Although two of my columns have already been posted on this blog, I never really officially introduced myself to the readers. As the youngest columnist in the Slaw family, I’d very much like to share my background and the road I travelled to date on my professional journey!
The Early Years
My story begins in the summer of 2002 when I left my family and moved to Montreal from Haiti to begin my postsecondary studies. I immediately enrolled to College Jean-de-Brébeuf and quickly developed a particular affinity for science and the law. This affinity for both those fields would stay with me throughout all my legal studies, as I always tried my best to unite them.
Following my college degree, I decided to pursue an LL.B. in law at the University of Québec in Montreal (UQAM). There is a very socialist mentality shared by a majority of students at UQAM; people are used to fighting for their rights. The latter fact may contribute to the “bad” reputation the school seems to unfortunately have within the legal community. The multiple strikes that have been started by UQAM students probably don’t help with their standing either! I was personally affected by one such strike during my freshman year at UQAM that lasted a good month. I’ll admit that I don’t remember much of anything from the classes I took during that semester, but besides that unfortunate event, I don’t understand why its law program isn’t as revered as other Canadian universities’. In fact, most of UQAM’s professors also teach at the University of Montreal and the Quebec Bar and are thus very well known in the legal community.
I had the opportunity to be taught by Me. Paul Martel, one of the most important figures in business law in both Canada and the US. Many other professors are also very experienced and even write for the Quebec Bar’s book collection (for example, Me Jean-Pierre Villaggi). I therefore have trouble understanding why UQAM law students are still considered to be less qualified than graduates from other universities.
To the best of my knowledge, UQAM graduate have a hard time snagging internships in Montreal’s top law firms. I find that reality very regrettable and I truly believe that the legal community should give UQAM students the opportunity to prove themselves; we have the same training as everyone else and statistics show that we sometimes even receive higher scores than other universities at the Bar!
The Quebec Bar Experience
In 2005, the Quebec Bar renovated their entire program (for the worse), changing the evaluation process from six open book exams to two closed book exams (at the end of a four month intensive program). There are now also three quizzes, worth 30 points, given throughout the four month period. I believe that several aspects of the program can and should be corrected. This opinion is shared by many, and is slowly being publicised; a recent article in the “24 heures” newspaper sheds some light on the dissatisfaction many students witness.
Nonetheless, my personal experience at the Quebec Bar was quite interesting as it was very stressful to have to adapt to a new way of learning in a very short period of time. For over than ten years, I had gotten use to a certain way of learning and filtering information in school. However, in less than a year (eight months for some (who chose to participate in the voluntary preparatory classes) and four months for others (which was my case)), I had to adapt to searching for information on a case by case basis, in order to complete exercises on topics that were sometimes new to me, which made it extremely difficult and confusing. I therefore certainly believe that Quebec Law schools should instate mandatory transitional classes, which will ease the process once at Bar, or perhaps the Bar should consider reviewing the certification system to better accommodate the student. The Bar shouldn’t fail or simply reject students so easily, but rather find a way to polish its training program and ensure that our knowledge doesn’t go to waste. I sincerely believe that the fact of having an LLB Diploma equates to being able and having the right to become a lawyer.
The Neverending Search for an Internship
The search for an internship has to be one of the longest roads I’ve taken in my life; it took what felt like forever to find one!
After having successfully completed the Quebec Bar in May 2008, I optimistically began my search for an internship. Many people suggested I accept any offer that came along seeing how the main goal was to be done with it and finally be a lawyer. However, it was far more important for me to find an articling position that met my standards and involved the fields of law I am interested in. After all, an internship should do just that, i.e. help you learn and prepare you for the field in which you want to specialize.
As time passed and I couldn’t find the right internship, I managed to complete both a masters in Common Law and Transnational Law at the University of Sherbrooke, as well as a DESS in Business Law at the University of Montreal. Not for nothing, I wanted those degrees under my belt because I think in this globalized world, and more specifically in Canada where there are two legal systems, a business law lawyer must be open minded and able to offer the best complete information to his/her clients.
After two years of searching, and after completing two degrees, I finally found an articling position at the Ministère du Revenu du Quebec in June 2010. I’m working in the department of interpretation of Quebec’s tax law, where I have the opportunity to use all my knowledge. When I started, I was able to ask that I work on assignments and files in intellectual property, which is an area of law in which I’d like to specialize. I finally have the opportunity to work in something I love and enjoy. Someone once told me that good things come to those who wait; when you are sure of what you want to do with your life, taking whatever comes first should never be the option!