Reaching the Next Level
George Brown classes prepped legal professional for career advancement
Even when Lidia D'Amata was in university, she was pursuing her goal to work in the legal field. While still completing her bachelor's degree, Lidia started working at the law practice of a family friend. She began as a legal secretary and, before long, had worked her way up to a legal assistant role.
After graduation, Lidia accepted a legal assistant position at a downtown Toronto firm. She thrived in her new position, acquiring new skills and taking on additional responsibilities. But there was a downside.
"I was doing all the work of a law clerk just not being paid like one," she recalls.
She decided to pursue a law clerk designation. To achieve the designation, she would have to pass the four Institute of Law Clerks of Ontario (ILCO) exams. The completion of the exams is required for associate membership with the ILCO, which is the standard of achievement accepted within the legal profession.
To prepare to write the exams, Lidia needed to take the preparatory courses. She found Continuing Education at George Brown College, a school accredited by the ILCO and within walking distance of her downtown office. Lidia jumped right in and completed all of the courses – Litigation, Corporate, Real Estate and Estates – in less than one year.
"All of the courses are great," she says. "You get to dip your toes in all aspects of the law. Best of all, the classes were filled with people with work experience, so I was able to socialize with people in my age group who had similar experience. The discussions, both during class and outside it, reflected the maturity of the students."
In 2003, after completing the courses and passing the ILCO exams, Lidia officially started her career as a law clerk at a boutique law firm downtown. She later moved to the real estate and planning department at McCarthy Tétrault LLP, where she still works.
Lidia's job is, essentially, to take a real estate transaction from inception to completion. Under the supervision of a lawyer, she does whatever is needed to complete the transaction, including drafting agreements, performing title searches, reviewing corporate searches and registering transfers and security documents. She must report to the client throughout the process.
Being a law clerk has earned her both a bump in salary and an increase in workplace enjoyment.
"To me, it's fun from beginning to end," she says. "I get to develop a relationship with the clients and get good feedback from them. It's very rewarding to get affirmation from clients. And we have fun while we're working. When we're working on a big transaction, our day can be 12 hours long, but it doesn't feel like a long day. I really believe that if you truly enjoy what you're doing, you'll like going to work."
For Lidia, that's more than just a cliché. She is proud to be a law clerk and is happy to promote the work they do. More recently, with the encouragement of some persuasive colleagues, she became involved with the ILCO. She was elected to the board of directors in 2011 and is the current treasurer. She also has words of wisdom for others considering a change.
"I enjoyed my classes because they took me so far," she says. "I can't stress enough how much my education has done for me. I would definitely recommend the courses, especially to those who are already in the workplace. Once you know what you want to do, I encourage people to go for it."