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- ITL Series: Christine’s Story
For as long as Christine Little can remember she has always had the desire to travel and a passion for law. When the opportunity to combine the two came along, Christine accepted it. This ultimately led her on an unexpected detour on the path to becoming an Alberta lawyer.
After earning her undergraduate degree from the University of Calgary, Christine worked as a legal assistant in Calgary to ensure that a career in law was something she wanted to pursue. She applied to seven law schools in Canada before heading off to Venezuela to teach English. When Christine didn’t hear back from any of the schools, she learned that there had been some clerical issues with her transcripts and none of her applications were considered complete. This setback led her to consider an opportunity to attend the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.
“Eventually I came across an article and decided that going away to school in the UK was something that looked good to me and I had full intentions of pursuing European Union studies over there and not really coming back,” explained Christine.
While she enjoyed going to school and living in the United Kingdom, Christine determined that she wanted to come back Calgary and began to investigate what it would take to return home and practise law.
“I had talked to a couple people before I left [for the UK] about coming back and got rather flippant answers that I would just have to write a couple of exams and, no problem, I could come back,” recalled Christine.
After being filled in about the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) process, articling and CPLED requirements, Christine faced the reality that it might not be as easy as she once thought.
Once arriving back on North American soil, Christine hit the ground running and completed the seven NCA exams she was assessed in 10 months. Acknowledging that she had the support of friends and family, Christine sympathizes with those who have to undertake the exams on their own.
“It can be a rather isolating process if you haven’t reached out and met other people along the way.”
She also counts herself as one of the lucky ones in her search for articles. The lawyer whom she was working for as a legal assistant prior to leaving for the UK took her on as an articling student. She also made connections by temping at different law firms while writing her NCA exams so she was able to find the secondments necessary to round out her articles.
All said and done, Christine graduated from law school in June 2011 and was called to the Alberta Bar in May 2014.
“I can’t say I regret going overseas. I think I would have regretted it if I didn’t. I would always be wondering if I should be living in Europe right now but now I can say that Canada is home and I want to be here.”
So what advice does Christine have to pass along to other Canadian students who may be considering law school abroad or returning home?
“Consider finding a summer job somewhere here and making Canadian connections. Always remember that at some point you are going to have to justify why you went abroad. There is still a rather largely held view in the profession that you went away because you weren’t smart enough to get into law school here and you lack that academic acumen to make it in Canadian law school. You will have to have some answers prepared for why you went and what your education was like.”
After starting her own family law firm, Christine now maintains a busy case load.