A law degree never goes out of style
A law degree is timeless.
Melissa Gerrits, also known as Lady Lawboss, posits that a degree in law will never go out of style. Growing up in a household where her father was a police officer with the Toronto Police Service, Melissa became familiar with the legal system at a young age and for as long as she can remember, aspired to one day work as a crown attorney.
And so she did, but her journey to “living the lawyer dream” was an unconventional one. After graduating from Wilfrid Laurier University with a Bachelor of Business Administration, Melissa accepted a job in Calgary where for two years she immersed herself in the world of business. Still believing that a career as a lawyer was calling her, she was admitted into the JD program at Queen’s University. When we spoke with Melissa during our webinar Lady Lawboss: Entrepreneurship, Business Law, and Law Career Pathways, she described her time in law school as “some of the best years of my life.”
Melissa’s journey through law school took her to Australia where she completed an exchange with the University of Sydney Law School, an experience that she “wouldn’t trade for the world.” Through hard work, long hours, lots of networking, and a good portion of fun, Melissa secured a position as assistant crown attorney in Toronto upon graduation. At last, she thought her dream had come true.
When asked for her top insights about making it through law school and successfully transitioning into legal practice, Melissa said the following three things are essential:
- Network and get involved as much as possible.
- Shadow and engage with professionals in practice areas that interest you.
- Study hard in your first year—these grades will help you secure a summer position that will be invaluable for your future.
Working as an assistant crown attorney was challenging, stimulating, and meaningful work. However, the emotional aspects and limitations of the justice system weighed on her. Recognizing that crown work was not the perfect fit for her, Melissa made the difficult decision to leave her dream job to carve out a different career path. This leap of faith was informed by a growing passion for technology law that emerged during her side hustle as chief legal officer for Toronto-based start-up Hangry Solutions Inc
With a diverse portfolio behind her, Melissa has now pivoted into her current role as in-house legal counsel at Ontario Tech University. Recently, she has also founded Lady Lawboss, a virtual law firm servicing women-led businesses, entrepreneurs, creatives, and influencers. Serving others in a way that helps to lift their dreams and careers is what Melissa has finally landed on as her dream.
Melissa’s career has been multidimensional—challenging, rewarding, and exciting. She will tell you that most careers in law are this way; the opportunities are endless. Her takeaway message is this:
- Act with integrity – always. Your reputation as a lawyer is invaluable, and your values are important.
- Stay connected – with your peers, family, and colleagues. These relationships are essential.
- Do not be afraid to change and pivot throughout your career – embrace new opportunities, and don’t stop searching for the work that is most meaningful to you.
Lastly, Melissa shares some of her favourite words from Michelle Romanow, a Canadian tech entrepreneur and the founder of Clearbanc: “It’s far more powerful to be doubling down on your strengths than trying eliminate your weaknesses.”
Are you interested in studying law?
As a Canadian seeking to become qualified to practice law in Canada, you have a range of study options abroad. As Commonwealth nations, the Australian and Canadian systems are based on English common law, and Australian law schools provide a solid foundation for students planning to practice law in Canada (with the exception of Quebec).
Both Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and Juris Doctor (JD) programs educate you to practice law and allow you to apply for registration in Canada. The main difference is that the LLB is offered at the undergraduate level, and the JD is offered at the postgraduate level.
The following Australian law schools offer either a graduate-entry LLB or JD and most offer an undergraduate-entry LLB:
- Bond Law School
- Deakin Law School
- Flinders Law School
- Griffith Law School
- JCU Law School
- Monash Law School
- Melbourne Law School
- Newcastle Law School
- UQ Law School
- Sydney Law School
- UWA Law School