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cbee

What kind of law should I practice if I want to help people AND travel the world?

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These positions exist, at least in a limited sense of what you describe above (e.g. working internationally on public interest law/policy), but they are very rare, and many of them may be one off opportunities (e.g. a young lawyers grant from CBA to work in other countries). If your reason for going to law school is to land one of these positions, I'd seriously re-evaluate your plan. It's much more likely you'll end up working in Canada in some capacity, or just a disgruntled person with a JD. 

 

Now, if this is just one outcome amongst many that you want, then by all means start working towards that goal. Very high grades from good schools, as well as some relevant experience (internships, like the CBA thing mentioned above) are a good start.

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There are lawyers who travel internationally protecting oppressed corporations from evil government intervention and overreach. I know people who do this regularly for FCPA investigations. The countries are often very weird. I agree with ProfReader that this is less glamorous than it sounds though. Better to protect oppressed corporations here at home.

Edited by NYCLawyer
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There are lawyers who travel internationally protecting oppressed corporations from evil government intervention and overreach. I know people who do this regularly for FCPA investigations. The countries are often very weird. I agree with ProfReader that this is less glamorous than it sounds though. Better to protect oppressed corporations here at home.

Yeah, those corporations are so oppressed from government intervention that they've invented ways to sue government in international tribunals when they try to overreach (legislate, i.e do their job). How dare they!

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Yeah, those corporations are so oppressed from government intervention that they've invented ways to sue government in international tribunals when they try to overreach (legislate, i.e do their job). How dare they!

Each time a company stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of its shareholders, or strikes out against injustice, it sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

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Okay, I over-simplified, above. I think the OP (and other concerned people) have got a fair overview of the answers, as described. I just want to explain some of my bias and frustration, and then leave this alone if I can.

 

First, the OP has inadvertently put his thumb very close to the issue. Three posts ago he wrote "I figured the government might have some positions that would require a legal education that involved travel" and two posts ago he wrote "I thought there might be some government positions that would need a Canadian lawyer." Those are not the same thing, and there is a hell of a difference between asking about work that requires "legal education" and asking about work that requires "a lawyer."

 

So, I'll return to this in a moment. But first off, yes, I'm sure there are a very limited number of positions in the Canadian foreign service and what not that could, potentially, require either a legal education or a lawyer. And I'm also sure there are a very few limited and highly competitive positions in the UN and such that may be available to recent graduates. But it's almost impossible to overstate the importance of Hegdis' point, when it comes to international work and international agencies. While they may sometimes tap foreign talent to work in different places around the world, the whole point of bringing someone in from the other side of the world is to bring someone senior. Positions for recent graduates are so few and far between (and even then, tend to be badly compensated internships, etc.) exactly because someone with no practical experience is of limited value.

 

Let me ask a loaded and highly prejudicial question here. Let's say there's some organization in Kenya that needs to hire someone with legal training and credentials to do important work in the country. But they are hiring for an entry level position that needs no practical experience or background. What in the world would motivate them to hire a recent Canadian graduate vs. someone actually from Kenya? I mean, everyone here does realize that even the most impoverished and messed up nations in the world still have education systems that succeed in turning out graduates and professionals, right? So, based on knowing that, what have you got to offer an organization in Kenya, that would make them want you, beyond a whole wackload of Western privilege in various forms? Do you think privilege is a qualification they even want? Meanwhile, if they are willing to train someone from the ground up, wouldn't they want someone who will (a) likely stay, (b) understands the local culture, and © has credentials to work in Kenya as opposed to general skills that aren't even licensed there? On top of all of that, wouldn't an organization that believes in social justice prefer to offer an opportunity to someone local, who is trying to build a career, rather than provide you with an opportunity to be a social justice tourist in their country?

 

So, yeah. The point, above, is that someone senior from another nation may offer experience and background that no one local can provide. Someone new, however, just doesn't have anything they can't get locally, should get locally, and comes with added disadvantages they can avoid by hiring locally.

