Genuineness and Primary Purpose – The Disjunctive Test – Section 4(1) of the Regulations

Regulation 4(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (“IRPR“) state that:

4. (1) For the purposes of these Regulations, a foreign national shall not be considered a spouse, a common-law partner or a conjugal partner of a person if the marriage, common-law partnership or conjugal partnership

(a) was entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring any status or privilege under the Act; or

(b) is not genuine.

There has been developing jurisprudence on the disjunctive nature of IRPR r. 4(1), including a recent Federal Court certified question on whether IRPR 4(1)(a) is ultra vires the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA“), which provides that:

The objectives of this Act with respect to immigration are to see that families are reunited in Canada.

Continue reading “Genuineness and Primary Purpose – The Disjunctive Test – Section 4(1) of the Regulations”


Financial Requirements to Sponsor Family Members

People wishing to sponsor family members to immigrate to Canada generally have to meet numerous requirements.  These include, but are not limited to:

  • Not be subject to a removal order;
  • Not be detained in any penitentiary, jail, reformatory, or prison;
  • Not be in default in respect of any previous undertaking;
  • Not be an undischarged bankrupt;
  • Not be in receipt of social assistance other than for a disability; and
  • Meet the minimum necessary income requirements.

The Minimum Income Requirement

The financial requirement for sponsors is necessary to ensure that sponsors can support their sponsorees for the duration of their sponsorship undertaking.  People sponsoring spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners, or dependent children are exempted from this requirement.

For all other family sponsorship applications, the sponsor’s income must meet the minimum necessary income requirement as identified annually by Statistics Canada in Low Income Cut Off levels (“LICO”).  The sponsor must meet the cut-off to support all members of a sponsor’s own family, the sponsored person, and the sponsored person’s family members.  This includes non-accompanying family members.

The current LICO rates for 2011 outside of Quebec are:

Size of Family Unit LICO
1 person (sponsor) $22,229
2 people $27,674
3 people $34,022
4 people $41,307
5 people $46,850
6 people $52,838
7 people $58,827
Each additional person $5,989

Excluded from these amounts include, amongst other things, any amounts paid to the sponsor under the Employment Insurance Act, other than special benefits.

The spouse or common-law partner of a sponsor may co-sign an undertaking to help meet income requirements by pooling resources.  Other family members may not co-sign.  A co-signer must meet the same requirements and are subject to the same bars as the sponsor.  They assume the same obligations as the sponsor and become jointly and severally or solidary liable if there is default.

Pursuant to OB 324, and resulting from the Federal Court’s decision in Dokaj v. Canada, where a family member is added to the sponsor’s family during the processing of a sponsorship application, then the changes to both the size of the family unit and the family’s income must be considered where the additional family member is a spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner who becomes a co-signer.

Changes in Circumstances

It is extremely important to note that rule 133(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations requires that a sponsor has to be in compliance with the income requirements from the day on which the application is submitted until the day on which a decision is made on the application.

Accordingly, a co-signer may not be added to the sponsorship application if the sponsorship was already assessed and at that assessment, the sponsor failed to meet the sponsorship requirements.

Summary of When a Co-Signer can be Added to an Existing Sponsorship Application

The following is from OB 324, and offers a useful summary for when co-signers can be added to existing sponsorship application.  It also demonstrates how rule 133(1) of the Regulations are interpreted.

  1. In all cases, the sponsor must have met all sponsorship eligibility requirements at the initial sponsorship assessment.
  2. In all cases, a co-signer may not be added after a negative (Not Met) recommendation has been rendered on the initial assessment.
  3. In all cases, a co-signer may not be added after a negative (Not Met) recommendation has been rendered on a reassessment.
  4. CPC-M will add a co-signer after the initial assessment, even if the sponsor did not choose to include the co-signer at initial filing of the sponsorship application, as long as the sponsor met the original financial assessment and all other eligibility requirements on his own.
  5. If the sponsor is given the opportunity to add a co-signer following a change in circumstances and chooses not to do so and a negative recommendation is rendered, on a reassessment, the sponsor cannot then request to add a co-signer.
  6. Although the facts in the Dokaj case were specific to the sponsorship of parents, the re-interpretation of the regulations, allowing the addition of the co-signer after filing, will apply to all family class categories where the financial test is applicable.

