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U of C’s Foreign-Trained Lawyers Program aims to diversify the legal profession

By Eula Mengullo, February 1 2023

The Foreign-Trained Lawyers Program (FTLP) at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law has seen triple the enrolment since it first launched in 2021. The program is designed to help internationally trained lawyers become accredited to practice law in Canada. 

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Dr. Kellinde Wrightson — associate professor and director of the program — discusses its contribution to the legal profession and Canadian society at large. 

“It’s not just special for the legal profession in this country, but it’s special for the community in general because it’s addressing the issue of equity, diversity and inclusion in a very real way,” said Wrightson.

The Foreign-Trained Lawyers Program was introduced to help international lawyers — lawyers trained in their home countries — become accredited to practice common law in Canada. Although internationally trained lawyers can take a series of exams on their own, the program is designed to provide students with the legal training and practical skills they need to thrive in the Canadian legal market. 

“It gives them connections and contacts, it builds up their confidence,” said Wrightson. “I teach them all about the practical aspects of legal practice here in Canada, such as how to apply for jobs, so there’s a lot of practicality.” 

Wrightson also remarked that with Canada being a popular destination for immigrants, this diversity must also be reflected in the legal profession. 

“My vision for the program is to improve the diversity of the legal profession in this country,” said Wrightson. “If one in five people is an immigrant and we can have that [reflected] in the legal profession, then let’s do it.” 

Additionally, Wrightson underscored that the diversity the legal profession benefits from this program eventually translates to the betterment of the people that it serves. 

“We are all the better for it. Not just the legal profession, but the clients and the community as a whole is the better for it,” she continued. “Even though we’re all coming from different backgrounds and different cultures and languages, we’re stronger when we join forces.”

As a foreign-trained lawyer herself who went through a series of examinations to practice law in Canada, Wrightson emphasized the significance of building a community amongst the students and the importance of mentorship. 

“I do not want them leaving [the program] with just the bare minimum. I want them to leave with a whole heap of other stuff, and also family,” said Wrightson. “I really want us to be like a family. They can call me anytime they want, I’m always there for them.”

The program is now in its second year of operation and currently hosts over 30 students. 

For more information on the Foreign-Trained Lawyers Program, application and admission requirements, visit the Faculty of Law’s website. 

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