By Tahira Mawji | July 21, 2020
The summer before leaving for law school I volunteered at a non-profit legal organization to get a brief introduction into the legal world. Because the organization was short staffed, my role was multifaceted. It comprised of various administrative duties such as setting up appointments for lawyers to provide pro-bono services to individuals, cold calling lawyers etc. However, the most interesting part of my role was getting the chance to prepare a case in front of the Mental Health Board.
I was lucky enough to be paired with both a lawyer and a summer student because I had the opportunity to assist the summer student in conducting patient interviews, writing legal briefs and finding relevant medical information for the lawyer to review. We successfully presented our case in front of the Board and the patient was released. Working on the hearing was an out of this world experience for a soon to be law student but the “real win” was the lifelong mentor and friend I had gained in the lawyer.
Throughout law school and when I graduated, I stayed in touch with my mentor. We developed a friendly rapport and discussed my law school experience overseas and how the legal market was in Vancouver, BC.
Fast forward to 2017…
At this point I had completed my undergraduate degree in four years and obtained my Juris Doctor in two years. I was eager to write my NCA exams so I could start articling.
I met with my mentor to discuss my plan and he changed the way I would approach the next few years.
When I met with him, he asked me: “well what type of law do you want to practice?” I realized I had no clue. Considering that I had a bit of legal volunteer experience, I had attended mooting and negotiation workshops, career fairs and I was a member of the law society during law school, I still had no idea what area of law interested me.
Because of my mentor I decided to slow down the pace on completing my NCA exams and I started working in the legal field while writing my NCA exams to gain hands-on experience and figure out what interested me. I worked at both a child protection and personal injury law firm; and at a business law firm where I became well immersed in the procedural requirements of both corporate and securities law.
At both these law firms I connected with practicing lawyers who imparted their wisdom on me. I have gained hands-on experience in different areas of law and I now confidentlyknow what area I want to practice in.
Having a mentor is invaluable and my advice to future legal practitioners is to seek mentorship at any stage during your legal journey whether within or outside the field. Not only will mentorship provide you with advice and guidance but also open the doors for future opportunities. The same mentor who guided me before law school has also connected me to the co-president of Global Lawyers of Canada BC and I am now a director for this society.
Tips on how to make connecting with a mentor less intimidating:
- Connect with a legal practitioner in an area of law that interests you.
- Network, Network, Network.
- Most importantly, be yourself. Your mentor is taking the time to get to know you so show them who you are, whether you area potential member of the law society, a friend or maybe even a fellow associate.