Oh, The Places You’ll Go (Hint: Bay Street)! Personal Statements from the Class of 2018

Amani Rauff (3L)

Remember 2015? When Barack Obama was still president? When our courageous trailblazing Prime Minister provided us with his hot take that he was hiring women “because it’s 2015”? Before a giant racist Dorito was threatening everyone from Kim Jong Un to Joe Biden to the media at large for no discernible reason? Do you remember, in short, when the world still seemed kind of okay?

Well, things have changed, and so have we. At least, some of us. In the spirit of looking back, we asked the Class of 2018 to submit excerpts from their applications to law school and to contrast them with their post-graduation plans. This year was almost disappointing from an editorial point of view because no one seems sufficiently embarrassed about selling out (though it could be that we at UV have sufficiently alienated ourselves from our peers such that no one wants to share their true shame).

The following have been edited for brevity and clarity.

With a clear vision of a career in health law and policy in mind, I started looking at law schools to determine which may be the right fit for me. When I found the description of the combined JD/MPP program offered at the University of Toronto, I thought it was too good to be true. I strongly believe that this program will prepare me to enter the arena of policy making in the health sector. With this degree, I can see myself continuing my work in the field of organ transplantation with the UHN, Trillium Gift of Life Network, or at the level of provincial government at Queen’s Park. All of these employers are located in Toronto; therefore studying at the University of Toronto would not only provide me with the unique opportunity of completing the JD/MPP program, it would also allow me to start building a professional network in the city where I plan to build my career.

This student did not pursue a JD/MPP, and has no intention of working in health policy after graduation. After clerking at the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, this student will be working in litigation at a large firm in New York.

By the end of my undergraduate education, my initial passion for pursuing law was reignited. In my lectures I learned about the inequality in society, and it perplexed me that such vast inequality still exists in Canada today. […] Our justice system claims to protect everyone equally, but in reality, those that need the most protection have the hardest time fighting for their rights. Contemplating the complex issues and inequalities in society ultimately made me remember the reason why I wanted to become a lawyer in the first place: to help people.

This student will be articling at a mid-sized full-service downtown firm that has a focus on insurance defence litigation and business law.

I am motivated to pursue a legal education because I believe that Canada needs more women in policy-making circles, and recognize the vital role that legal practitioners can play in addressing privacy and security challenges.  I specifically have a desire to pursue my studies at the University of Toronto because your institution has an unparalleled reputation in corporate and human rights law – two areas that have a critical stake in policies related to citizens’ privacy rights, innovative product development, public safety, and national security.  

This student has decided to gain experience in litigation at a Bay Street firm but stay connected to public law issues. She plans to ultimately merge the two by opening a small litigation boutique. She will be seeking partners in… 2028?

I would like to study law to pursue the questions that interested me in both my academic and work experience. In art history, for example, I wanted to know how economic and societal conditions influenced the creation of art objects, recognizing, of course, that new artworks then change existing conditions. Similarly, laws are created by societal conditions, which they then change. More practically, I am interested in pursuing a career in public policy after law school. Working for [redacted] has highlighted both the limiting and creative features of laws; understanding the capacity of law would be beneficial for a further career in the public sector. Lastly, law school provides intellectually rigorous education, an end in itself.

This student is going to work in the public sector, and “regret[s] being so pretentious.” She is, however, still interested in art and art history.

I did volunteer work in an aboriginal reserve knowing that I would help a minority group, but I benefited a lot as well. The reserve was called Aroland and it was an Ojibwe group that resided there. The band in Aroland was hesitant to accept us at first. Many years were spent trying to break down the barrier between us. Every year, a different group went to the reserve and after a continued presence and a collective effort, we are starting to gain the trust of the band. When I went, we were given sweaters that had the Aroland reserve logo on them. Allowing us to wear the Aroland logo means a lot. It symbolizes the beginning of a positive relationship that took many years to build, and I wear the logo with tremendous pride. Blurring the thick line between Aboriginals and the rest of Canada, even if only a little and with one small reserve, makes me feel like I participated in making a difference.