 

Contrast that with the point I'm about to make, and which presses on the distinction between "legal training" and "being a lawyer." As a licensed barrister and solicitor in Ontario, my standing before the courts of this province is practically a super power. I know it sounds ridiculous to speak of it in those terms, but it is. And this super power that I have allows me to help people in ways that I could never achieve without it, and which no one lacking this power can realistically accomplish. I can sign things no one else can sign, swear to things no one else can swear to, show up in court and have my word (as an officer of that court) carry great weight, schedule matters for trial, etc. etc. etc. And this is what I don't understand (and probably never will understand) about social justice tourists. Why in the world would you ever want to give up that power, and leave Canada, to help people somewhere else, when all you bring to the table in some other nation are good intentions, Western privilege, and broad theoretical knowledge? You aren't a lawyer there. You can't sign anything, swear to anything, appear anywhere, litigate anything, or for that matter even give legal advice to people. What use do you imagine you are, at that point?

 

This is why I go so crazy when I hear "social justice" and "law" and "I want to travel" in the same place all together. You really need to pick two, decide which are most important to you, and give up on the third. Because realistically, you can combine "social justice" and "travel" together by learning a skill that can be used anywhere in the world, and by bringing that skill to people who are otherwise badly under-served. You can combine "law" and "travel" (to some degree) by working in international trade and by doing the sort of work NYCLawyer is alluding to above. It's still competitive and hard to get into, but it exists, at least. And you can combine "social justice" and "law" right here in Canada, by getting called to the bar, obtaining your incredibly powerful credentials that allow you to help people in ways that no one else can, and by helping the people who need it right here.

 

I chose the third option. I can't easily understand, but I can respect, people who decide otherwise. Just be aware that looking for all three together is pretty unrealistic, and at best you're still just someone who went to law school, rather than a lawyer.

 

Good luck.

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So, I'll return to this in a moment. But first off, yes, I'm sure there are a very limited number of positions in the Canadian foreign service and what not that could, potentially, require either a legal education or a lawyer.

 

Just to quibble - DFATD jobs are not numerous or easy to get, but I would disagree with "very limited".  If someone had a strong desire to not just travel internationally, but to live a good portion of their life overseas, then it's a very rewarding career path.  I brought it up once in a similar thread and was scoffed at for saying that representing Canada's interests internationally was "social justice", but I would steadfastly maintain it is.

 

It's also a career path that does not require a JD, but I imagine one couldn't hurt.

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I brought it up once in a similar thread and was scoffed at for saying that representing Canada's interests internationally was "social justice", but I would steadfastly maintain it is.

 

I don't particularly disagree with you, speaking personally. I believe you can accomplish a lot of good through government service, and of course that includes foreign service. But then, I also know the way most people use "social justice" is meant to exclude working for the man. So while I may agree personally, I think if we give words, and even terms of art, their commonly accepted definitions then you probably run into problems.

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I don't particularly disagree with you, speaking personally. I believe you can accomplish a lot of good through government service, and of course that includes foreign service. But then, I also know the way most people use "social justice" is meant to exclude working for the man. So while I may agree personally, I think if we give words, and even terms of art, their commonly accepted definitions then you probably run into problems.

This tic of trying to redefine social justice strictly in terms of the establishment's interests is a truly weird Mitt Romney-esque forum subgenre. 

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This tic of trying to redefine social justice strictly in terms of the establishment's interests is a truly weird Mitt Romney-esque forum subgenre. 

 

I honestly don't know if you're replying to me as though you believe that's what I'm doing, or replying to MP whom I was replying to, or what. But I think in either case you're pretty far off.

 

I don't believe I'm trying to redefine social justice at all. I more-or-less accept that "social justice" means something specific, if fuzzy, in the minds of the people who use the term and trying to pretend it means something other than what most people mean when they say it is stupid. I also don't know if there's a wider context to what you're saying here and if you disagree that I practice "social justice" much of the time as a criminal defence lawyer. Since I don't know if you mean that, I'll leave it alone for now. But that problem goes to the fuzziness of the term as I alluded above. My job is social justice when you like what I do (as when I defend some mentally ill client who may be factually guilty but sympathetic in his circumstances) but not social justice when you don't like what I do (as when I defend some unsympathetic guy accused of sexual assault, even if he has a very strong defence of honest but mistaken belief in consent). And see what I just did there? I'm reasonably sure, when I set up the contrast that way, that more people would agree I'm engaged in social justice when I'm defending a guilty person than when I'm defending an innocent person. So despite not getting all the way into it, I'll just say that many people who think they have a firm grasp of what "social justice" really means are very easily led astray, when confronted with the complexities of the real world.