 


The Parent & Grandparent Sponsorship Program

With the incoming Liberal government of Canada promising to double the number of applications in the Parent & Grandparent Sponsorship Program (the “PGSP“) there will likely be renewed interest in the program.

Under the PGSP, Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their foreign national parents and grandparents.  Sponsors must sign an undertaking with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (“CIC“) or with the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion for those in Quebec.  The undertaking ensures that the sponsored individuals and their family members do not have to apply for social assistance. The length of undertaking in the PGSP is 20 years.

As per the CIC website, sponsors must:

  • be 18 years of age or older;
  • be a Canadian citizen, Registered Indian or permanent resident;
  • be sponsoring their parents or grandparents;
  • live in Canada;
  • sign an undertaking promising to provide for the basic requirements of the person being sponsored;
  • sign an agreement with the person theyare sponsoring; and
  • prove that they have sufficient income.  Co-signers are permissible.

In 2015, the minimum income requirements were.

Federal Income Table for Parents and Grandparents Sponsorship
Size of Family Unit Minimum Income
2013
Minimum Income
2012
Minimum Income
2011
2 persons $37,708 $36,637  $35,976
3 persons $46,354 $45,040  $44,229
4 persons $56,280 $54,685  $53,699
5 persons $63,833 $62,023  $60,905
6 persons $71,991 $69,950  $68,689
7 persons $80,153 $77,879  $76,475
If more than 7 persons, for each additional person, add $8,148 $7,929  $ 7,786

Excluded from these amounts include, amongst other things, any amounts paid to the sponsor under the Employment Insurance Act, other than special benefits.

A Canadian citizen or permanent resident cannot be a sponsor if they:

  • are in receipt of social assistance for a reason other than disability;
  • are in default of an undertaking, an immigration loan, a performance bond, or family support payments;
  • are an undischarged bankrupt;
  • were convicted of an offence of a sexual nature, a violent criminal offence, an offence against a relative that results in bodily harm or an attempt or threat to commit any such offences—depending on circumstances such as the nature of the offence, how long ago it occurred and whether a pardon was issued;
  • are under a removal order; or
  • are detained in a penitentiary, jail, reformatory or prison.

Additional information on the PGSP can be found in the CIC internal processing instructions below.  Please note that these instructions were obtained through an Access to Information Act request, and their reproduction has not occurred with the affiliation of the federal government.  As well, they are current as of February 2014, although except for the minimum necessary income requirements were substantially accurate for 2015 as well.  The instructions include the following topics:

  • Duration of Undertakings
  • Co-Signers
  • Eligible Applicants and Dependants
  • Ineligible Dependants
  • Document Requirements
  • Document Deficiencies
  • Lock-in Dates
  • Visa Office Destination
  • Quebec Cases
  • Switching Principal Applicants
  • Settlement Arrangements
  • Calculating the Size of the Family Unit
  • Financial Assessment
  • Ineligible Types of Income
  • Notice of Assessment
  • Reassessments
  • Referrals to the Special Unit

 

 


The Minimum Necessary Income and Family Class Sponsorships

One of the requirements to being a sponsor in both the Family Class and the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class is that the sponsor must on the day that the application is submitted and until the application is assessed have a minimum necessary income.

For most types of family sponsorships, the income must be equal to the minimum necessary income, which is statutorily defined as being equal to Statistics Canada Low Income Cutoff (“LICO“). The current LICO requirements are as follows:

Size of Family Unit Minimum necessary income
1 person (the sponsor) $24,600
2 persons $30,625
3 persons $37,650
4 persons $45,712
5 persons $51,846
6 persons $58,473
7 persons $65,101
More than 7 persons, for each additional person, add $6,628

For sponsors seeking to sponsor their parents and/or grandparents, the income must be equal to the minimum necessary income plus 30% for each of the three consecutive taxation years immediately preceding the date of filing of the sponsorship application. The current requirements are as follows:

Federal Income Table for Parents and Grandparents Sponsorship
Size of Family Unit Minimum Income
2015
Minimum Income
2014
Minimum Income
2013
2 persons $38,618 $38,272 $37,708
3 persons $47,476 $47,051 $46,354
4 persons $57,642 $57,125 $56,280
5 persons $65,377 $64,791 $63,833
6 persons $73,733 $73,072 $71,991
7 persons $82,091 $81,355 $80,153
If more than 7 persons, for each additional person, add $8,358 $8,271 $8,148

Canadians seeking to sponsor their spouses or common-law partners do not need to have a minimum necessary income.