This student is no longer interested in Aboriginal law. She realized that the common law is “pretty annoying” and now intends to practice tax law.

This idealistic view of Law as Protection lies in direct contrast with the fear and disdain I felt towards the law; I felt persecuted, my family alienated from society, and none of it felt Right or Just. From a young age I have recognized that people often do wrong for good reasons, such as need and desperation in my parents’ circumstances, while the good intentions of the Law often fall short. […] It may seem ironic or even contradictory that I wish to practice law after living outside of it a having suffered under it as an ‘Alien’. Despite experiencing the shortcomings of the law, such knowledge has still been motivation to study it in hopes of someday contributing to a more equitable justice system marked by fewer contradictions. I believe this is possible, as I have seen the community building, restorative potential of the law firsthand. I would use my degree to advocate for a Restorative Justice focus within the criminal justice system so that sentencing practices reflect ideals based on healing and making amends in a way that is meaningful for all those involved.

This student, in spending the past three years as a caseworker and credit student at the DLS Refugee & Immigration division, feels that she has further explored how the law in practice can be antithetical to what seems just and fair. However, she has decided to “sell [her] soul for a faster route to being debt-free” and will be articling at a boutique business law firm downtown that specializes in transportation and commercial law.

The family law clinic is especially appealing to me, as I currently find myself interested in family law. I would like to go to a law school where I can engage with and build close relationships with my peers, which is why the collegial atmosphere of [school] appeals to me. […]

I am passionate about riding and it has taught me valuable lessons that are applicable to all aspects of life. The first is to persevere. Horseback riding is a sport in which you literally hit the ground hard, and are expected to get right back up. Riders fall off often, and despite sore muscles and bruised pride they are expected to continue. I have fallen, while trying to execute a difficult turn or jump combination. My coach always expected me to get back on and continue my ride. This is a valuable lesson in life as well as in riding. Struggles, obstacles and even failure are inevitable in life. In order to achieve my goals I need to continue to persevere.

This student is proud of “using the falling off the horse and getting back on metaphor,” continuing, “like because I horseback ride.” She calls it “a real gem.”

She continues to find herself interested in family law—she volunteered throughout law school with family law-related projects, and will be articling at a small family law firm in Toronto.

One of the great loves of my life, and the avenue through which some of my activism takes place, is sports. I learned early on to love the cracking sound a bat makes when it connects with a fast pitch, the feel of water sliding over me as I race laps in a pool, and the leathery, musty smell of a well-worn catcher’s mitt. I have always wanted to help others experience these joys, and spent five years working at a community centre developing sports programming for children and for people with physical and mental disabilities. […]

I also used my time in [redacted] to contribute to an action group for employees with disabilities. My research with [redacted] on women’s leadership roles in the field of education has further shed light on the ever-present, though thankfully thinning, glass-ceiling for women in the workplace. My passion for accessibility and social justice has guided me through these opportunities and challenges and I feel that I am prepared and excited for the next big chapter of my life. Joining the rigorous intellectual community at [school] and obtaining a legal education from such a renowned institution would undoubtedly be invaluable training for a lifetime of advocacy.

After graduation, this student will be working at the Public Guardian and Trustee (part of the Victims and Vulnerable Persons Division of MAG). All of the clients have capacity issues and most have a mental illness or disability. She emphasizes that she “thought that’s how you need to write to get into law school.”

