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  • Writer's pictureEmma Huang

Charting Success: Mastering the OCIs and Pioneering My Path as a Future T-Shaped Lawyer

Hello! Please introduce yourself.

Hi! I am Emma. At the time of writing, I am a 3L at uOttawa. I summered at Torys LLP’s Toronto office and will return for my articles. After my articles, I will be clerking at the Tax Court of Canada.


During law school, I was an event coordinator and later one of the co-presidents of the International Commercial & Trade Law Students Association. I volunteered with the Ticket Defence Program through Pro Bono Students Canada. I have also been a peer mentor for 1L and 2L students through the Allies in Law program and in an informal capacity. I intend to continue providing mentorship in formal and informal capacities.


I am interested in litigation/dispute resolution, international investment/trade, tax, and tech. These interests have led me to pursue various experiences during my time in law school:

  • Litigation/dispute resolution: I participated in several mooting/advocacy competitions, including the Skadden, Arps Foreign Direct Investment International Moot, the Rick Weiler Mediation Competition, and the Bowman Tax Moot.

  • International trade/investment law: in addition to the FDI moot, I was a Young Diplomats of Canada delegate to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank’s 2021 meetings and penned my major paper on investor-state dispute resolution.

  • Tax: in addition to the tax moot, I have also been working at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) as a law student since the summer of 2021.

  • Tech: I was a Technoship fellow at uOttawa’s Centre for Law, Technology and Society in 1L and again a researcher at the Legal Technology Lab in 3L.

During law school, I was awarded the W&E Mendes Prize for achieving the highest standing in my Globalization and Law class, the Professional Training Scholarship for academic merits, and the Newton Rowell Scholarship for commitment to public service. In the Bowman Tax Moot, I was ranked as the top 3 appellant team and top 5 appellant oralist. I also co-authored an article critiquing OECD’s transfer pricing model rules and their implementation in Canada, published on Canadian Tax Foundation International Tax Highlights.


Prior to law school, I did a BA with a major in Political Science, a minor in Spanish, and a semester abroad in Galicia, Spain. I also hold a MA in Political Economy and a Master's Certificate in Business Analysis. As a political economist, I published an article proposing a feminist and critical approach to interethnic conflicts in Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, an international peer-reviewed journal. I also worked at a not-for-profit organization, helping improve healthcare quality in Canada’s long-term care homes and promoting healthcare best practices in Latin America and Asia.


I collect anything and everything cat related. In an alternative universe, I would be a cat cafe owner. When weather permits, I enjoy skating on the Rideau Canal. I also have a newly acquired love for squash, but the love is not yet mutual.

What motivated you to pursue a career in law?

My interest in pursuing a career in law is informed by my pre-law involvement in moots, my research interest in trade and investment treaties, and my general political economy training. In my undergraduate years, I had the privilege of mooting before Newfoundland & Labrador Court of Appeal justices. l enjoyed the conversation with them, through which we debated the interpretation, application, and impact of the law. When I was completing my research for trade/investment treaties, I learned about the opportunities in law in this niche area. My political economy training challenged me to apply and critique legislation and regulations.


My application process was similar to that of most. I applied through the portal for Ontario (interesting that I have completely forgotten what it is called). I also applied to schools in BC, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. I received acceptance from all of the schools I applied for. Eventually, I chose uOttawa primarily to balance law school with other aspects of my personal life.


For law school applications, I recommend getting to know the schools well. Things that may help include checking the programmes/streams/courses the schools run, the professors/researchers they host (especially if you already have a well-defined area of interest), and the opportunities they offer. Talk to current students and recent grads. If possible, get both the pretty and the not-so-pretty pictures to make an informed decision. This process will likely help reveal the advantages and challenges of each school, identify key personal interests, and how the school’s environment and your life may align. These revelations help us identify which schools may best fit our interests and needs. It can also help us brainstorm convincing narratives to present ourselves in our applications.


What was your experience like in law school?

The Covid-19 pandemic largely influenced my law school experience. My 1L and 2L, including classes, exams, moots, recruitment activities, and most of the networking, were online. The good thing about being online is that it saves time. I handled more tasks than I otherwise could. I also accessed opportunities in other cities that I could not in person. Regrettably, because my first two years were both online and because the Law Society requires at least one year of in-person learning, in my 3L, I was restricted from participating in some very interesting virtual opportunities.


I think all law school activities are fair game. The only yardstick would be what is the best fit for you personally. I would suggest choosing the ones that interest you and not just signing up for things to prevent FOMO. I would also only sign up for activities after ascertaining the time commitment required for my specific role.


Related to time commitment, I find planning and tracking my time helpful habits for surviving law school. Planning helps clarify priorities and ensure there is a protected time for each task. Tracking helps inform better planning because it reveals how much time is needed for similar tasks. Also, it helps ensure I am not straying off to distractions or pretending I am working/studying.


For studying/exam prep, old exams, summaries, and study groups are helpful. Study groups can come in two forms: one during the semester to divvy up the readings and the other at the end of the semester to review.


I wish I had more tips for work-life balance and keeping sane under the enormous stress that accompanies law school. But different individuals have different benchmarks for what is “balanced” and what is “sane.” I am lucky to have a supportive partner, family members, friends, and mentors to whom I can confide my insecurities and anxieties.


How did you find your first law-related job?