Excluded from these amounts include, amongst other things, any amounts paid to the sponsor under the Employment Insurance Act, other than special benefits.

Looking Beyond the Notices of Assessment

Visa officers must accept Canada Revenue Agency Notices of Assessment as proof of income when a sponsorship application is filed.

However, the Immigration Appeal Division (the “IAD”) can look beyond the Notice of Assessment.  In Motala v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2012 FC 123, the Federal Court stated that:

… the IAD has, as a consequence of its discretionary power to consider whether the grounds of inadmissibility had been overcome and hence whether special relief should be granted, the authority to require evidence corroborative of the income reported in the Notice of Assessment. The IAD is permitted to question the accuracy and veracity of certain financial documents submitted in support of sponsorship applications and to assign relative and proportionate evidentiary weight to them. I would observe, in closing, that this interpretation of the scope of the IAD jurisdiction is consistent with the objective of the Regulations as a whole, which are designed to ensure that those sponsored to come to Canada can in fact be provided for, and that the integrity of the sponsorship provisions of the IRPA is not eroded through inaccurate statements of income, whether deliberate or accidental.

In Dhaliwal v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2017 FC 191, the Federal Court affirmed a decision of the IAD where the IAD refused to accept as legitimate the income declared in a re-assessment that occurred between the visa office’s refusal of an application and the IAD hearing.


Ineligibility to Make a Refugee Claim

Section 101(d) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act states:

101. (1) A claim is ineligible to be referred to the Refugee Protection Division if

(a) refugee protection has been conferred on the claimant under this Act;

(b) a claim for refugee protection by the claimant has been rejected by the Board;

(c) a prior claim by the claimant was determined to be ineligible to be referred to the Refugee Protection Division, or to have been withdrawn or abandoned;

(d) the claimant has been recognized as a Convention refugee by a country other than Canada and can be sent or returned to that country;

(e) the claimant came directly or indirectly to Canada from a country designated by the regulations, other than a country of their nationality or their former habitual residence; or

(f) the claimant has been determined to be inadmissible on grounds of security, violating human or international rights, serious criminality or organized criminality, except for persons who are inadmissible solely on the grounds of paragraph 35(1)(c).

Serious criminality

(2) A claim is not ineligible by reason of serious criminality under paragraph (1)(f) unless

(a) in the case of inadmissibility by reason of a conviction in Canada, the conviction is for an offence under an Act of Parliament punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years and for which a sentence of at least two years was imposed; or

(b) in the case of inadmissibility by reason of a conviction outside Canada, the Minister is of the opinion that the person is a danger to the public in Canada and the conviction is for an offence that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an offence under an Act of Parliament that is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years.

Fear of Being Returned to Country of Asylum

In Farah v. Canada the Federal Court certified the following question of general importance.

As a matter of statutory interpretation, does ineligibility under s.101(1)(d) of IRPA include those who are making a refugee claim against the country that has recognized them as refugees?

The Federal Court answered that people who are making a refugee claim against the country that has recognized them as refugees are still ineligible to make a claim to the Refugee Protection Division.

It will be interesting to see how the Federal Court of Appeal rules.


The Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program

In March 2017 the Government of Canada created several programs to encourage immigration to Eastern Canada through the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (the “AIPP“).

The AIPP consists of the following three immigration programs.