From a young age, my love for history acquainted me with the horrors of the Holocaust, apartheid, and the slave trade, and I developed a deep concern for persecuted and oppressed people. The brutal conflicts in Libya and Syria intensified this strong sense of justice and ethical responsibility. Reading the newspaper the morning NATO launched its civilian protection intervention, I still recall how deeply elated I felt that the international community had chosen to stand beside the Libyan people in their struggle for human rights. Yet as the Syrian Civil War raged on, I was appalled by the inability of world leaders to uphold universal legal standards on human rights. […] At the May roundtable I participated in, Mr. Ban [Ki-moon] urged young leaders to forge a secure and prosperous world so that the 21st century will not fall prey to the conflicts that have scourged previous centuries. I share Mr. Ban’s goal, and I seek admission to the University of Toronto Faculty of Law to devote my intellectual abilities, moral conviction, and personal energy to pursuing it.

Following clerkships at the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada, this student plans to start a career in litigation at a large full-service law firm.

I hope that a law degree with a certificate in environmental studies will grant me the tools that will allow me to aid in the administration of social justice with regards to environmental issues, and make a tangible contribution to the amendment of Canadian and global environmental policy. I have long known that I feel a strong moral obligation to make some contribution to improving the way we interact with the environment. I wish to give a voice to those harmed by current policies, and I am committed to changing those policies to prevent such problems from occurring in the first place. I am motivated by the continued social and environmental injustice present in all facets of our society and the lack of effort on the part of those in economic and political power to commit to changing the status quo.

This student is graduating with a joint JD/Master of Public Policy and will article with Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. Despite her success on paper, she feels less than hopeful about her ability to achieve any real environmental progress as a government lawyer (albeit one who gets to leave at 5 p.m. and have a pension) and is “terrified [she] will end up just another career bureaucrat in a comfortable but unexciting job.”

During my first three years of university I worked a part-time retail job. […] One thing I learned particularly in the [retail] position is that the problems are systemic. A lot of my managers were well-meaning individuals who cared about their employees but did not have the budgets to treat people fairly. Corporations are not inherently immoral; they are simply profit-driven. The goals of increasing efficiency and advancing workers’ interests tend to clash. My reading and research in the area have convinced me that organized labour is an important counterweight to corporate power. As a result, I hope to work in some capacity for organized labour, possibly with a union-side labour law firm.

This student will be articling at a union-side labour law firm. Her job application, in its entirety, read “corporations are not inherently immoral; they are simply profit-driven”. She likes to imagine she is less ridiculous now, but is likely still wrong.

I also wished to contrast the political workings and historical trajectory of India with the other country that defined me: Canada, which was the other region I focused on over the course of my degree. My undergraduate studies have enabled me to contrast the two nations’ cultural and political history as well as gain further knowledge of the governmental structure of the country that I proudly reside in. However, I have also come to learn that I am a lot more passionate about studying and finding antidotes to the corrupt and unchanging political system in India. This zeal and dissatisfaction with ‘the way things are,’ as it were, has informed my decision to pursue a JD from the University of Toronto—and, eventually, a career in international human rights law—and to work with governments of NICs to work towards reducing oppression of women and limiting levels of corruption. […]

It is partly the privilege of having escaped the ‘could be’ life that has encouraged me to travel the path I have thus far and chosen to pursue. I want to be able to offer the life I am able to live, thousands of miles away from India, to those currently living there who might not be able to leave. As an aspiring international lawyer, I want to help the disadvantaged women (which, in a country of seven billion people, is a large number) in India live a safer and more comfortable life.

Looking back, this student says she didn’t realize how much she “wanted to fix India.”

While she will be articling at a boutique litigation firm that specializes in insurance defence, she hopes in the future to return to work aimed at addressing structural issues that women face globally.

And like the daffodils echoed spring and the peonies chased the sun, everything else followed naturally. […] But in that moment, more than a decade after it was sown, long after it had flowered and wilted, love blossomed again. And I harvested love. […] Perhaps I should write about the moment I realized I wanted to be a lawyer – it was certainly a moment I would remember.

This student let me know that she did not go on to write about the moment she wanted to be a lawyer, instead opting to continue her poem about flowers. I asked about this student’s post-grad plans—she answered that she has realized she does not want to be a lawyer.