By Farukh A. Bhatti
Seven. That’s how old I was when I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. Shazia, my then 19-year-old cousin, may Allah bless her status in heaven, was my inspiration. I was fascinated that she was studying law and wanted to learn everything about it. “It’s not easy Furkhee”, she would say with a smirk. I would respond, “But I can do it!”, and she would laugh and say, “I know you can, and if you want it, you will. You can do anything you put your mind to”.
This year marks 12 years since her passing. I am sure she is looking down smiling or laughing right now, seeing that my dream has come true.
This is the story of my incredible legal journey:
After completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, I moved to the United Kingdom to pursue my legal education at Birmingham City University (BCU).
There, I didn’t only concern myself with academics. I also got involved in extracurriculars. In my final year, I was the president of the BCU Mooting Society. We beat Cambridge University in a national mooting competition.
To survive, I financed a car and drove for Uber.
I was given the opportunity by Lord Sumption of the House of Lords to work with him and host an internal mooting competition for BCU at the UK Supreme Court.
And my criminal and constitutional law professors brought me on to work as the Research Coordinator for a then undisclosed project. In this role, I supervised two academic researchers, reviewed their research and compiled it into a narrative that addressed five legal questions from different areas of law. The result was a textbook that helps law students prepare to moot. The book, published by Routledge in 2017 and entitled “Preparing to Moot: A Step-by-Step Guide”, is now available on Amazon. Everyone should check it out!
I was proud of my accomplishments at BCU and assumed that, with my credentials and experiences, becoming qualified in Canada as a lawyer would be easy. Right?
Wrong! No one wanted to hire me as a legal assistant, never mind as an articling student. To survive, I financed a car and began driving for Uber. In my trunk, I carried a box filled with envelopes containing my application package. Whenever I saw a law firm, I would stop, walk in and ask to speak to someone about an articling opportunity. If they were not open, I would put it in their mailbox. While I knew many envelopes went straight to the trash, I was not about to give up. I went through the phone directory and Google and contacted every law firm that I could.
My hunt reached the two-year mark, but I did not give up.
Nothing came of it until, one day, it did. I called Goodman Law Group and Michael Goodman gave me the time of day. He was impressed that I called to ask for a job. He gave me an interview and promised that if his board of directors could not approve a budget to hire me, he would help me find an interview at another firm.
True to his word, Mr. Goodman got me an interview with two partners at a different firm. One of the partners, who was also the firm’s managing partner, led the interview. A few minutes into it he stopped, looking very confused. I realized he was only then reviewing my application. He questioned why I had obtained a law degree abroad and, in a nutshell, conveyed that I would never become a lawyer in Ontario.
But I did not give up. Although my hunt for an articling position reached the two-year mark, I never stopped visualizing my goal and working to achieve it.
Eventually, this paid off.
One cold morning in March 2017, I received a phone call from a friend who had returned from Birmingham a year after me. He had found a legal recruitment agency that was placing people at Guberman Garson LLP, which is allied with Deloitte, the accounting firm. He asked if I wanted in, and I said, ”Yes, I do!” This led to me being interviewed by a Deloitte partner and senior lawyer. I will forever be grateful for this memorable and satisfying interview, and these two individuals’ support, mentorship and friendship.
We were eligible to article with the U.S. practice!
At that time, the firm did not have an articling program as such. The Canadian practice placed one articling student per articling term, but I was placed in the U.S. immigration practice. I decided that this was okay; that the experience and knowledge gained through this position would help me ultimately land an articling position elsewhere. I also told the firm’s leadership that I needed to complete my articles.
A couple months into the job, in June or July 2017, a colleague and I were discussing if our time at Guberman Garson could count towards fulfilling Ontario’s articling requirements, and a colleague encouraged us to email the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) to find out. The LSO responded that this was indeed possible, and also indicated that we were eligible to complete our articles with Guberman Garson’s U.S. immigration practice!
This was a total shock to me. I was hungry, so I took my shot. I sent a detailed email to Guberman Garson’s managing partner, David Garson, who agreed to meet the conditions necessary to enable me to complete my international articles.
As a result, in August 2017, two years after graduating law school, I began my articles at Guberman Garson LLP. Since then, the firm’s articling program has grown and improved, and is committed to ensuring articling students receive the best experience and opportunities possible. I know this because, this past year, a colleague and I co-managed the articling program under the supervision of a partner!
After failing the Ontario Bar exam twice, I passed on my third try. I was called to the Ontario Bar on January 25, 2019. Thank you, God.
To learn about how you can complete national or articling in Ontario, visit the Law Society of Ontario website and review the section “National or International Articling.”