First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of law graduates who have pursued, or are pursuing, a post-graduate course (LL.M. or otherwise) from different universities across the world.
In this edition, Ishan Arora talks about his experience with Fleming College’s Paralegal program. A law graduate of Sardar Patel University (Class of ’17), Ishan worked for roughly one year before taking up the paralegal course. In this interview, he talks about the benefits of the course, working as a paralegal in Canada, and his plans for the future.
The paralegal course is an interesting choice to make – did you consider an LLM as well?
Yes, I did consider L.L.M., but due to time constraints in the application process, the paralegal program was the most worthwhile option. The unanticipated advantages of the program are too numerous to mention. For an instance, I was able to understand the client perspective from the entry level of Canadian Justice system.
As a consequence of the Community College delivery model, I was immediately integrated with my fellow students in group-work that requires one to establish and maintain relationships across cultural boundaries. To be an international thinker, you have to present an international perspective. The Ontario college curriculum design is focused on producing graduates with immediately transferrable skills. Practical application is as important to successful completion as a good theoretical foundation is.
“The Ontario college curriculum design is focused on producing graduates with immediately transferrable skills. Practical application is as important to successful completion as a good theoretical foundation is.”
The duty of the litigator (be they paralegal or a lawyer), to act as the interface between the civil service and the client, is of primary importance. More than half of cases fall under the scope of paralegal practice, such as quasi-criminal, tribunals, and small claims courts that help an individual to get more opportunity.
How did you go about selecting where to apply, and what got you to narrow down on the Paralegal course at Fleming?
My priority was to take admission in Ontario, because The Law Society of Ontario is the only body that regulates lawyers and paralegal across Ontario. Fleming is one of a number of colleges which offer the same type of program across Ontario. However, Fleming offers an accelerated diploma program with a January intake, which helped me to finish my academic course of study in 16 months.
The program also has mandatory requirement of 160 hours of field placement, which is very beneficial to gain more practical experience. It also opens the choice of dual diploma; if the student wants to also enrol in the Law Clerk program, they have to attend the college for only one more semester to earn an extra diploma.
“The program also has mandatory requirement of 160 hours of field placement, which is very beneficial to gain more practical experience. It also opens the choice of dual diploma; if the student wants to also enrol in the Law Clerk program, they have to attend the college for only one more semester to earn an extra diploma.”
My consideration was more toward cultural acclimatisation and gaining the experience of diverse culture, so Fleming was the best option for me.
Any advice on how to go about the application process?
Application process is not very complex as compare to the university program. These types of skill development programs are covered under the Student Partnership program popularly known as SPP. I applied for January intake in August and received my college offer letter in September.
Application fees vary by college, but there were no application fees for Fleming, when I applied. I would also recommend making a very strong SoP which does not only indicate about your skills but also how you correlate with your program. Both Canada and India are common law countries, so you have to justify how this program is going to be beneficial for you.
Did you apply for/receive financial aid of any kind?
There is no option to apply for Financial aid when you apply for the admission. However, once you are enrolled in college, you may be eligible for bursaries, awards and/or scholarships, based on academic or other considerations.
How has the course been thus far? What aspects have you particularly enjoyed?
As I was enrolled in January intake, I successfully completed my studies. But I would say, I was not only academically oriented, but also open to establishing social ties. Cultural confidence is directly correlated with professional effectiveness. I did my internship at Peterborough Community legal centre, funded by Legal Aid Ontario which helped me to gain more pragmatic experience.
I was able to understand how to conduct client intake interviews, ethical obligations in the legal field, and experience in tribunals.
When I was in law college, I had participated in presenting research papers and moot court competition which helped me to gain confidence and enhance my interpersonal skills. I was able to apply the foundational skills developed in law college and so legal research and advocacy were easily adopted to Canadian setting.
Early days, but have you thought about how you will be using this course to find further employment?
I would say, I had the leverage of a law degree which makes me a different and strong candidate compared to having only the diploma in paralegal. Also interacting with a broad range of community helps for maximising networking with people both potential colleagues and clients.
“I had the leverage of a law degree which makes me a different and strong candidate compared to having only the diploma in paralegal. Also interacting with a broad range of community helps for maximising networking with people both potential colleagues and clients.”
Canada has very flexible immigration policies and there are lot of international students coming from across the world, and the majority are from South Asia. So, regarding that, knowledge of multiple languages enhances my opportunities. Further, I am planning to write my licensing exam for Paralegal (P1 license) which will help me to litigate in court and tribunals as per my scope of practice.
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who may be considering higher studies outside the country?
Never stop believing in yourself. If you are really planning to study abroad then start preparing yourself. Start working under the lawyer, even if it is volunteering work, because you would be able to know that basic things you learned can make the difference.
You should be prepared of being independent because you have to balance your quotidian part of life while working part time. Start approaching people; I was fortunate enough to make friends from other justice programs in Fleming like Custom Border Services, Police Foundation and Community and Justice Services and keep updated about their programs.
This field is more about networking and research oriented, so would only suggest never stop researching and keep yourself up to date.