  • Atlantic High-skilled Program (“AHSP“)
  • Atlantic Intermediate-skilled Program (“AISP“)
  • Atlantic International Graduate Program (“AIGP“)

In 2017 a maximum of 2,000 applications will be accepted, unless Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC“) decides to increase the cap.  Within the 2,000 cap, a maximum of 646 applications will be processed for people destined for New Brunswick, 792 applications applications will be submitted for people intending to live in Nova Scotia, 442 applications for Newfoundland and Labrador, and 120 applications for Prince Edward Island will be accepted for processing.

The main attractiveness of the program compared to federal immigration programs appears to be lower language requirements and the ability of people working in National Occupational Classification (“NOC“) C to participate.

Provincial Endorsements

In each of the programs listed above, applicants must receive provincial endorsement.

Provinces can only endorse individuals in support of applications for permanent residence made through the paper-based (non-Express Entry) process.Atlantic High-skilled Program.

The PEI designation process is described in detail here.

The Newfoundland designation process is described in detail here.

The New Brunswick designation process is described in detail here.

The Nova Scotia designation process is described in detail here.

Atlantic High-skilled Program

The AHSP is for foreign nationals who intend to reside in an Atlantic province who have the ability to become economically established in that province.

A person is eligible for the AHSP if at the time of their application for permanent residence:

  • they show that they have Canadian Language Benchmark 4 or higher in each of the four language skill areas (listening, reading, speaking and writing);
  • they hold either a Canadian educational credential or both a foreign diploma, certificate or credential and an equivalency assessment confirming the equivalency;
  • they have, in the preceding three years, accumulated at least one year of full-time work experience, or the equivalent in part-time work, in an occupation listed in Skill Type 0 Management Occupations or Skill Level A or B of the NOC matrix;
  • they have received from a recognized employer — that is, an employer that is designated by an Atlantic province in accordance with an immigration agreement to make employment offers — an offer of employment that (a) they are able to perform and likely to accept and carry out, (b) they meet the relevant employment requirements of the occupation as set out in the National Occupational Classification except for certification requirements in the case of regulated occupations and (c) (i) the offered employment is full-time, non-seasonal work having a duration of at least one year, and (ii) in an occupation that is listed in Skill Type 0 Management Occupations or Skill Level A or B of the NOC matrix;
  • they have been endorsed by an Atlantic province in accordance with an immigration agreement and they intend to reside in that province; and
  • in the case of a foreign national who is not already working in Canada, they have in the form of transferable and available funds, unencumbered by debts or other obligations, an amount equal to one eighth of the amount identified, in the most recent edition of the publication concerning low income cut-offs that is published by Statistics Canada under the Statistics Act for urban areas of residence of 500,000 persons or more, as the minimum amount of before-tax annual income necessary to support the foreign national and their family members, whether they are accompanying the foreign national or not.

If the foreign national is in Canada at the time of their application for permanent residence, they must have temporary resident status.

In order for the visa to be issued the offer of employment described above must still be valid or the foreign national must be occupying employment that meets same that is to last for a period of at least one year beginning on the day on which the permanent resident visa is issued.

As well, the endorsement referred to above must have been issued within the preceding six months and must not have been revoked by the issuing province.

Any periods of self-employment will not be included when calculating the period of qualifying work experience.

Work experience acquired during a period of study is allowed, as long as the work hours did not exceed what they were authorized to do.

Atlantic Intermediate-skilled Program

The AISP is for foreign nationals who intend to reside in an Atlantic province who have the ability to become economically established in that province.

A person is eligible for the AISP if at the time of their application for permanent residence:

  • they show that they have Canadian Language Benchmark 4 or higher in each of the four language skill areas (listening, reading, speaking and writing);
  • they hold either a Canadian educational credential or both a foreign diploma, certificate or credential and an equivalency assessment confirming the equivalency;
  • they have, in the preceding three years, accumulated at least one year of full-time work experience, or the equivalent in part-time work, in an occupation listed in Skill Type C of the National Occupational Classification matrix;
  • they have received from a recognized employer — that is, an employer that is designated by an Atlantic province in accordance with an immigration agreement to make employment offers — an offer of employment that (a) they are able to perform and likely to accept and carry out, (b) they meet the relevant employment requirements of the occupation as set out in the NOC except for certification requirements in the case of regulated occupations and (c) (i) the offered employment is full-time, non-seasonal work having a duration of at least one year, and (ii) in an occupation that is listed in Skill Type 0 Management Occupations or Skill Level A, B or C of the NOC matrix;
  • they have been endorsed by an Atlantic province in accordance with an immigration agreement and they intend to reside in that province; and
  • in the case of a foreign national who is not already working in Canada, they have in the form of transferable and available funds, unencumbered by debts or other obligations, an amount equal to one eighth of the amount identified, in the most recent edition of the publication concerning low income cut-offs that is published by Statistics Canada under the Statistics Act for urban areas of residence of 500,000 persons or more, as the minimum amount of before-tax annual income necessary to support the foreign national and their family members, whether they are accompanying the foreign national or not.

