top of page
  • Writer's pictureJuliana Orlando Rohr

Brazil to Baker McKenzie: A Litigation Enthusiast's Path in the Legal World

Hello! Please introduce yourself.

Hi! I’m Juliana Orlando Rohr, and I’m an incoming articling student at Baker McKenzie LLP in Toronto, with an interest in Litigation & Government Enforcement and Tax Disputes.

I was born and raised in Brazil, and I immigrated to Canada in 2015 for my post-secondary education. For that reason, my educational background is slightly different from the average law student. I decided to get a college diploma before my undergraduate degree. This allowed me to save tons of money (and time!) as an international student.

Before receiving my Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Ottawa, I studied at St. Lawrence College, where I received my Business Marketing Diploma and Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in partnership with Laurentian University. Prior to law school, I also received my Master's in Public Administration Degree from Queen's University.

What motivated you to pursue a career in law?

As cliche as it sounds, I always knew I wanted to become a lawyer. As a child, I remember watching a wrongful conviction case in the news and feeling outraged. Since then, I started paying attention to the "legal talk" around my community. When I turned 15, I sought an internship with a lawyer in my hometown, where I got to shadow him in hearings, and interact with clients. While the internship confirmed that I absolutely wanted to become a lawyer, it made me realize that I didn't want to practice law in Brazil.

A few months after graduating high school, I moved to Canada. Little did I know that I could not go directly to law school and needed to get an undergraduate degree. This was quite a shock! Back in 2015, there was nothing else I wanted to go to school for other than law. Now it's funny to think I spent 5+ years studying business and public policy.

I was accepted into the University of Ottawa the second time I applied. I only applied to two law schools, because I wanted to stay close to my family in Kingston, and I knew I wanted to stay in Ontario after graduating. I also used my gap year between undergrad and law school to get my master's degree in Public Administration, which I believe made my application stronger.

I accepted uOttawa's offer due to the faculty's well-known reputation for Dispute Resolution and Advocacy. The fact that the school is located close to the Supreme Court also contributed a lot to my decision.

When applying for law school, I'd suggest applying as broadly as possible, if moving is not an issue. But I would also recommend going to school in the jurisdiction you would like to practice. This will help to understand the court system better, and the network you will build during law school will be more helpful when trying to find a job!

I'm a big believer that once you graduate undergrad, and write the LSAT, there is not a lot you can do to change your grades. But, you can control the rest of your application. Make your personal statement… personal (I know, right? Who would've thought about this?). Tell each school why you want to become a lawyer, and why you want that specific school. Talk to recent grads! Read interviews like this one! Show them why you deserve a spot. Think about what makes you different from the thousands of applications the schools are receiving. I also highly recommend getting multiple people to read your personal statement for each school.

What was your experience like in law school?

When I started law school in 2020, all classes were virtual. In fact, 1L and 2L were 100% virtually. I only had in-person courses during my last year of law school. While having a virtual law school experience was difficult, I believe it made it easier to make time for readings, and to get used to reading 200+ pages a day.

During 1L, students get exposed to A LOT of clubs and activities. It isn't easy to choose which activities to participate. Even more when you don't know which area of law you want to practice. This is all normal! Most students feel this way. How I approached this "problem" was that I decided that I wanted to get practical experiences in all the areas I was interested in.

For example, I was very intrigued about a criminal defence practice. This led me to join the Ottawa Courthouse Mentorship, where I found my amazing mentor (shout out to Shira Brass)! Not only did I get to learn from my mentor, but I also had the opportunity to do an SPI ("Student Proposed Internship") during my 1L summer with my mentor's firm, and I worked there part-time until graduating.

I highly recommend students have the "I don't know what I like until I try it" mindset. There are indeed so many areas in law, but if you think you would like to practice in X area, get an internship! Do some research for a professor! Go on coffee chats! Take a class in the subject!

If you have an interest in litigation, I highly recommend applying to legal clinics, taking practical advocacy classes, or getting involved with moots. The practical aspect is so important to understand what a practice in that area of law will look like. It will also confirm whether you want a litigation practice or not.

My most memorable experience in law school was definitely mooting. I participated in multiple moots: the Rick Weiler Mediation Competition; Dentons Negotiation Competition; the first uOttawa LeClair Metaverse Moot; and the Bowman Tax Moot.

