The humbling journey of an internationally trained lawyer

The humbling journey of an internationally trained lawyer

The humbling journey of an internationally trained lawyer

By Moyo Sadiq (@NaijaLawyerInCanada)

I remember landing at Toronto Pearson Airport with my spouse, my brother and my three children. I was so overwhelmed and buzzing with so many mixed feelings: fear, joy, happiness, excitement, anxiety, hope, faith, desire, passion and much more in different proportions. I knew that this was a journey, the physical flight, though very long with my playful and curious children, was just a small part of this journey. It was and still is a challenge – it is a new page and I have just been handed a Pen to start rewriting the story of my life.

Relocating is a major event for many people and for me nonetheless. Anxiety is heightened the more one thinks about the uncertainty, change, moving from one’s “comfort-zone”, wondering how soon it will be before we as a family can settle into our new society, finances, settling, weather change, culture-shock, managing the Children’s transition, to wondering how the Children will find their way in this new home of ours and much more. The stressors are numerous and of different varieties. Amidst all these uncertainties, one thing was certain for me. I would someday get called to bar in at least one Province in Canada. This dream I cling on to so tight, like my life depends on it. Despite the numerous hurdles I had read and experienced about the process, I remain unfazed.

As an internationally trained Lawyer, you are required to pass the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) examinations to get a “Certificate of Qualification”, then in Ontario, you may do a ten-month articling to gain experience or an eight-month Law Practice Program at Ryerson University or If you have experience and meet the eligibility terms provided on the Law Society of Ontario’s website, you may apply for a full exemption or abridgement of articling. In my opinion, the process is tedious and not as straightforward as it may seem on face level.

Life however won’t grind to a halt because you intend to write examinations, bills keep coming, so you have to get a job, go to school or survive. I have met different people with different styles. I spoke to an individual, who managed to work overtime and full-time in order to save enough for the few months that he would not work- he saved enough to survive and took some months off to prepare and pass his examinations. I know People who worked through the preparation, some schooled while preparing and many more scenarios. In all It takes a lot of effort and I advise people to know and understand their individual capacity.

A month after landing in April 2018, I got my evaluation from NCA, downloaded the syllabi of the courses assigned to me and after reading the syllabi for what seemed like an hour, I realised that getting this “Certificate of Qualification” is no easy feat. It was a challenge, a huge one, and I brought out my training shoes, knowing I had to work hard for this. I had mental and emotional discussions with myself to prepare for the training phase, especially because I was a fresh immigrant, still settling down. As a Nigerian girl, used to an average of 36 degrees Celsius, landing in March temperatures that sometimes run in the Negative in Canada, it was beyond shocking, my mental preparation was insufficient to adapt as fast as I would wish. Adapting was not just hard but it was also quite distracting for me as an individual and honestly I had to put my personal NCA file aside and I told myself to slow down, settle down properly to prevent getting sick and fatigued from stress.

I got a job as a Banking Advisor (Call Centre) at a Bank two months after I landed as a new Immigrant. I was so excited about this opportunity because I had heard so many horror stories about getting a job as a new immigrant and the most popular “You are overqualified” denial phrase. I hoped that I would somehow find a way around preparing for the NCA examinations while I worked. Alas, it was but a fantasy, it didn’t work for me. It was difficult to understand and comprehend when I found time to study during my daily 4pm to 12am work shift. I decided that I would need help with this journey of mine.

I joined multiple NCA groups on social media. I read about people’s experiences on the groups and decided to learn from other ITLs’ mistakes. I would randomly send messages to ITLs on LinkedIn, asking them what they would do differently if they had the chance to. In a day, I would send messages to about fifteen ITLs and get just one reply, that reply was invaluable. I noted it down and subconsciously watched out for it. I decided to engage a tutor that I bumped into during my random research on Social media. Note, I know many people who prepared by themselves with no tutor, this is just my personal journey.

I urge people to know themselves, discover yourself as an individual, and know your capacity. We are all different, some people can afford to take out time to read while working, some people will take out time from work or school, some people need tutors; some need peer-study groups.

