Canadian Lawyer 4Students

Spring 2009

Life skills and career tips for Canada's lawyers in training

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Page 21 of 31

BY JEFFR E Y H. WAUGH T pays off aking risks PASSING UP THE CORPORATE WORLD FOR A CHANCE TO ARTICLE WITH LEGAL AID IN ONE OF CANADA'S COLDEST CLIMATES IS PROVIDING ONE STUDENT WITH THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME. T he life of a typical Bay Street ar- ticling student isn't an exciting prospect for everyone. Imagine this instead: After waking up, you head down to the local airstrip, where you're joined by the rest of the court party — including the judge who will be presiding over your case later in the day. The pilot arrives, after he's stopped along the way to pick up lunches — sandwich- es from Tim Horton's — for the group. The back of the bush plane you're about to hop on to is filled with all the gear you need to run a courtroom. After flying to the day's scheduled destination, you'll set up in whichever facility is most appropri- ate; some days you might find yourself at the Legion, or perhaps in the elementary school gymnasium. There will be no sit- ting on the sidelines though. You're here to represent clients. Welcome to the life of an articling student for legal aid in northern Manitoba. Chad Skinner decided to follow his heart and take a more adventurous jour- ney. "I come from a small town in New- foundland where not a lot of people have a whole lot of money, so I've seen some people in some pretty disadvantaged situations throughout my whole life. And the whole reason I did the law thing was to help people who were disadvantaged 22 SPRING 2009 and needed a voice." But through law school, you get caught up in the corporate dream, he says. "So I spent most of my time at law school caught in that trap, and sort of going through it and try- ing to find my way to Bay Street just like everyone else was do- ing." But toward the end of his three years at Dalhousie Uni- versity in Halifax, Skinner says he realized and rediscovered his passion for making a difference. "It wasn't about sitting in an of- fice somewhere, trading billions of dollars for nameless organiza- tions. It was about helping people — that's what I wanted to do." After speaking with the career devel- opment officer at Dal, he discovered a position was available with legal aid in northern Manitoba. He says he thought the job was in Winnipeg, "but I actually found out the position was in Thomp- son during my first phone consultation." He jokes that he had to Google it during his conversation to see exactly where it was — about 870 km north of Winni- peg. "It's really way up there." Skinner decided to take a risk. "I just 4STUDENTS finished law school — it's a time that if I really want to experience the world, why not do it now. So instead of doing some- thing that was safe, I decided if I'm going to do this, why not test the limits of what I can handle as a person and try this crazy northern adventure and see what I can ac- tually take. See if I can actually go some- where that I don't know someone and start off completely fresh, and see if I can make it my own and be successful." He was in for quite the ride. "They promise you, 'if you come here, we'll give

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