If the foreign national is in Canada at the time of their application for permanent residence, they must have temporary resident status.

In order for the visa to be issued the offer of employment described above must still be valid or the foreign national must be occupying employment that meets same that is to last for a period of at least one year beginning on the day on which the permanent resident visa is issued.

As well, the endorsement referred to above must have been issued within the preceding six months and must not have been revoked by the issuing province.

Any periods of self-employment will not be included when calculating the period of qualifying work experience.

Work experience acquired during a period of study is allowed, as long as the work hours did not exceed what they were authorized to do.

Atlantic International Graduate Program

The AISP is for foreign nationals who intend to reside in an Atlantic province who have the ability to become economically established in that province.

A person is eligible for the AISP if at the time of their application for permanent residence:

  • they show that they have Canadian Language Benchmark 4 or higher in each of the four language skill areas (listening, reading, speaking and writing);
  • they have in the preceding 12 months obtained, as a full-time student, a post-secondary Canadian educational credential that is from an eligible two-year program offered;
    • Acadia University;
    • Atlantic School of Theology;
    • Cape Breton University;
    • Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick;
    • Collège de l’Île;
    • College of the North Atlantic;
    • Dalhousie University;
    • Holland College;
    • Maritime College of Forest Technology;
    • Memorial University of Newfoundland;
    • Mount Allison University;
    • Mount Saint Vincent University;
    • New Brunswick College of Craft and Design;
    • New Brunswick Community College;
    • Nova Scotia College of Art and Design;
    • Nova Scotia Community College;
    • Saint Francis Xavier University;
    • Saint Mary’s University;
    • Saint Thomas University;
    • University of King’s College;
    • University of New Brunswick;
    • Unversite de Moncton;
    • University of Prince Edward Island; or
    • Universite of Sainte-Anne;
  • they had been physically present in the Atlantic province where the institution that granted the Canadian credential is located for at least 16 months during the 24 months preceding the day on which that credential was granted, had temporary resident status for the entire period during which they were obtaining it and had authorization for any work or study they engaged in during that entire period;
  • they have received from a recognized employer — that is, an employer that is designated by an Atlantic province in accordance with an immigration agreement to make employment offers — an offer of employment that (a) they are able to perform and likely to accept and carry out, (b) they meet the relevant employment requirements of the occupation as set out in the NOC except for certification requirements in the case of regulated occupations and (c) (i) the offered employment is full-time, non-seasonal work having a duration of at least one year, and (ii) in an occupation that is listed in Skill Type 0 Management Occupations or Skill Level A, B or C of the NOC matrix;
  • they have been endorsed by an Atlantic province in accordance with an immigration agreement and they intend to reside in that province; and
  • in the case of a foreign national who is not already working in Canada, they have in the form of transferable and available funds, unencumbered by debts or other obligations, an amount equal to one eighth of the amount identified, in the most recent edition of the publication concerning low income cut-offs that is published by Statistics Canada under the Statistics Act for urban areas of residence of 500,000 persons or more, as the minimum amount of before-tax annual income necessary to support the foreign national and their family members, whether they are accompanying the foreign national or not.

Only certain educational credentials are eligible for the AIGP. An educational credential is not eligible if the credentials were obtained in a study or training program where:

  • the study of English or French as a second language was at least half of the program;
  • distance learning was at least half of the program; or
  • where a scholarship or fellowship stipulated that the recipient return to their home country to apply the knowledge and skills gained.

