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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Hua

Navigating Change: From an Energy Recession to Law School

Hello! Please introduce yourself.

Hi everyone, my name is George Hua. I am an articling student at Dentons Calgary. I graduated from the University of Ottawa English Common Law program in 2023, where I also served as the Senior Editor and Special Projects Manager for the Ottawa Law Review, a Legal Intern at the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), and a practicum law student at the City of Ottawa.


Outside of law school, I enjoy playing video games, reading business books, listening to podcasts, and collecting new Lego sets. I’ve recently been captivated by the new AI developments (ChatGPT, MidJourney, etc.), and I’ve been spending a lot of time learning and trying out the latest AI tools.


What motivated you to pursue a career in law?

I applied to law school as a mature student. Before law school, I worked as a Landman and a Project Manager at an energy company in Calgary. While I was working there, the energy industry went through a recession. I saw many colleagues and peers exit the industry. As a millennial who just entered the corporate world, I felt that I needed to reposition myself in a profession that is more resistant to economic conditions and has a better future outlook. I wanted to find a profession where I could utilize my existing skill sets and experiences to help me grow faster. Being a lawyer ticks all of the boxes.


I started studying for the LSAT while working full-time. I used Mike Kim’s book, The LSAT Trainer, to understand the different question types and the methodologies for solving LSAT questions. I then purchased the practice exam books from LSAC and tried a couple of practice exams over the weekend. My results were abysmal. My biggest issue was time management. My accuracy dropped significantly when I was under time constraints, and the only way to improve that was by doing more practice. I signed up for 7Sage and started recording all of my scores. I wanted something that could show me my progression as I worked through the practice exams. In total, I completed about 25 practice exams over a two-month period (I had quit my job at this point to prepare for the exam). I took the LSAT three times. Interestingly, my highest score was on my second try, and my lowest score was on my third try.


I decided to apply far and wide for law school. In total, I submitted 21 applications - 10 Canadian schools and 11 US schools. I had bad grades from undergrad, and I wanted to maximize my chance of getting into a law school. I believed that regardless of what law school I attended, I had the ability to find a job in the field after. In the end, I was accepted to three schools (2 Canadian and 1 US), waitlisted at two, withdrew from three (you must withdraw from all other Ontario schools when you accept an Ontario school offer), and was rejected by 13 schools.


There are different perspectives regarding how many schools you should apply to, and many factors (for example, financial, family, location, etc.) will play a role in this decision. I was lucky in that I had been working for several years before law school, so I had the means to apply broadly. Location was also not a consideration for me because I was willing to relocate. Looking back, I would recommend prospective law students apply to as many schools as possible within the geographic area they are willing to relocate to or want to work in going forward. I feel that the extra application fees incurred in the process are a worthy investment for a fulfilling life-long career.


What was your experience like in law school?

My law school experience was unique in that we were the first cohort to complete 1L and most of 2L online. Honestly, it was quite different than what I imagined.


Completing most of my law school virtually had its merits. Being online, I was able to dedicate more time and focus on my studies. I was also able to explore different learning strategies and figure out what worked for me. This was important because I quickly realized that attending lectures and being cold-called was not the most effective way for me to learn. I am not a “think on your feet” type of person, and I would spend most of the lecture worried about being called on. I learned that it is more efficient for me to watch recorded lectures and have the ability to rewind or slow down the recording. Because of virtual classes, I also had the freedom to plan my schedule in a way that worked for me.


This may not work for everyone, but I think it is vital for all law students to figure out, as quickly as possible, their preferred learning style and continue to hone it throughout law school. One of the biggest challenges of law school is time management. You quickly realize there are always readings to complete, assignments to finish, memos or factums to draft, and extracurriculars to attend. The ability to work efficiently and maximize your output is critical in this environment. By finding your preferred studying methods and practicing them, you will become more efficient in how you learn. Your 2L and 3L years will become much easier once you know how to study for a law class effectively.


Extracurricular activities are important for the law school experience. However, we can’t participate in everything. There should be intentionality when choosing which activities to dedicate your time to. You need a clear idea of what you want to get out of the experience and preferably set a limit in terms of the amount of time you wish to dedicate to it.


For example, I’ve been an Ottawa Law Review (OLR) editor for three years. Prior to joining the OLR, I researched the responsibilities of a law journal editor and people’s opinions of their experiences in a law journal. I learned that because the law journal editorship is a competitive process, some employers may look favorably upon journal editors during recruitment. I would also have access to a great network of law students, professors, and alums. I also learned that journal editors would better understand McGill Guide citations through exposure, which may help their grades in the 1L Legal Foundations class (the introductory legal research and writing class at UOttawa). By joining the OLR with this in mind, I enjoyed everything I did because I knew this was the best use of my time. I would also add that being a part of the OLR was the most memorable experience of my law school journey.


