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Using Culture to Get Your Foot Through the (Firm) Doors

A Message from the Canadian-Italian Association of Osgoode (CIAO)

by Rocco Scocco and Alessandro Perri


Networking. Some people may love it, others may not. But whether you’re an energetic social butterfly or an introverted genius, building relationships within the legal profession can be just as essential as spending hours pouring over those course summaries to get that coveted A.


For many law students, networking is a new skill to be acquired, and overcoming the initial anxiety of meeting accomplished professionals can feel daunting. Culture can be a powerful tool for surmounting this potentially terrifying task. Let us explain why.


The most powerful professional relationships tend to develop when there is a connection built upon commonalities outside of the legal profession. Think about it. Are you only friends with your law school colleagues because you attend law school together? In one respect, yes, because you share the same space on a regular basis. But this doesn’t explain how your true friendships have evolved. You and your close friends probably share common interests, like sports, music, fashion, fine wines or an obsession with cats. More importantly, you and your very closest law school friends probably share more fundamental values as well, such as mutual respect, trust and honesty. You can tap into these common interests and values when networking, to develop the strongest relationships.


Cultural heritage is a powerful networking tool because it crosses so many levels of our identity. It is the food we eat, the way we express emotions, the activities we enjoy and so much more. To a very large extent, your culture makes you who you are. Networking within your own culture can make the frightening experience of speaking to new people at least that much easier. There is a comfort in speaking to someone who comes from a similar background of experience, and this will be felt mutually between you and those who are years ahead of you in their legal career.


As members of the Canadian-Italian Association of Osgoode (CIAO), we sought to find Canadian-Italian legal professionals that would be interested in learning about our club and developing a working-relationship. Speaking of common ground, to our surprise there is in fact another organization called CIAO (the Canadian-Italian Advocates Organization) which was founded long before we were born. We were greeted by the CIAO community with warmth as we were invited to join their executives for an informal meet-and-greet where we shared many intimate conversations. The lawyers shared litigation war stories, their views about justice and the vocational nature of joining the legal profession.


One of the most important lessons learned, however, is that we cannot forget our history. When Italians were new to Canada, we were not accepted or understood in the way we are today. Italians were seen as criminals, untrustworthy and uneducated. Some of the lawyers could recall stories of being physically and verbally mistreated as young immigrants in Canada. It was an uphill battle for Italians to enter the legal profession because they had no one from their culture to look up to within the profession. As young Italians and aspiring lawyers, we are grateful to have such an established community of professionals with whom we can connect on such a basic level. We also carry the responsibility of remembering what we learned about our culture’s past, to pass the knowledge to future generations of Italian lawyers, and more importantly, to understand that we are privileged in a way that other cultures are not. To those who do not have anyone in the profession to look up to in this way, we hope that you will tell your story to the future generations of lawyers who share your culture and history.


This being said, culture is not the be-all-end-all of networking, and it would be a mistake to make this the exclusive focus of our growing network. We have been blessed to have met so many supportive lawyers from our culture, and would like to create events that are not exclusively for Italians. We have many networking events planned for this semester, and we would like to take a moment to give a peek into some of the events we have in store for you.


On 8 March, 2017, we will have the pleasure of hosting the Honourable and former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci who will be introduced by none other than York University’s Chancellor Greg Sorbara. Our honored guest will share his story of laughter and tears as he journeys through the legal profession and into the Supreme Court of Canada. This is certainly an opportunity not to be missed!


Our ability to create these events comes from the tremendous support we have received from the Canadian-Italian legal community. We owe them a debt of gratitude and look forward to having a long relationship of introducing the current and future generations of aspiring lawyers. Culture has been a powerful tool for us, we hope that our readers will learn from our success and find support from lawyers of their heritage as they build their foundation for their adventures in the legal profession. One of Osgoode’s proudest achievements, among many things, is the breadth of diversity represented in our students and faculty alike. For every culture represented at Osgoode there is most likely a student club devoted to it. We hope you take the time to find yours and get involved. If there is not, we urge you to take the initiative to start your own! We have no doubt it will help you get your foot through the (firm) door.