I'm not going to lie, at the time of participating in these competitions, everything is very intense. But I promise - it's so worth it. The preparation process of researching the law, applying the law to your case, and drafting your written and oral arguments is exactly what students can expect from a litigation practice. In addition, all the support that you get from professors, lawyers, and judges (for the VR Moot, Former SCC Justice Binnie was our Judge) not only helps students to develop a more persuasive argument, but also helps to shape each person's advocacy style! It doesn't get more fun than that!

University of Ottawa 2022 LeClair Metaverse Moot (From what we know, this was the first hearing EVER in the Virtual Reality world )

Debrief of uOttawa LeClair Metaverse Moot with Justice Binnie, Ron Leclair, and Justice Waddilove

2023 Bowman Tax Moot - First time uOttawa won this national competition. Also, the first time that both teams from one school made it to the semi-finals

How did you find your first law-related job?

My first law-related job was during 1L summer at a criminal defence law firm in Ottawa. I met my mentor through the Ottawa Courthouse Mentorship Program, then I interned there for 3 weeks, and they kept me part-time until I graduated. It's not common for 1L students to get a law-related job during their 1L summer. For this reason, I highly recommend seeking internships with smaller law firms. Smaller firms are usually receptive to (free) help, and the trade-off is amazing, since you get to have a hands-on experience, and meet clients.

During the 1L summer, I started preparing my documents for the Toronto 2L formal recruit, where I secured a summer position at Baker McKenzie, and where I'll be starting articling in a few weeks.

Baker McKenzie LLP Toronto Office Summer Class of 2023

For the formal recruitment, I suggest starting to work on the resume and cover letter ASAP. Don't leave this for the last minute! It takes a lot of time; ideally, you want many people to review your documents. For the cover letters, make sure it's personalized for each firm, and what they do. It's also helpful to have coffee chats with students who summered there. Although the process of applying for 2L jobs is very stressful, remember that you are interviewing the firms as well. You want to steer your career in the direction you want to go! Don't let the pressure get to you! I found it helpful to have the support of friends who were not going through the same process or at least not applying to the same firms.

For those anxious about their first law-related job: don't be! If you get the job, you have the skills necessary to be there. Lawyers understand that students don't know what they're doing (yet!). Lawyers will provide you with training, and instructions. You should also be asking questions when receiving assignments. I found it helpful to follow this framework when receiving assignments:

  • You received an email with instructions on what to do.

  • Identify the area of the law that your assignment is about.

  • Go on LexisNexis or WestLaw, and look up a broad summary for the area of law (or even your summary from school)

    • This will allow you to know the basics. For example, where are we appealing to? Is this a provincial or federal issue?

  • Once you have the basics, email/call/meet up with the lawyer to go over the assignment.

    • Some questions to ALWAYS ask:

      • Billing information

      • What’s the deadline?

      • What is the expected format of the assignment?

      • If you are drafting something: who is the audience? Is there any precedent?

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

Make your own adventure! From selecting classes, to networking with people, to finding a job that fits with your personality and work-style. A career in law (and law school) is highly customizable. Make it unique to you, and don't be afraid to ask for what you want.

While law firms are pretty good at getting students to try a broad range of experiences, you will have so many more opportunities if you simply ask. For example, during my summer experience, I heard that a lawyer had an examination for discoveries coming up. I asked if I could join. I offered to help to prepare for it. The opportunity was there, but if I didn't ask to be a part of it, I would probably not have had the chance to participate.

The same advice is applicable to law school. If you want to join the Law Review, Clinics, and mooting teams, apply for it! I almost didn't try out for the Bowman Moot, because I was preoccupied with other courses and a tiny scared of public speaking. If I hadn't applied, I would have never found out about my passion for Tax Disputes, nor had the fantastic opportunity to argue in front of the Tax Court and Federal Court of Appeal Justices.

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

I’ll be articling at Baker Mckenzie in Toronto, where I’m excited to learn more about Tax Disputes and start my litigation practice.

To anyone interested in a similar path, I’m happy to chat. Please reach out to me on LinkedIn!


bottom of page