FMC Law: 2009 IS Award Winner: CBC Toronto Vision Award for Immigrant Inclusion

The schools you attended, where you’ve worked and who you know can make all the difference in the legal profession. It’s never easy, and if your education, experience and contacts are in another country, it’s nearly impossible.

In recognizing the limited opportunities for internationally trained lawyers (ITL), Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC) established a groundbreaking Legal Professional Internship. The goal of the six-month paid internship was to provide candidates with relevant knowledge, skills and experience that would enable a successful transition into a professional Canadian law career.

“This program was driven by FMC’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness,” says Chris Pinnington, FMC’s Chief Executive Officer. “As a result of its success, we are in the process of rolling out the program in our other five offices across the country.”

Building on the FMC experience, the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law has developed a legal bridging program, with the support of FMC, TRIEC and others. The Internationally Trained Lawyers (ITL) program will include academic and career-related courses, as well as internships and will support close to 50 candidates starting in May 2010.

“FMC laid the groundwork for important change in the legal profession,” notes Mayo Moran, Dean, UofT Faculty of Law. “They took the initiative, and have become ambassadors, reaching out to other firms to welcome immigrants to the profession and assist their transition – ideally by taking on an intern.”

For Amrit Soar, FMC’s first legal intern, the internship was instrumental in bridging the gap between her background and the situation she faced as a new immigrant in 2007. According to a recent report from Statistics Canada, law admitted the least number of internationally trained candidates of any regulated profession in 2006. Despite Soar’s law degree and twenty years’ experience in Kenya, opportunities to practice in Canada were few.

At FMC, she spent time in key practice areas, learned Canadian legal codes and culture, and accompanied colleagues in client meetings and court appearances.

“FMC also has personal and professional development programs that helped me gather valuable information, experience and insight into the legal system here,” says Soar.

Thanks to FMC’s initiative, for Soar and the next generation of immigrant lawyers, the future is bright with possibilities.