 

I also don't believe MP is attempting to redefine social justice, though I'll leave it to him to reply.

 

Where you are far off, in either case, is in your introduction of the term "strictly." While I'll agree that many people, myself included, are willing to stretch and problematize the definition of "social justice," there isn't a one of us trying to claim it or exclude what anyone else means when they use it. So how are we trying to define it "strictly" in terms of anything? If you want to say that walking around barefoot in the streets of Calcutta trying to find a child prostitute to save while working for an NGO that has refused to take even dime of government money and which is fully funded through donations made by producers of fair trade coffee working within a collective somewhere in South America ... well, fine. That IS social justice. At the same time, I wonder why some people (and I'm not even sure if that includes you, at the moment) believe that as soon as anything is organized through the mechanisms of government it becomes inherent unjust. I mean, it's one thing to disagree with what government is doing, and to distrust a particular administration. It's another thing to reject even the concept of government, and to believe that any action, taken collectively, becomes suspect as soon as it's organized through the establishment. I mean, it requires a pretty dim view of humanity to presume that so few people can be trusted to be decent, that as soon as any activity becomes too mainstream it must also be corrupt, and that only a select few, acting outside the mainstream, can remain pure.

 

Anyway, feel free to clarify whatever it is you meant.

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"Social justice" is such a loaded term these days.

 

On the left, it's meant to connote a series of very political left-wing, identity-politics, positions.  On the right, it's meant to be anything that the left does they don't agree with.

 

I think I meant it simply as "work that leaves the world a better place", or "work that makes a tangible difference in people's lives".  And I think working overseas, helping to assist refugees in coming to Canada, helping to promote international development programs... that makes a tangible difference in people's lives.

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I think some of these threads - and this is not a knock on the OP - could be retitled "I basically want to be Amal Clooney. How can I go about doing that?"

 

And that is a cool life goal, and completely legitimate, but it is about as specialized as saying "I want to be Chris Hadfeild, how can I make that happen?"

 

So the replies vary but I think revisiting the question is the best way to go about achieving a real answer.

 

I wish I could like this far more times. But I can't, so I'm just quoting it for emphasis.

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I think some of these threads - and this is not a knock on the OP - could be retitled "I basically want to be Amal Clooney. How can I go about doing that?"

 

And that is a cool life goal, and completely legitimate, but it is about as specialized as saying "I want to be Chris Hadfeild, how can I make that happen?"

 

So the replies vary but I think revisiting the question is the best way to go about achieving a real answer.

 

"I basically want to be Amal Clooney. How can I go about doing that?"

 

Anybody. 

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"I basically want to be Amal Clooney. How can I go about doing that?"

 

Anybody.

I bet it's the same answer for all professional schools:

 

1) Go to professional school, be at or near the top of your class.

 

2) Complete your articling/residence/other professional school accrediting process. Be at or near the top of your cohort in your firm/hospital/workplace.

 

3) Go into private practice/work for the government/be in house at a Fortune 500 company.

 

4) Be the best, or near the best, at what you do for an extended period of time.

 

5) Now that you are successful and making boatloads of money, take a huge pay cut to work near pro bono for the UN/MSF/NGO.

 

6) Be at or near the best in this until you die/retire/meet George Clooney.

Edited by BlockedQuebecois
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Yeah, look. The Amal Clooney reference made me harken back to a time I kind of went apeshit (with some justification) on a would-be law student who was asking what he should do in like, 1L, if he wanted to become a judge. And I realize there's actually a species of problem that includes the judge thing, the Amal Clooney thing, and even to a degree the "making partner" thing in a major Bay Street firm, as well as some other lesser examples.