Extracurricular activities can also help you expand your understanding of different fields and sectors of law. I joined the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) to learn more about privacy and copyright law. I was also curious to learn what working in a public interest clinic was like. What types of issues they are interested in? What is the work process? How do they select candidates? Similarly, I applied for the Federal Tribunal Practice Internship at the City of Ottawa to learn more about working in government. These are great opportunities for you to try different things and learn more about the profession.

University of Ottawa Class of 2023


How did you find your first law-related job?

I found my first law job during the 1L formal recruit. Knowing how competitive the 1L positions are, I applied mainly to Calgary firms. I thought that my previous work experience and network within the city could help me improve my chances of success. Fortunately, I was successful during the recruit and received an offer from Dentons on call day.


I believe several things were integral to my success during the interviews. They are as follows:

  • Know your strength. It is important to understand where you excel and what strengths the interviewers can logically infer from reading your resume. Leverage that and really focus on those points during the interview. Build the connection for the interviewers between your strength and how it relates to you becoming a great attorney in the future.

  • Build your narrative. I find it inefficient to prepare separate answers for each behavioral question. Once I determined what my strengths were from the previous step, I crafted a series of four stories from my experiences that can be used to cover all of the standard behavioral questions. The collective theme of these stories was that I would be a great lawyer in the future and an asset to the firm. Within each of these stories, I highlighted the relevant skillsets that were necessary to be a great lawyer and where I have demonstrated these skillsets in the past. I then focused my energy on practicing these stories to sound as authentic and persuasive as possible.

  • Be confident. Once you’ve completed the two points above, you should be able to rationalize why you are a great candidate for the law firm. You should have internalized the list of reasons why the firm should hire you, and you should have confidence in your ability to succeed in this industry. Confidence can’t be faked. So, take the time to understand your strengths and how they can be applied to your legal career, then rationalize why you are an amazing candidate for this law firm and other firms as well. Operate on a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity, and you will radiate confidence and leave a great first impression.

Aside from working at Dentons during my 1L summer, I also explored various other opportunities. I’ve always felt that the legal industry is quite opaque when it comes to the different career paths that are available. I find that the best way to gather information about a certain position or organization is to work within it. In my 2L summer, I worked at the Ontario Securities Commission, and then in my 3L year, I did internships at the City of Ottawa and CIPPIC, a public interest clinic. I wanted to gain a breadth of experience to make a rational decision about my future career plans.


I would recommend everyone to go explore the opportunities that are available to you both in and out of law school. If you are curious about a certain area of law, what it is like working in-house or at the government, what benefits are available at these organizations, or any other question you may have. Go find ways to join these organizations. Whether it’s through a school-sponsored internship or a summer program, find ways to experience for yourself what it’s like to work there. UOttawa has a great program called the Student Proposed Internship, where you may pursue a self-proposed internship and receive course credits. It’s an excellent program, and all uOttawa students should utilize this opportunity to do something interesting.

Dentons Canada Calgary Office Summer Class 2021


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

Don’t waste time in law school. Choosing a career in law means you are on the hamster wheel that keeps on going. Your time in law school is the only time when you can openly and freely explore the various areas of law and your interests with minimal opportunity cost. You can go out there and ask any lawyer, judge, or legal professional for advice or coffee, and they’d be happy to talk to you. You can take as long as you want to write an amazing paper on any topic you choose. You can sign up to write a certification exam in a particular field of law to boost your resume. The possibilities are endless, and time is your only constraint. It is three years of open field for you to explore and learn. Don’t waste it.


Another piece of advice for law students is to be perpetually curious. There is so much about this industry that we do not know. There are so many niche areas with incredibly interesting work. There are so many career paths and law-adjacent jobs that we have no idea about. If you hear about something interesting, ask around, dig deeper, and find enough information about it so you may make an informed decision about whether it is something interesting to you.


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

I will be articling at Dentons Calgary starting in September. Before then, I will be completing the CPLED program with the Law Society of Alberta (yes, no bar exam in Alberta 🙂). I will also be working on Legal Tale, and hopefully, it may become a useful resource for future law students and junior lawyers.


If you have any questions about anything or if you are interested in getting involved in Legal Tale. Please send me an email at george.hua@legaltale.com


You can also find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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