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The past 18 months has been quite challenging, an eye-opener but most of all it has shaped the person I am and the person I am becoming. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would end up in Canada living 8304 miles (13,330km) away from my family and friends. Having the privilege to move to another country is not always an easy task and it comes with many obstacles, but one thing is for sure, I am resilient, love change and adaptable to any situation that I am faced with. It is worth mentioning that this did not happen overnight but through several experiences good and bad alike.

Being a South African practicing lawyer and moving to Canada posed many obstacles which took a while to overcome. My journey to becoming licensed in Canada would be an 18-month process even in the shortest amount of time. Was I ready for this? Am I okay with being an articling student again? These are things that ran through my head while considering moving to a new country. The legal world is so diverse and there are a vast number of opportunities and career paths that stems from here and it was these thought processes that convinced me to tackle the licensing process no matter what happened.  

Every individuals journey will be a unique experience although many of us are required to complete the same licensing process. This piece aims to highlight my personal journey through this process. As mentioned above, I am a South African trained lawyer and started my NCA process in 2019. We (South Africans) are required to write eight NCA exams, and I had elected to write four in the first diet and the remaining four in the second diet.

The NCA’s can be a very daunting experience as you are not familiar with the material and do not always have access to the prescribed materials due to location or even finances as shipping costs are crazy! Having said that, I managed to write the first four (Professional Responsibility, Constitutional, Torts and Administrative law). I was incredibly nervous and thought I had no clue of what was being asked. Much to my surprise I passed three out of the four. The Torts exam (which I thought I knew) was what got me. Failing an exam can make you despondent but I knew I had to look at the bigger picture and keep prodding along. 

I had planned to take note of the mistakes which I thought I had made with Torts to ensure that I pass the next four which were in May 2019. Around eight weeks prior to this, I had lost my sister suddenly through suicide. I had absolutely NO idea that this was going to happen and was merrily planning my study schedule. Of course, this had thrown all my study plans out the window and before I could even digest what had just occurred, it was the May diet. I was so confused on whether to write or cancel and after much debate with myself I chose to write all four. With zero studying, I had no option besides to just “wing it”! I passed three out of the four (I still do not know how). I could not believe it as I anticipated having to re-write every single one again. I managed to clear all the outstanding NCA’s in March 2020.

My experience through the NCA journey has been an incredibly tough one in all respects, but it has been an amazing learning experience too. It taught me to think on my feet, trust my instinct and that its okay to fail too. The most important thing is to make sure you pick yourself up and keep looking forward.

Having moved to Toronto in January 2020 and cleared the NCA’s in March 2020, you would think that your life is finally moving in the right direction. I was totally wrong yet again and had to work around covid-19 which is keeping many of us with a lot of uncertainty. Last year required of me to jump over many hurdles and cross barriers unexpectedly and covid-19 is no different. You must learn to adapt and adjust with the ever-changing environment you find yourself in.

The bar exams are yet another hurdle to jump, and I am so ready for it. There have been numerous people who have shared some tips and advice on how to tackle these and I am thankful to them (too many to mention). The best advice I can give considering I have not written them yet, is to network with people who have written and have experienced this. Be mindful also of having too much advice as this can lead to confusion and perhaps some conflicting views.  

Due to covid-19 there have been changes in the job market, and there is no better time than now to reinvent yourself, look at your weaknesses and try to explore different avenues to improve yourself. I decided to look at the brighter side of the pandemic and use the time that I have at home to address the above. Articling positions are scarce and summer programs are on a freeze, which leaves you with not really knowing when you can progress. Brighter side, I decided to do the LPP which commences in August 2020 and this is how I managed to get around the delay in the progression of my career. There are always solutions to problems, you must be active and push yourself to the next level. No one is going to do this for you!

Network, network, network! I cannot emphasize this enough. I have been doing this throughout covid-19 and it has been extremely beneficial. Reach out to people, connect, and ask questions. Join as many networks and memberships as you can. I did not realize the benefit of this until I started doing it myself. It has been through networking that I have managed to overcome my 2020 hurdles thus far and have found solutions to move forward.

Do not ever give up! Yes, this may be trying times for many of us but there is always a lending hand out there and all you need to do is reach out. Keep jumping over those hurdles and you will reach your goals. It is the mindset that is the problem generally. We focus too much on the problem and not on finding the solution. You are in control. To squeeze in some Bill Gates here, please “don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world, if you do you are insulting yourself”. Each person is unique and so is their experience. Time is a commodity, and it is in your hands what you make of it. If you need that push or lending hand, I am more than happy to assist, and you can contact me through LinkedIn (@Sonia Naik).

I hope the above has inspired you, got you thinking, helped you find a solution, changed your mindset, or even just assisted into pushing you to take the next step. Whatever it may be, remember, that this is your journey and you can create whatever it is that you want.

You have got this!

About the Author

Sonia Naik is an internationally trained lawyer from South Africa. Prior to her arrival in Canada, she practiced as a tax lawyer, with most of her work relating to Objections, Appeals, Customs, Excise and Tariff classification matters. She is currently a licensing candidate in Ontario and will be writing the Bar exam in the coming months.

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