Besides the Technoship fellowship position in 1L, I found my first law-related job in the winter semester of 1L. It was a part-time job with a start-up company that provides legal tech and alternative legal services for Canadians’ interests abroad and for foreign nationals’ interests in Canada. I provided legal research and contributed to business/market development. I found this job through informal avenues. I knew about the company through two friends who were also uOttawa alumni.


I found my 1L summer job at the CRA through a job posting on “The Source,” an online platform uOttawa’s career services office operates. I worked full-time at the CRA during the summer of 2021. I conducted legal and policy research and analysis, drafted briefings, memos, research papers, and delivered a presentation to our team, internal stakeholders, and upper management. They offered to rehire me at the end of the summer, so I returned to work part-time when I was in 2L and again in 3L.


In 2L, I participated in the Toronto formal recruitment process. I submitted 19 applications, which included full-service business law firms and the Department of Justice. I got On Campus Interviews (OCIs) with all of them and proceeded to the in-firm stage with six. I eventually received three offers and accepted the one from Torys.


The application and preparation for these positions were similar. They involved researching the employers, the job responsibilities, and the interviewers, crafting convincing application materials, knowing my resume and experience well, and doing mock interviews. Additionally, I found talking with current students and lawyers at the firms/organizations to be very useful. These chats help build rapport, get important insights about the firm, and inspire thoughts/ideas for application/interview preparation.

Torys Toronto Office 2022 Summer Class


During 2L and 3L, you continued to work part-time for the CRA. How did you successfully juggle your work commitment, law school, and personal life?

I won’t lie - it is hard. Time management skills, work/study habits are integral. One thing I would emphasize is managing your physical and mental health. Regardless of how many skills or good habits I may have, and regardless of how well I may have planned out the work/study, it would be useless if I was sick or burnt out (and that happened). This is something I did not realize until 2L. I am still working on prioritizing my health - trying to protect time to rest, exercise, meditate, be with family, friends, pets, and do non-law related things. All of these are important.


I enjoy working while studying because the two are mutually synergistic. The subject of tax touches on almost every aspect of our lives. My work at the CRA provided a good context for the more theoretical/abstract knowledge I learned in school. Working is also a good way to explore interests and build skills. For example, I am interested in tech law. However, my law school schedule just would not accommodate for me to take more tech law courses. So I picked up the Technoship and a research position at the Legal Technology Lab to explore my interest. These opportunities all helped improve my soft skills, which cannot be taught in lectures or books but are indispensable in our careers.


Congratulations on securing a clerkship position at the Tax Court. Can you tell us about your application experience?

I did not think about clerkships until good friends and mentors urged me to apply (Thank you!!!) I became interested in clerkships because, from what I heard, they cultivate skills beneficial for litigation practice, which is where my passion lies. Through my previous work experience, I gained insights from both the public and the private sector perspectives on how to provide quality legal services. Clerkships are rare and valuable opportunities to gain insights from the judges’ perspectives. Also, I will come away with a set of well-rounded experiences, with which, regardless of which side I end up serving, I will be able to provide good work.


Tax Court’s application involves three stages: submitting the application (cover letter, curriculum vitae, 3 reference letters with at least one from a tax professor, transcripts), a written exam (to analyze a judgment provided to applicants on the day of), an interview (including questions about the applicants, a case analysis that applicants have time to prepare for, Q&A of that pre-assigned case that may include tax/legal questions beyond that case, Q&A of the written exam judgment). Unlike other courts, there is no need to submit a writing sample because the writing skills are assessed through the written exam (it was more stressful because of the time limit, but we got to “get it over with” within an hour - so the written exam was both a blessing and a curse).


For me, the hardest portion of the process was the interview. I had a panel of judges interviewing me. The questions were challenging. They spanned from the relevant legal theory, the law, and the case facts. Some were abstract and philosophical, while others were detailed and case-specific. For those who have mooting experience, the interview was like a moot but augmented such that I was on the stage solo for an entire hour, questioned on multiple cases at once. Anything in and related to the submitted application package, written exam, pre-assigned case is fair game. Because I had tax moot and publication, the judges also asked about the cases mentioned in those events. I appreciate that the judges were treating and challenging me as though I was actually a counsel presenting a case before them (although it was really nerve-wracking at the time).


The preparatory work for the clerkship applications is similar to that of other legal job applications. For subject matter courts like the Tax Court, refresh your memory on the relevant laws, policies, and rules, and keep up-to-date on recent cases. The research on interviewers, in some way, is easier, because the judges have their profiles on the court’s webpage, and the judgments they penned are easily located on legal research databases.


If you could give one piece of advice to prospective or current law students to help them succeed, what would it be?

I have three, and they are:

  1. Be willing to try different things, but don’t do things just because others are doing them.

  2. Make sure to have non-law time in life.

  3. Prioritize both physical and mental health - they are the foundation of success in any career.

What are your future career plans going forward, and how can our readers connect with you in the future?

I will be articling at Torys from 2023-2024 and then clerking at the Tax Court from 2024-2025. If time permits, I want to revive my Spanish skills and then pick up French. While I continue to build on my interest and experience in tax litigation and international arbitration, I want to expand to broader commercial/civil litigation. I also want to explore my interest in tech and emerging companies, venture capital, and financial market regulations.


The goal is to become a T-shaped lawyer - have well-rounded knowledge and skills, and at the same time have expertise in certain niches.


If I could be of assistance, please feel free to contact me via emma.huang@uottawa.ca or linkedin.com/in/lemmahuang


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