeem

On March 20, 2024, members of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Immigration Law Section and the Ontarioembers of the OBA's Citizenship and Immigration Law Section gather for a picture at the Early Immigration Lawyers Town Hall Bar Association (OBA) Citizenship and Immigration Law Section convened at the OBA Conference Centre in Toronto for the Early Career Immigration Lawyers Town Hall and Networking Social. The event provided an opportunity for new lawyers practicing in immigration law to network with influential members of the bar and promote themselves as an emerging leader in immigration law. 

In her opening remarks, CBA Immigration Law Section Chair Gabriela Ramo introduced the CBA’s Immigration Law Section sponsored mentorship program and talked about its benefits. She also offered to facilitate connections between potential mentees and current participants to provide firsthand insight into the program.

Panel Discussion 

Following the opening remarks, a panel discussion moderated by OBA Citizenship and Immigration Law Section Chair Sajjad Malik took place, featuring three distinguished members of the Section Executive: Cathryn Sawicki, Elizabeth Long, and Nandi Deterville.

Nandi, a foreign-trained lawyer, shared her journey into immigration law and emphasized the importance of community-building through active participation in events like those organized by the OBA.

With nearly two decades of immigration law experience, Elizabeth said that she still checks the CBA immigration ListServ religiously to stay updated on immigration law changes. Cathryn, a seasoned and fearless immigration lawyer, echoed the sentiment and emphasized the value of networking within the OBA community and seeking mentorship opportunities to navigate the complexities of immigration law practice effectively.

On the topic of mentorship, Nandi pointed out that we can be both a mentee and a mentor and encouraged us to foster reciprocal relationships within the legal community. Moreover, Elizabeth outlined the various forms that mentorship can take, including the free lunch sessions at the OBA where we discuss different topics, such as LMIA. She also stressed the importance of being able to run a practice, noting that it’s a skill that is hard to learn and it’s great to have a community for that as well.

The panelists also discussed how to manage client expectations. They stressed the importance of setting boundaries, having several backup plans, communicating clearly with clients, showing them empathy, and staying on top of things by establishing bring-forward (“BF”) dates.

The last topic on the agenda was mental health, with all of the panelists freely sharing how they occupy their time outside of law, from dog walking and teaching biking at Centennial (Cathryn) to spending time with family and friends (Nandi), to attending interior design shows or simply doing nothing (Elizabeth). This light and cheerful conclusion to the panel discussion underscored the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Focus Group

Immediately following the panel discussion, attendees were given an opportunity to join focus groups on the following topics:

  • CPD Programming: This focus group discussed desired CPD programs for the coming year, identified knowledge gaps, and suggested skills to be addressed.
  • Advocacy: This focus group provided input on advocacy measures to improve the immigration system, addressing issues encountered in their practice.
  • Support Services: This focus group explored preferences for peer support services, aiming to identify ways the Section can better support its members.

Each of the focus groups were headed by one of the panelists. The aim was to gather the participants’ responses in order to analyze them and use them to shape OBA programming and advocacy efforts.

Networking Session

Participants then gathered back in the main event space for a networking session. Here is what some of the participants had to say about why they attended the event, their interest in immigration law, and their experiences with the OBA:

“In fact, I was running away from immigration law. I had been a litigation lawyer in India for 6 years. However, when I moved here, this was during the pandemic, there were no jobs. So, I got in touch with this real estate/corporate/business lawyer who told me that he always wanted to have an immigration law firm and that he would start it with me. So that’s how it started. I brought my litigation experience and started doing a lot of court work. A year and a half after practicing, I realized it was my calling. I eventually changed firms and I am doing a lot more immigration law than I was and I am loving it.” (Pushkar Prehar, Associate, Greenberg Hameed PC)

“I am planning to go into immigration law at some point in time. Immigration law is probably the only field where you can start solo as soon as possible. I want to learn from a senior lawyer for 6 months to a year then open my own law firm.” (Maneet, NCA Student)

“Through these OBA events, I hope to network and connect with people.” (Ashvi Shah, Associate Lawyer, Fragomen)

“The OBA is a resource for immigration-specific articles or seminars.This is where I can network and learn. This is great because I work for a firm where we primarily practice employment and labour law, so when I have immigration-specific questions, the OBA is really helpful. The information sharing and actual networking events are something I keep my eye out for. They are great for professional development.” (Lara Gradil, Business Immigration Associate, Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP)

“I am a prospective immigration lawyer and will article in the fall of 2024. I love that the OBA provides opportunities to learn more about the field and prepare in advance.” (Zohal Nasari, Intern Audit Industry, Deloitte)

“I enjoy networking, and connecting with future employers can be beneficial.” (Khushali Kadia) 

Closing Remarks

In his closing remarks, Sajjad candidly shared his own experience of joining the OBA Citizenship and Immigration Law Section Executive. He didn’t know anyone there. He simply applied for an open position and was acclaimed as the Public Affairs Liaison. Sajjad highlighted the diversity within the Section and was delighted that younger members are increasingly taking leadership roles with the support of experienced mentors. He encouraged everyone to consider volunteering their time, participating in elections, and becoming an integral part of the Section's community.

We would like to thank the members of the organizing committee and all attendees for contributing to the success of this event. Additionally, we would like to thank and Brown Immigration Law P.C., L.L.O., for generously sponsoring tickets for two early career lawyers to attend the upcoming CBA Immigration Law Conference on May 9-11, 2024, in Montreal, Quebec. Congratulations to the winners of the draw, Joel Szota and Kevi Velcani. We look forward to seeing you there!

Any article or other information or content expressed or made available in this Section is that of the respective author(s) and not of the OBA.