October 20, 2021
We sat down with Alex Ciobotaru, a Current Student Ambassador (CSA) within the Labour Relations and Employment Law program, to learn more about her, her experience in the LLM, and how she hopes to apply what she’s being taught. Read on to learn more.
Tell us a bit about you and what you do.
I was called to the bar in 2015, so I’ve been practicing for 6 years. I started in private practice and now I work in-house for Toronto Police Service. A lot of what I do touches on various areas of the law, but it doesn’t necessarily hone-in on one specialty.
I love practicing law. I think it’s interesting and I love talking about it even when I’m not at work. I love gaining new knowledge about my role, but also engaging in dinner table chats. I always knew I was going to do my Masters – it was just a matter of when. I knew I wanted to learn more. It was just about finding the right program and the right time of my life to actually do it.
Labour and employment has always been of special interest. I am responsible for prosecuting police discipline proceedings. So, I practice labour law in a very niche context: under a piece of legislation called the Police Services Act. But, that’s just one area! The LLM provides me with a broader knowledge base to learn about labour in all contexts. I wanted to gain additional knowledge of the law and be up to date with it and with all the changes in relation to labour relations. [Undertaking this degree in] the time of Covid was serendipitous in a way. I was learning about all these new challenges that employers and employees face, from workplace environment, to health and safety, to human rights…
Can you tell us a little bit more about your research and discernment process for the LLM? Why this degree, specifically?
My first and only pick was Osgoode. I grew up in Toronto but went to law school at Bond University in Australia. I knew that I wanted to do my Masters at a credible institution – one that had a great reputation and would offer a large variety of courses. I’d taken OsgoodePD courses in the past for CPD hours. I always found that the courses were well done in terms of who was teaching, what the content was, accessibility, and diversity in terms of men, women, people of colour, etc. There were people from every backround and I loved that. Osgoode has the reputation and I loved that too. From my perspective, that was a big part of it. I knew my Masters would probably be through Osgoode.
What kind of expectations and concerns did you have? What did you discover upon actually beginning the degree?
My biggest concern was Covid related: everything being completely online. That was new to me. Working in government, I had formerly been in my office Monday to Friday. I worried how to juggle being online all day at work and then in the evenings too. But, the way the program is set up, it’s very conducive to online learning. You’re given the dates far in advance, and then there are gaps in-between when you can completely turn off. I like the structure of the program and the layout of it. I also like the variety of 3 day intensives or multi-week courses. You know how the course is run and can expect and can make plans.
I thought it would be difficult to meet people and make connections, but seeing the same people online in courses has made it easier. Everyone is online and is used to being online now. It’s all super conducive. I can sign onto class 5 minutes beforehand from my own environment. It’s not an extra trip to school.
[What’s more], everyone is doing this part-time, so we all have full-time jobs and full-time family obligations. I’ve had to ask for an extension before and everyone is understanding. They know you’re doing this on top of everything else going on in your life. Knowing that there’s flexibility makes it a lot easier and is another reason why I love this program.
What were you hoping to learn and how do you expect to apply it in your career either during the degree or upon completion of it?
I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the principles, policies, and laws that underline employment law. I wanted to bring those assets back to my current organization but also to be aware of the issues that are out there in the world, both internationally and locally. Then I can help my organization prepare for them as they come up. I’m also thinking of the future, [should I] switch roles or move organizations. I have the skills and a specialization that I can take with me. The program offers the theory of labour relations, the principles, and the practice. You get the past, the present, and potentially the future.
Tell us more about your student life. Have you made a solid network of friends / associates? How are the interactions between lawyers and non-lawyers?
It’s really interesting to be in a class with non-lawyers. It’s the first time I’ve engaged with professionals in a non-policing, non-legal capacity, including HR professionals in hospitals and student government professionals at universities. It’s interesting that the same labour issues that apply in policing apply across the board. It’s been eye-opening to see how they’re dealt with in other environments, and I have taken away lots of information and lessons from my class.
You can really become friends online. I have two colleagues that I email back and forth about assignments. We check in, ask how it’s going, ask if we’re finding it difficult…
Do you have a favourite class?
I did really like a class by John Craig: Contemporary Issues in Employment Regulation. The title speaks for itself – issues like whistle blowing and privacy, class actions. To me that was more hands on. As a lawyer, there were some interesting cases that we learned about. Learning from instructors who are in the profession, practicing it, living it, and doing it on a day-to-day basis is great.
What would you say to a prospective student?
I definitely think the program is worth it. Not only has it taught me a lot of information that I didn’t know before, but it’s broadened my understanding of labour relations and employment in a legal context. If you work in this area, or if you want to work in this area in the future, then this is the best way to learn and get that knowledge in a concise, condensed, and targeted program. And it’s manageable! That might be the key thing. I had a fear of how I’d juggle everything, but the way it’s laid out, the timing, the hours, the reading – it’s manageable and interesting and practical for my job. It’s like I blinked and I am already more than halfway done my program.
Is there anything more you’d like to add that we haven’t already covered?
My experience has been extremely positive. I notice myself applying things that I’ve learned in my everyday work environment. That’s a sign of success and true learning. The fact that some labour and employment issues have come up and I’ve been able to navigate them in a better way… the program is doing its job and I am doing mine!
Want to learn more about the Professional LLM in Labour Relations and Employment Law? Sign up for an Information Session!