Arriving in Toronto, the cultural, entertainment and financial capital of Canada, I was full of anticipation and excitement.
I knew a little about Toronto, it having been described to me as a “mini New York”, and I quickly became enamoured by the welcoming nature of this compact, friendly city and everyone I met.
I arrived at the city in September 2009 for a three month secondment in the Labour, Employment and Employee Benefits department of Baker & McKenzie’s Toronto office. Spending time in one of the firm’s international offices had always been something I hoped to do, so being able to come to a vibrant city I had not previously visited and experience life as a Canadian, whilst also gaining an insight into how employment law works in another country, was an opportunity I jumped at. Walking into the office on my first day was slightly daunting, but the familiar Baker & McKenzie logos, smiling faces and office views over the city and Lake Ontario soon reassured me that I would be just fine.
A major benefit of coming to Toronto is that it shares much of its legal heritage with the UK. Therefore, whilst there were differences to get used to, much of the work I have completed is of a familiar nature. Additionally, throughout most of Canada, the professions of barrister and solicitor are merged, so I have been able to observe my colleagues practising advocacy at arbitrations, tribunals and court hearings with much admiration.
The office in Toronto epitomises the “work hard, play hard” philosophy and, outside of work, I have been kept busy by the many tourist activities on offer, which have taken me as far and wide as Niagara Falls and Montreal. I have also immersed myself in the day-to-day life of a Torontonian which has included using the PATH system - downtown Toronto’s underground walkway which links shops, offices etc - and has of course taken me to a few of the local bars and restaurants, of which there are many. In particular, one of my favourite evenings involved trying the Canadian speciality of poutine – french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy, yum! Toronto also hosts the majority of Canada’s “articling students” (the Canadian equivalent of a “trainee solicitor”) and whilst here I was able to get involved in organising a charity party along with 30 other articling students which was a great way to meet people.
I also knew that my trip to Toronto wouldn’t be complete without watching some traditional Canadian sports so for one night I was a loyal supporter of the Toronto Raptors at a basketball game, and on another was cheering for the Toronto Marlies at an ice hockey game. Both had a great atmosphere and for those nights I felt like a true Canadian. However, I will forever remain shocked at the fact that fighting is allowed in ice hockey whilst the referees sit back and watch.
In three months in Toronto I have been welcomed into the office and had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of employment law issues with a team of excellent lawyers. I’ve also had a great taster of the city, and since I even managed to cope with the snow, I definitely plan to return some day. However, in the meantime, looking through my photos whilst attempting to create my own poutine at home will have to suffice…