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Internationally trained lawyers one step closer to practising

Graduates of innovative program represent 17 countries

Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Charles Sousa cuts the congratulatory cake with 2012 ITLP graduates (Photo courtesy of the Faculty of Law)

Almost 50 students from 17 countries around the world are now one step closer to achieving their dream: to practise law in Ontario.

With friends and family snapping photos and cheering them on the 2012 graduates of the Faculty of Law’s groundbreaking Internationally Trained Lawyers Program (ITLP) picked up their certificates of completion at a ceremony at U of T’s Faculty Club.

 “We want to contribute our legal talents to our new country. All we want is a chance to do it—and we will certainly deliver,” said Dinah Bal, ITLP graduate 2012 and valedictorian.

Bal passed the Philippine bar in 1999, and is now living in Toronto with her spouse and three children, sometimes only getting three hours of sleep a night, while working a full-time job and studying for her National Committee of Accreditation (NCA) exams.

Now entering its third year, the ITLP is an innovative bridging program for lawyers and law students trained abroad and now living in Ontario. It provides academic and career-related courses that address the unique needs of this international group of lawyers, and includes a professional internship to help them gain critical Canadian experience.

Bal called the placements “golden opportunities” to work on Bay St. and at the Ministry of the Attorney-General, where she landed a paid summer job, based on her MAG internship.

Walter Ojok, born in Gulu, northern Uganda, has passed all his NCA challenge exams, and is registered to write his licencing exams in June. Like many ITLP students, Ojuk came here looking for a new life, but faced many challenges to pursuing his law career. During his studies, he still supported his family and siblings back home in Uganda, as their sole breadwinner. He hopes to be a criminal lawyer in Canada, and is currently exploring several articling options. ( View the CBC News story here, starting at 19:27.)

The graduation ceremony included congratulatory addresses from OMNI TV broadcaster and diversity promoter Angie Seth, and from Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Charles Sousa, whose ministry is one of the major funders of the program.

"We need your knowledge, we need your skills and we need your talents so that Ontario can compete in today’s global economy," said Sousa, who told the graduates that Ontario has more than 100 professional bridging programs, more than any other province.

Some ITLP graduates have already landed contract positions with law firms or government agencies. But without the funding from the Ontario and federal governments for this program, “our dreams would have remained on hold indefinitely,” said Bal.

For more information about the U of T program, read The Globe and Mail coverage here.