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QL grads return to discuss exciting career paths

Alumni returned to Queen's Law in February to pass on career wisdom to current students

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At Queen’s Law students past and present are part of a strong community of peers and mentors that begins at school and carries on after graduation.

Litigation, transactional, Crown attorney, in-house, and government work are just a few of the exciting possibilities QL students heard about in February from some of our dedicated alumni.

On February 2nd, six Law’12 alumni—Sonia Beauchamp, Jonah Goldberg, Brooke MacKenzie, Caitlin O’Connor, Husein Panju and Brittany Sargent—returned to their alma mater to discuss the diverse ways in which their careers have unfolded for “Queen’s Law Five Years Out”. The Law Students Society Alumni Relations Committee and the Career Development Office partnered to put on the event.

And a week later, on February 9, QL grads working as transactional lawyers returned as part of the Law’80 “Careers in Business Law” Panel, made possible by the Class of 1980 and the Corporate Law Club. Students heard about careers in transactional law from Samantha Horn, Law’91, Robert Khazam, Law’14, and Andrew Sapiano, Law’16.

“A career in law can go in so many different directions,” Goldberg reminded the students at the Five Years Out panel. “I didn’t come to law school with a grand plan” to become a particular type of lawyer, he said. He began his professional career at Torys in Toronto. He is now Counsel, Strategy & Innovation at the Royal Bank of Canada.

Likewise, students come into law school and enter into legal careers from a variety of backgrounds. MacKenzie studied theatre as an undergraduate. Sargent was a sciences student. Goldberg studied history. Beauchamp was an accountant before coming to law school and becoming a Crown attorney.

Horn’s practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions and financing for private equity and venture capital. “What I love about corporate is that we are all working towards the same goal,” she told students. Sometimes she represents the buyer and other times the seller. When the deal goes through, both sides benefit.

Paul Kenney, Law’19, a student liaison on the LSS Alumni Relations Committee, said he enjoyed learning about “so many interesting and successful career paths that emerged from opportunities outside the official recruitment processes.”

Beauchamp knew she wanted to be a criminal lawyer because “you get to give a voice to a lot of people who don’t have voices.” As a Crown Attorney in Toronto she specializes in prosecuting child abuse, Internet child exploitation, and child pornography offences.

“Sonia gave me a lot of insight into what working as a Crown is really like,” Kenney said, appreciative of the chance to have had a coffee chat with Beauchamp.

After starting her career at McCarthy Tétrault, MacKenzie co-founded MacKenzie Barristers, a practice focusing on civil appeals and professional responsibility and liability issues.

“The benefits of being in a small firm are that you can choose your clients and build your practice.” MacKenzie encouraged students to think about their career path on an ongoing basis. “I’m glad I had good mentors reminding me to do that.”

Transactional lawyers are also advocates, Khazam explained, describing his work at Osler. There is an advocacy aspect to drafting agreements, he said, because non-litigators also have to think about how text would appear to a judge and what the consequences of ambiguity are to the client’s interests.

Panju worked at all three levels of government before his current role as an in-house counsel and public affairs consultant for StrategyCorp in Toronto. He highlighted the applicability of legal skills to consulting, including point-first writing and client management.  Outside of work, Panju is also the creator and host of the first legal-based podcast in Canada, “Lawyered.”

Careers take all different paths. Horn summered and articled at Stikeman Elliott in Toronto, where she has practiced for twenty-five years since graduating. Five years out, Sargent has worked in both private practice and public-sector employment in Calgary and Toronto.

“It’s quite open to you to go into private practice, leave private practice for a period of time, and go back into private practice,” said Sargent, who worked at Blakes in Calgary and McCarthy Tétrault in Toronto before working at the Ontario Securities Commission. She is now an associate in the Corporation and Commercial Group at Bennett Jones in Toronto.

O’Connor went on to take an LLM at the University of California, Los Angeles and is now in-house production counsel at NZK Productions, the corporation behind The Bachelor. “Know that you don’t have to be perfect,” O’Connor advised students anxious about their career prospects.

“Talking to Caitlin helped to give me a better understanding of entertainment law,” said Darien Murray, Law’20, who had a coffee chat with O’Connor after the LSS panel. Murray noticed how supportive the Queen’s Law alumni network is. “All the alumni on the panel were so happy to see each other and while they talked, they kept bringing up old classmates and the network that has followed them into the workforce.”

Alexander McPherson is a 1L Staff Writer.

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