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While moving to a new country is often considered a fresh start, for Nick Bryanskiy that start was a little too fresh.
His family immigrated to Canada from Russia in 2005 and, after visiting his family in 2006, Nick decided to join them.
“I came here with the idea that I would become a lawyer overnight and that didn’t happen.”
Being from a civil law jurisdiction, Nick enrolled in a five year law program at age 17. After graduation, he completed two Masters Degrees in Europe and worked at the European Court of Human Rights before relocating to Canada.
While Nick was already aware that his civil law degree wouldn’t equate to anything, he thought that his experience and additional education might buy him some credit.
“So I spoke with the NCA and the answer was no. I decided to bite the bullet and take the [law] program at the University of Victoria,” said Nick.
“I just became a standard Canadian student: LSAT, law school, student loans.”
Nick put his Canadian legal education on fast track by taking classes through the summer months, leading him to graduate in 2009. For Nick, law school was a breeze compared with the process of finding articles.
“Halfway through law school I started to stress out about finding articling positions, just like every other Canadian student.”
After sending out hundreds upon hundreds of applications to law firms in Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary, Nick was discouraged when he only received a few interview opportunities.
“It was probably the most challenging experience of my life; the most uncomfortable. Being in a room of hundreds of would-be articling students competing for two positions.”
With no articling offer or prospect in sight, Nick reluctantly made the decision to take a job opportunity that surfaced Europe. But then it happened.
While boarding the plane, Nick received a phone call from a law firm who had an articling student decline their offer and he was the next in line for the position. Nick accepted and officially became a member of the Alberta Bar in 2011.
Looking back, Nick acknowledges that if he could do it all again, he would have approached his search for articles with a different strategy.
“Don’t look for an articling position, look for relationships. Look to get out there and meet people and find those that you click with. That’s how you get a placement. My mistake was to send out hundreds and hundreds of paper applications. The market is really competitive and you are competing against thousands of Canadian students who have just got out of school. It’s their first language, they know people in town and they have Canadian experience. What you can do is go out there and meet people.”
Nick himself has volunteered with Calgary Legal Guidance for over three years and strongly recommends that ITLs get involved in similar ways. He believes it supports networking, legal experience and giving back to the community.
“In Russia, I never appreciated what it means to be a lawyer and what you can achieve with that. The amount of volunteering that Canadian lawyers do and that the Law Society encourages them to do is just amazing,” remarked Nick. “You actually become a professional with a capital P.”
After gaining valuable experience and understanding of the inner workings of the Alberta legal community, Nick has since ventured out on his own focusing on corporate and regulatory energy law.