If the foreign national is in Canada at the time of their application for permanent residence, they must have temporary resident status.

In order for the visa to be issued the offer of employment described above must still be valid or the foreign national must be occupying employment that meets same that is to last for a period of at least one year beginning on the day on which the permanent resident visa is issued.

As well, the endorsement referred to above must have been issued within the preceding six months and must not have been revoked by the issuing province.

New LMIA Exemption

Foreign nationals who receive a job offer from an employer and a Referral Letter issued by one of the Atlantic Provinces may be eligible to apply for a one-year Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)-exempt employer-specific work .

To be eligible for a temporary work permit, foreign nationals will need

  • a valid job offer
  • a referral letter from a province, and
  • a commitment to apply for permanent residence within 90 days of submitting the temporary work permit application.

Secret Evidence Used Against Me? (On Extrinsic Evidence) [Updated]

Where immigration officers have extrinsic evidence particular to an applicant, and that applicant is unaware that the immigration officer has that evidence, then procedural fairness requires that immigration officers disclose this evidence to the applicant.
Continue reading →


10 Pieces of Advice Before Entering First Year

Half way through my second year of law school I drafted a list of 10 pieces of advice that I would give to anyone entering their first year.  I passed this list on to between 5-10 people, and everyone seemed to appreciate it.  After not having thought about the list for a few years someone who had heard of it recently asked me for a copy.  It took me a fair bit of time searching through old Facebook messages to find it.  I accordingly decided to publish the list here so that if I was ever asked again I could easily find my recommendations rather then spend time during a sunny Sunday looking for it.

Remarkably, while I have updated the rationale behind each suggestion, my recommendations for people entering first year law remain the same now as they did when I was a second year law student.

So here they are.

1) You Control How Intense Law School Is

First year law school is intense.  There are typically mandatory year long courses, most of which are graded almost exclusively on a final exam.  You will be surrounded by some of the smartest people that you have ever met and will (depending on the school) be graded on a curve against them.  There will be a flurry of electives that you can choose from and if you’ve gone abroad for school it could be difficult to not become fully immersed in the study of law.

However, law school is only as intense as you want it to be. You could spend thirty hours a week in the library or just use other people’s summaries. For every student spending their weekend reading dozens of cases there is another student probably doing just as well who is rock climbing having just read a ten sentence summary of each case.

I am not recommending one approach or the other.  All I am saying is that you have a choice.  You control how intense law school is.

2) Be Prepared for Class

Most law school classes are taught by incredibly engaged and smart individuals.  I cannot remember having had any bad professors at either the University of Toronto (where I graduated from), the University of British Columbia (where I did a letter of permission for a semester), or Central European University (where I did an exchange).

Assuming that you enjoy learning about the law, and you probably should question why you are in law school if you aren’t interested in the law (but that’s a separate topic about whether you should go to law school, not advice for your first year there), then you will enjoy your classes even more if you are prepared for them.

The importance of being prepared is not only to avoid looking foolish if your professor uses the Socratic method.  You will get more out of class discussions if you know what is being discussed.

If you are not going to read a case before class, then you should at least read a summary of it.  At every law school that I went to senior students were always happy to pass along USBs with case summaries and notes from previous classes. I imagine that such information is now even available online.

3) Don’t Ask People What they Got on the LSAT

Never ask someone what score they got on the LSAT or what their mark was in a course.  It’s super annoying.

4) Don’t Give Legal Advice…

As soon as you are in law school people are likely going to come to you for legal advice.  When I was in first year law school friends and family approached me with questions on topics ranging from basic criminal stuff, landlord issues, pre-nups, vehicle accidents and even on setting up tax minimization schemes.

At the time I did my best to provide whatever assistance I could, always with the caveat that I was only a law student and probably didn’t know what I was talking about.  Having now taken and taught legal ethics I now realize what a bad idea even this was.

Put simply, if you don’t understand how confidentiality works in joint representation scenarios for people who haven’t signed retainer agreements then you shouldn’t be giving legal advice.