I decided to resign from the Bank after three months and signed up for school. So, my schedule became – go to school from Monday to Friday, read daily for hours and resume the private NCA examination preparatory classes on Saturday and Sunday. My family sacrificed so much for me to achieve this and I appreciate it. Nothing beats a great support system in family and friends and I am so blessed in this regard.

I decided to pair Canadian Professional Responsibility and Canadian Criminal Law which I sat for in the October 2018 exam batch. It was very terrifying. Coming from Nigeria, I had never written an open-book essay or case-scenario exam. The idea of “open-book” exam excited and terrified me and I asked so many people just to confirm that it was no fantasy. I was worried about the interpretation of my answers. Some insecurities and questions were: “did my answer sound too Nigerian?”, “was my answer sufficient”, “was my handwriting legible enough?” “Should I have arranged the answers in a different order?” “Was that a trick question?” “Would I be penalized for not double-spacing on few pages?”, “did I goof on that question?”, “did I write enough?”, and so much more. Waiting ten to twelve weeks for the results, waiting through the Christmas and New Year holidays was gruelling to say the least.

To be honest, I had planned to originally write maximum of two examinations per session but after going through the first ten to twelve weeks nervously waiting for results, I realised that I could not go through that emotional roller coaster three times. This prompted my decision to write the remaining three papers in May 2019. I am currently counting down to the next ten to twelve weeks to see the results of my May 2019 exam diet. I literally think about it at least once a day.

This journey would affect many people and not just you as an individual; it has its impact on family, friends, colleagues, partner or children. It is a journey that mandatorily assigns you as the Pilot, in this hypothetical Aircraft, mandatorily making loved-ones de facto passengers. They never asked to be taken on a trip but they will be going to this destination with you (Some friends may opt- out as friendships get strained). It may get bumpy at-times, smooth at other times and it will frustrate individuals involved at one point or the other. That is why it is important to show gratitude to the people around you often, appreciate your support system, because the law exams have far reaching effects on them too. I will discuss my preparation for Administrative Law and how it almost drove me crazy in another article.

I thank my Spouse especially as he drove me for the examination tutoring sessions every weekend. His patience and encouragement are tools I continually wield to push forward to birth my dreams. My parents practically wrote the exams with me as they are the last people I speak with before the exams and right after the exams, I get to the car to see my phone brimming with multiple calls and text asking, “How did it go?” My children, they deserve all the accolades, my daughter asked “Mum, when exactly will you finish all these exams?” My siblings, they have been a strong pillar of support, handing me the handkerchief when I decide to cry and rolling with the flow, laughing with joy when am happy. Oh yes, emotional outbursts and crying with bouts of panic attacks is quite normal in this process for me. Some individuals did it without batting an eyelid. People are all different, hence my emphasis on knowing and understanding yourself first, before starting the licensing journey.

It has been a very humbling journey indeed but I have learnt to enjoy the process. It will be worth it in the end. The standard of legal services provided in the country is top- notch, especially with this thorough licensing process for ITLs.

Apart from the knowledge of the Constitution and various Laws, I have learnt a great deal about the history of Canada, learnt about the Aboriginal Peoples, Administrative System and read multiple interesting cases. I have no regrets whatsoever and I am trying my best to enjoy the journey.

I urge that you set out plans, goals and timelines to achieve them. Recognizing your ability as an individual is of utmost importance in this journey. Finally, never give up. Failing is not a death sentence, asides a punch on your ego; see it as a learning process.

About the author

Moyo is an experienced Barrister, Solicitor and Mediator from Nigeria. She worked in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, in the Office of the Administrator-General and Public Trustee before her relocation. She holds a Master’s degree in Law with a thesis focused on Health law from University of Leicester. She is currently working on getting licensed to practice Law in Ontario, Canada. She enjoys writing and has successfully written and produced three indigenous Yoruba movies, namely Ebi Mi, Asepamo and Isipo. She is a goal-getter and loves a challenge. She intends to make great and positive impacts in her new Home. Moyo landed in Canada in March 2018

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