August 16, 2019
Tell us about your professional journey before coming to Canada and pursuing your LLM?
I graduated from the International Law Faculty of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in 2015. Literally 3 days after graduating, I took on a three-month contract at a full-service firm in its intellectual property practice, mainly dealing with trademark and licensing files. I had summered with that firm and I had known since the third year (out of four) of law school that I loved intellectual property law. However, I wanted to broaden my experience and skillset, so after my contract was up, I took a job with the legal department of the Government of Moscow, doing legislative drafting and review. I worked there until I left for Canada in June 2016.
What were some of the best/key experiences you had during your LLM studies at OsgoodePD that has helped you get where you are today?
Definitely my summer internship through Osgoode at Jones & Co. Apart from that being my first Canadian job experience, it bloomed into a longstanding relationship and friendship. Upon my call to the bar in June, I rejoined the firm on a permanent basis as a lawyer.
While all my instructors were all-around amazing, supportive and very knowledgeable, I would like to give it up to David Mangan, my instructor for the Canadian Law of Obligations. He made an incredibly dense crash course into contract and tort law of Canada not only palatable but highly enjoyable. He challenged us but was always patient and happy to chat and answer any questions during the break and after class. In a very short time, he gave me a solid base to build my knowledge. Although I was simultaneously working full-time during my summer internship and I had classes three times a week, I did not miss a single one of his classes.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge that Osgoode gave me a community. When I came to Canada, I had no family here and I knew no one. Today, all my family members are still back in Russia, but I have found my adoptive Canadian “family” – my circle of friends. Most of my friends are my former classmates. We are each other’s champions and mentors, a support network that comes together whenever one of us needs help. I cannot overestimate the importance of having such people in my life.
What are some of your proudest moments to date?
Before I began articling with the Ministry of the Attorney General, I never thought I could ever be a litigator, period, let alone being an English-as-a-Second-Language practitioner in Canada. While I am fully bilingual, somehow I thought that me being an ESL would inevitably make me a worse barrister than my native-English-speaking peers. 9 months later, I regularly ran busy provincial offense courts, conducted trials and appeared for Ministry on motions and appeals. I also got the opportunity to draft a factum for a Divisional Court matter, which was decided in favour of the Ministry. Doing all of this and receiving positive feedback from both my supervising lawyer and members of the judiciary, gave my confidence an incredible boost.
What advice would you give to current students of the LLM in Canadian Common Law?
Firstly, and I know I am going to sound like a broken record because you will have been told this umpteen times: network, network, then network some more. Make friends, go to professional social events together. Meet more people, make more friends, and learn from them. Do not hesitate to ask for advice or help: most of us are happy to pay it forward to a new colleague, and the worst you will get is a no – although that has personally never happened to me.
Secondly, getting Canadian legal experience boosts your resume exponentially. If you can, do a summer student internship or work part-time for a lawyer during the school year. I know how demanding your studies are – but the grind now will make it so much easier for you in the long term.
Last but not least, I want to remind everyone that we are our worst enemies, and to ask each of you reading this to never think less of any of your accomplishments. Do not see your international background as a disadvantage. It is actually your edge – in the shifting social landscape embracing inclusivity and diversity, you bring to the table not only your professional experience but your unique perspective on the world. Globalization is also your friend: some firms may have clients from your home country or looking to expand there. The fact that you have made this journey here to Canada, to Osgoode, already shows that you are a strong, persevering, hard-working person and that any employer will be lucky to have you.
I am glad to welcome you in the Canadian legal community and I wish you the best of luck in all your endeavours!
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Yulia Vasilyeva is currently a lawyer at Jones & Co.