Lahore to Toronto to Cape Town to Whitehorse was the winding road that led Amna Bhatti to a fulfilling law practice. Amna credits persistence and luck for her success in this journey. Amna is now a Human Rights Officer with the Yukon Human Rights Commission, but finding law work was not easy for her. Amna graduated from a prestigious university with honours in Pakistan. She has held several amazing internships and had impressive experience before her legal career in Canada started. So what was the problem? Amna’s education and experience came from Pakistan. When she arrived in Canada to complete a LLM at Osgoode Hall, Amna was warned that finding work would be challenging. But she was not prepared for the struggles that being an internationally trained lawyer would bring.
Finding an articling job is difficult for a lot of law students. Imagine that challenge with the additional barriers of looking for articling work with no connections to any firms, while living on a very tight budget in Toronto. Also, the looming knowledge that if you do not find work immediately after finishing school, you will be sent back to your home country by immigration, without having accomplished what you came to do.
While completing her LLM and NCA requirements, Amna gained Canadian experience by volunteering with Pro Bono Students Canada and other organisations. She feels lucky to have also got a summer internship with the Family Responsibility Office in the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario, but without Canadian connections, Amna still struggled.
There were some low points in Amna’s path to practice. She accepted an articling position for no pay, which she had to leave after a short time when the work environment turned out to be deplorable. However, for every unkind encounter, Amna met many helpful people on the way - she managed to find another position almost immediately after with a principal who became a great mentor. In her articling at Levine Associates, Amna benefited from the practice of many areas of law, but slowly realised that she did not enjoy litigation, and wanted to explore human rights policy work. While she felt pressured by her friends and family to work a corporate job and make big money, her mentor told her to follow her heart in choosing her career path, and travel while she was still young. Even if that meant struggling financially for a while, he told her it would be worth it.
Amna is a writer, photographer and all around creative person, eager to experience life. After her call to the Ontario bar, she applied for an internship with the Canadian Bar Association’s Young Lawyers International Program. Through the program, she was placed in South Africa, working in the gender equality and penal reform programmes with Lawyers for Human Rights. Her experience was fantastic and gave her unique opportunities that she felt passionate about. Her major project was a paper on the impact of immigration policies and laws on female immigrants. Publishing this peer reviewed paper in February 2021 represented completion of one of Amna’s life’s goals.
Amna landed in Whitehorse in early 2020. Although Amna may never get used to the cold climate, she absolutely loves the snow and being in nature. Right outside of her house is the Yukon River and a mountain view. Amna, who almost went to art school (and still considers it!), spends her weekends travelling around Yukon and taking photos for her blog.
In her job as a Human Rights Officer, Amna’s biggest priority is investigating complaints. She is also involved in several initiatives including being part of a workplace sexual harassment project team and participating in public education programs in schools and offices. Amna loves the diverse opportunities her job brings and the highly engaged people she works with. Everyone in the office loves to talk about law and policy and is always excited to sit down and talk about the new inquiries they receive. Amna has the perfect balance of support and autonomy and trust in her work.
After articling in the big city, Amna was sure that she did not want the traditional lawyer lifestyle. She never works weekends anymore.
The most important advice that Amna has to give is the advice that she was given. Working hard, and planning ahead, but never losing sight of your dreams and not wasting your life stuck in something you don’t enjoy is the path to a rich life.