NCA Students! Exotic creatures from foreign legal jurisdictions only need one rare species of employer: the extraordinary one!

  • October 02, 2018
  • Victoria Boucovala

Why is it so difficult? If you are an NCA student, looking for an articling position, you must have been wondering the same thing. Why does it seem so impossible to get an articling position? You read all the articles on how to get that great position. You know you have done everything mentioned there. You network till you drop. You learn everything there is to know about anyone who is someone, which literally could be everyone (because you never know). If there weren’t an acceptable name for this activity like “networking”, it could easily be confused with preparatory work for a number of criminal offences!

Other readers may wonder what an “NCA student” is! Let me enlighten you: it’s not a beast with two heads and four eyes, but rather an exotic creature from a foreign jurisdiction! Or maybe that’s just how it feels to be an NCA student. The problem is that when we try to explain that: “An NCA student is a lawyer who obtained their law degree in another country and is trying to get it recognized in Canada by fulfilling the requirements set by the National Committee on Accreditation of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada,” you actively see your interlocutor’s eyes drift away as you speak your lengthy answer. However, you learned a vast wealth of information for this specific networking event so you just can’t give up.

You start wondering… “Should I casually mention that as it happens we have the same vet” in the hopes that the amount of affinity that will erupt after such an amazing discovery will lead to a job offer(?!).  Soon, you realize that it’s not really your ineptness to hold one’s interest for more than half a second, but the simple fact that you don’t fit the definition of the average “articling student” that is condemning your case. By then, you have already experienced all seven stages of grief in speedy succession! 

You come to the point where you have to accept reality (correctly placing all blame on Pandora and her inability to follow instruction) and embrace the bleakness of the situation. Identifying the issue is imperative. Taking as a given the self evident fact that you are, after all, unequivocally brilliant, the indifference you inexplicably encounter has been deeply puzzling. Cruel and unfortunate as it may be, many NCA students have to recognize the simple fact that as great as you may have been in your country of origin (sure, maybe you were a superstar in your country, and maybe you had the respect and recognition of, well, everybody), in the end, you left. You picked up and left that life, that career, that everything, and here you are, seeking to reestablish yourself, in a new country. It doesn’t matter why you left. At the end of the day, you made a decision; you chose to leave a life and a country behind. 

As Isabel Allende wrote in her book Paula: “…I learned very quickly that when you emigrate, you lose the crutches that have been your support; you must begin from zero, because the past is erased with a single stroke and no one cares where you’re from or what you did before.” This celebrated author was repeatedly turned down for work after immigrating to Argentina.

Rejection is a bitter lesson that most NCA students have to learn, in a very harsh way.  I remember one lawyer from an Asian country that was working as a taxi driver while going through his accreditation. He described in somewhat poetic terms how he kept the hope of being a lawyer again as a lingering tiny, bright flame, hidden in the corner of his heart.  

Luckily we are in a country that has endless resources to offer you to achieve your goals and aspirations. Nothing comes easy but here, you have the opportunity to fight to get to the finish line. NCA students go through nonstop rough patches. We take all the exams. We balance work and study and family responsibilities to get through it. And then you succeed. You passed those exams. You gained your accreditation. You’re reaching the finish line with what feels like slow motion airborne strides.  You’ve reached the moment where you need to move from your “survival job” to a career in law. The turning point, finally! 

You use your last drops of magic potion to update your LinkedIn page and you cross, bless, sprinkle all kinds of holy water on your resume and cover letter and you …network till you drop! And still, you find your way to undeniable success blocked like a concrete insurmountable brick wall. In the grand scheme of the “Canadian way” versus the “foreign way”, the level of interest in foreign trained lawyers is significantly less than those who followed the “traditional” path. Every attempt to tackle this has failed miserably! Inevitably you come to the only correct solution: you must find the one person that will show signs of interest.

You just have to realize that the only thing you need is an exceptional employer! As rare as this may be, you must embark on a quest to find the most endangered species of all, the rarest creature in the jungle! The one who will be able to identify you for who you are! You don’t have to mutilate yourself to transform into the acceptable average intern or articling student when you know there’s absolutely nothing average about you; you don’t need to fit anyone’s preconceived idea of who you should be or tone down your personality to the few acceptable shades of black or greyish in order to get the holy grail of an articling position.

No, you need to do something even more impossible: you need to find the one in a hundred; the needle in the haystack; the one pebble that looks just like all the others, but is actually a priceless diamond. You need to find the one and only exceptional employer who will recognize you. The one who will know that he is not seeking the average, the normal, the conventional articling student. 

I know for a fact that these exotic rarities truly exist because I have met with a few of them! They come in different shapes and colours and they are disguised sometimes and extremely difficult to identify. They may be motivated by a wide variety of diverse factors but the common denominator is that they are all very successful leaders in their field. Gifted and charismatic, they appreciate the limitations of the average. They do not avoid it - after all, the “average” may be dependable in many ways, but they can distinguish the exceptional. If you are indeed as brilliant as you think, it doesn’t matter where you obtained your degree or training. If you fit the job description, then you’ve got it!  For one to be able to see past the two heads and the four eyes, it means that they themselves are ... extraordinary!

About the author

Victoria Boucovala is director of operations at The Hellenic Initiative of Canada and a member-at-large on the OBA's Women Lawyers Forum Executive.


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

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