July 6, 2022
Keeping an open mind is the key to adapting as a newcomer to Canada’s legal community, according to Christianah Adeyemi.
And she should know: the internationally-trained lawyer is licensed in Nigeria, but had never set foot in Canada before arriving to enrol in Osgoode’s Professional LLM in International Business Law in January 2021.
Barely a year on, Christianah was well on the way to becoming accredited in Ontario as she had already landed a legal job in Toronto. Christianah was hired as an immigration case manager for Farrell LLP, an affiliate of Deloitte – one of the world’s largest professional services firms.
“Immigration law is completely different to what I was doing back home. In Lagos, I mainly practised in commercial litigation, but when I came here, I wanted a different experience,” Christianah explains. “It has been eye-opening, but the transition was not really a problem, because I had already positioned my mind to be open to learning something different. Meanwhile, I’m building skills that will be relevant to my future in commercial litigation and arbitration.”
Ironically, Christianah’s choice of career is the one area in which she exhibited no flexibility at all, never wavering from her determination to become a lawyer after discovering a flair for advocacy at a very young age.
“I was that child who knew their rights or who would defend friends in discussions with adults,” she says. “I could be quite outspoken, but I liked just standing up for what was right.”
Following her graduation with an LLB from the University of Lagos, Christianah practised for several years in Nigeria, before seeking to broaden her horizons with an LLM.
Tempted by offerings in the U.K., Christianah ultimately opted for Osgoode, thanks in part to the flexibility of a program that allowed her to make a start on the National Committee on the Accreditation exams; a requirement that internationally trained lawyers need before qualifying to practise in Canada.
“It was like killing two birds with one stone,” Christianah says.
As well as adapting to her fresh surroundings and unfamiliar classmates, Christianah found that she had to develop new study habits over the course of her program, which is open to professionals from other industries in addition to law graduates.
“I wasn’t a fan before of group study – back home at university, I preferred to work on my own,” she says. “But after experiencing all the group activities here, I feel like I’m fully onboard! We had a very diverse group of classmates, so each person expressed themselves in their own way and we could all share ideas. It brought the material to life, and just reinforced the idea that I shouldn’t be so fixed or rigid in my thinking.”
Still, as she began her search for work post-graduation, Christianah wasn’t certain that Canadian employers would match her open-minded approach by taking a chance on an internationally trained lawyer.
But those fears were quickly dispelled when the positive responses began rolling in from local law firms: “Everyone wants an Osgoode grad,” Christianah says. “When I applied for my current role, I didn’t have much immigration law experience, but they were wiling to train me.”
“It’s always hard to learn something that you’re not familiar with, but if you’re mentally focussed, willing to learn and ready to put in the work, it makes things much easier,” she adds.
Want to learn more about the Professional LLM in International Business Law? Sign up for an Information Session!