5) … But Do Fight Injustice

Having said that, within a few weeks or months after starting first year law school you will also start to realize how ignorant many laypeople are of how the law, and how others (sometimes innocently) take advantage of this ignorance.

You will look start looking at agreements between people differently.  If you rent, or have friends who do, then you will likely be especially stunned with what some landlords attempt to get away with.

You may not be a lawyer yet. But that doesn’t mean that where you do know what you’re talking about and understand legal ethics that you should let yourself or others be taken advantage of.

The help that you give can be as simple as spotting an issue and referring someone to the appropriate person who can help.

6) First Year Exams

Don’t make any vacation plans for the last two weeks of March and first two weeks of April during your first year of law school. Those weeks may be the worst and most boring weeks of your life.

Having said that, many years later the only thing that I remember about first year exams was that I preferred the three hour exams to twenty-four hour ones, and that an impromptu dance party broke out in my residency quad while we were studying on a Saturday night. It didn’t impact my mark.

7) You’ll get a Job

The profession of law breeds career insecurity, much of it pushed down from the top.

First year law school comes with a bizarre obsession and pressure about getting a job.  Whether it is from your school or the firms that dominate the private practice recruitment process, you will start feeling pressure to find summer job(s) and articles within the first few months of your first year.  I do not think that there is any other profession in the world that pushes such uncertainty and insecurity about getting a job to people almost immediately after they start an educational program.

When I first wrote this list of recommendations getting a job as a lawyer was admittedly easier then than it seems to be now. I am not going to pretend that everyone who graduates from law school will get a job in law as soon as they graduate.

At the same time, having seen how fulfilling the careers are for my former law school colleagues who either left the practice of law or never started in it, I believe more than ever that law students should not let the pressure to find articles plunge them into depression.

8) Determine the Kind of Person You Want to Be

You should determine early on what kind of person you want to be both in law school and after.

Are you willing to say “no” to something you really want to do in order to study for a few more hours? If you decide that you will put off doing what you like and missing important events while you are in law school, then you are laying the mental groundwork for doing the same thing during your career, and are setting yourself up for a solitary and lonely adulthood.

9) Keep an open mind

Some people go into law school knowing exactly what type of law they want to practice.

Others don’t have a clue.

Then there are people who thought they knew what area they wanted to work in without actually having a clue what the day to day practice of that area is like.

When I went to law school I thought I wanted to be a prosecutor.  Volunteering at a criminal defence clinic turned me off criminal law (although as an immigration lawyer I sometimes feel like I am practicing quasi-criminal law in a regulatory regime with far less procedural safeguards). At the start of second year law school I had no clue what I wanted to do. I then took a course on insolvency law. Then an advanced course. I even won the Insolvency Institute of Canada’s annual student writing competition and had a paper published in a law journal. By the time that I started articles I was sure that I was going to be an insolvency lawyer.  But then I did a tax evasion file. Boom. Now I knew what I really wanted to do.  Then the tax litigator that I was working for said that given my interests in certain files that I should consider immigration law.

And now I’m a partner at one of Vancouver’s largest immigration law firms. I have a blog and a podcast on the topic, and will soon be wrapping up a two year stint as the Chair of the Canadian Bar Association of British Columbia’s Immigration Section.

If you had told me when I started law school that this is what I would be doing I wouldn’t have believed you.

So if you’re unsure of what type of lawyer you want to be, don’t worry.  Most of those who say that they do probably will be as surprised as I was where their career took them.

10) Appreciate How Fortunate You are to be Studying Law

We live in a society where ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it.  Yet, there are not any real opportunities to study law unless you first complete an undergraduate degree and do very well on a standardized logic test.

For me the study of law was an exercise in unlearning alot of my previously held assumptions about the world.  My staunchly held but undeveloped opinions were replaced by a greater understanding of how complicated most issues are.

Concurrent with your textbook studies you will have the opportunity to participate in fascinating extracurricular programs. During my first year of law school I represented someone charged with domestic assault in criminal court, wrote briefs on behalf of injured workers seeking compensation, and facilitated legal workshops in high schools.

It still seems remarkable that I was able to do any of the things at the age of 22, just because I was in first year law.