John Paul Rodrigues

John Paul Rodrigues

Committed to demystifying the legal profession and showing future generations of lawyers and paralegals the amazing opportunities open to them, after finding some himself.

John Paul Rodrigues has six jobs and he only uses the title “lawyer” in two of them. On top of all that, he was at one time an unintended viral music sensation in China, so J.P. is truly a multi talented guy. J.P.’s path to becoming a happy lawyer, podcaster, instructor and program coordinator was far from direct. Now, he is committed to demystifying the legal profession and showing future generations of lawyers and paralegals the amazing opportunities open to them as well. 

Graduating from Osgoode Hall and passing his licensing exams was not (too) hard for J.P. . Finding articling, however, was a different story. Opportunity within Ontario was not calling, so J.P. went overseas to find it. He took a job teaching law in China for a year and the experience taught him more than any articling year ever could. His year abroad was so good that it turned into two years. The love J.P. developed for teaching took him by surprise, and so did the other cool things he became involved in during that time. With experience as a law school party DJ, J.P. found himself backing a singer friend during her performances. He was asked if he could sing and knowing that he lacks the musical chops, he surmised he could pass as a rapper, and thought this would be enough to impress crowds of non-English speakers. J.P. wrote a song about the city he was living in in China and the song went viral. J.P. made his way into newspapers, TV shows and the social media walls of many.

J.P. returned to Canada from a viral sensation in China, to a law student still without articles in Toronto. Upon his return, he saw how hectic his friends’ lives were, working 80 hours per week, while he had been having a great time away. He turned around and went back to China for just one more year.

After J.P.’s third year in China, he returned to Canada for real this time, feeling a need to get called to the bar. By this time, his reward for not getting his articles complete, was having to redo his licensing exams, because his results were no longer valid. He passed them again and went on to article nearly four years after graduating law school. J.P. wonders how many other lawyers in Ontario have successfully passed the licensing exams twice!

After finally getting called to the bar in 2013, J.P. continued practicing at the firm he articled with, but held onto his passion for teaching. When a part-time opportunity became available to teach, J.P. transitioned his practice of law, so that he could take it. He moved into a part-time telephone duty counsel role and opened his own firm, taking on just a few clients. After teaching at a few different schools, J.P. landed his current roles as Instructor at triOS College in 2015 and Paralegal Program Coordinator at the school in 2019. He has also been a Legal Instructor at Algonquin Careers Academy since 2017. 

If you are keeping count, duty counsel, solo defence counsel, instructor x 2 and program coordinator are five of J.P.’s current jobs. The sixth is not a job he is paid to do but may be his favourite. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, J.P. had to transition to online teaching, and he wanted to do it in an innovative and engaging way. He started hosting a video podcast series called “Justice in Pieces” for his students. With this project, J.P. has organized one or more remote speakers daily to speak on various law-related topics including mental wellness, networking and non-traditional career paths. He has hosted over 300 guests so far and continues to create episodes.

J.P. used to call his speaker series, “the podcast that no one knows about”, because he only recorded for his students. In 2021, J.P. learned basic web design so he could create a website, his wife got involved promoting the project on social media, and they began streaming the episodes for anyone to watch. The content in the episodes is fantastic, and J.P. hopes that they can eventually count towards legal professional development hours, as they are available for anyone to watch.

In recognition of these efforts, J.P. received the Career Colleges Ontario’s Excellence in Teaching, and triOS College’s Instructor of the Year awards in 2020. J.P. is also on the Board of Directors of the Durham Community Legal Clinic, and the Director of Competitions, University and College at Dominion, an organization devoted to developing a mock trial ecosystem in Canada.

Each day for J.P. is unique, and rarely does he spend an entire day focusing on just one of his jobs. He recently became licensed in British Columbia as well as Ontario and provides late night duty counsel phone line support to both provinces. During the days, he often teaches a class or two and finds time to interview guests for Justice in Pieces. Despite sometimes having a chaotic schedule, J.P. finds flexibility in his combination of projects as well. If he does not feel capable of taking on duty counsel hours or clients with his solo practice, he doesn’t. If he cannot give clients the time they need and deserve, he does not feel right taking on the work. 

When J.P. was in law school, people would delete their online presence during the OCI process. Things have changed a lot since then and social media is now a great networking tool. It is also a great place to learn about the amazing variety of career paths available. The more views and perspectives we are exposed to through things like social media and Justice in Pieces, the more informed our career choices will be. 

Selling water coolers door to door years ago, J.P. learned about the law of averages. If you reach out to enough people, someone will say yes. Networking online, your averages are likely going to be a lot better than trying to sell water coolers. It can be intimidating, but it is rarely a negative experience. If you are interested in what someone is doing, send them a message on LinkedIn. The worst that could happen is they won’t reply, but you will likely be surprised by the positive reception you get. 

J.P.’s biggest advice for his students and for the legal profession in general is to take time for yourself. If you can’t take care of yourself, you will struggle to take care of your clients. Do not be ashamed of caring for your mental health and do not believe the hype that you’re not cut out for the job if you are incapable of working 24/7. Your path is not wrong, even if it is different than your neighbour’s, and you can live your life in the way that works best for you. 

J.P. does not regret the unusual path that he took, the diversity of jobs that he has worked in, the time he sets aside to connect with others or the time he dedicates to his students. Despite the pressure to article right out of school, delaying articling was what led to the richness of experiences that he has had and continues to have. Traditional or otherwise, there is no wrong path.