 

Basically, there are roles in the legal profession which simply aren't entry level jobs. You don't apprentice into those jobs, you don't look for a judge-in-training position after graduation any more than you look for an Amal-Clooney-in-training position after law school. You just don't. You start somewhere else, doing something else, and if you're very fortunate, and very good, and work very hard, maybe you end up there one day. But there's no one path, there's definitely no sure path, and what you do in the meanwhile probably doesn't look like the eventual end goal you are fantasizing about.

 

Honestly, it's like if someone asked how they go about becoming a major international movie star. Try to tell them to take acting classes, audition for television commercials, extra parts, do some community theatre ... and what's the reply? I don't want to be in commericals or do any pissy community theatre ... I want to be a movie star!!  Well, guess what? The next Amal Clooney is far more likely to be doing unglamorous, criminal defence work in one little nation (potentially even Canada) than working at some entry level position in the UN or pursuing some kind of internship in an NGO or some damn thing. She is a lawyer first and foremost, and before she became a kind of international advocate she actually honed legal skills. Do you really think you can do that in a country where you can't even practice law? See my answer above.

 

It's not impossible that Marie Henein could take on some of the kind of work that Amal Clooney does. But she didn't start international - she grew her practice right here in Canada. And she didn't start out as a high profile criminal defence lawyer either. She started out the way any of us start out. So, you really want a path that's at least a credible direction towards becoming Amal Clooney? Fine. To be the next Amal Clooney you want to be the next Marie Henein first. And to be the next Marie Henein, first, you want to be ... well, the next me. Not to say I'm going to succeed the way she has. But at one point her practice looked like mine does now.

 

No one starts out as a movie star. The way you pay your dues to move your career in that direction looks very little like the end goal. And the way you become an international human rights advocate is not by apprenticing as an international human rights advocate and then graduating to become one. You work as an advocate on low level, unheralded, unglamorous, local cases. And then if you're very good, and work very hard, and get very lucky ... maybe one day.

 

But yeah. One last dig. If you honestly can't give enough of a fuck about the conditions of the poor and marginalized living right next door beside you, and you only find social justice issues to be inspiring and worthy of your time and talents if you get to fly around the world being important and getting attention and accolades for your work ...well then, you probably shouldn't be doing it anyway.

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But yeah. One last dig. If you honestly can't give enough of a fuck about the conditions of the poor and marginalized living right next door beside you, and you only find social justice issues to be inspiring and worthy of your time and talents if you get to fly around the world being important and getting attention and accolades for your work ...well then, you probably shouldn't be doing it anyway.

My problem with some "social justice warriors" is that they seem to be picturing themselves only fighting the "sexy", high-profile injustices you see on the news.

 

I can only hope that this is a problem of exposure (like wanting to be an actor after seeing only blockbusters) and when they discover how many shitty little injustices people in their community suffer through every day, they would be content to fight those battles too. Being evicted from your apartment in a neighbourhood undergoing gentrification is certainly not a big issue, but it means the world to the people living in an area they call home that they won't be able to afford anymore.

 

For the record though, I was kidding about Amal Clooney. There's nothing she has that I really want, except perhaps the ability to gestate two humans at once - that seems nifty.

Edited by kiamia
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I know someone working overseas with the UN for an international tribunal into war crimes. That kind of fits the bill? Take some international law courses if your school offers any. Don't limit yourself to solicitor type courses which are extremely jurisdiction in nature. Like, Ontario insurance law has zero application internationally, for example. Most importantly get amazing grades. These jobs literally go to the top people from around the globe.

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For the record though, I was kidding about Amal Clooney. There's nothing she has that I really want, except perhaps the ability to gestate two humans at once - that seems nifty.

Though she doesn't have anything I "need", if given the opportunity to be one of the best lawyers in the world, fabulously rich, married to one of the most attractive members of the opposite gender, and having my name be near synonymous with "saving the world" I certainly would consider it.

 

As a male the ability to gestate two humans at once seems unnecessary, though admittedly efficient.

Edited by BlockedQuebecois
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