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Lawyer Talk with Donovan Francis
Profile of our guest in this episode of The Job Talk Podcast:
Donovan H. Francis is Founder and Managing Lawyer at Ontario registered law firm, GOOSELAW™ Immigration, located in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada.
Donovan currently helps businesses inside Canada and from around the world bring talent to Canada without dealing with complicated immigration laws. He leads a team of lawyers and immigration support workers dedicated to helping billion-dollar multinational corporations, Canadian and foreign owned startups as well as medium-sized companies seeking work permit support for their foreign employees or wishing to create a Canadian startup for immigration purposes.
He leverages his expertise as a Canadian educated lawyer, a go-to marketing and communications professional, and a proud immigrant to Canada, to provide high-quality Canadian immigration services. He leads his team in helping Canadian and foreign employers navigate complex immigration regulations, including those related to international trade agreements such as NAFTA, CETA and GATS. Donovan also provides direction related to various work permit categories, including intra-company transferees and labour market impact assessments and Global Skills Strategy applications.
In the past, he worked as a business immigration lawyer at a global corporate immigration law firm where he advised a diverse portfolio of clients, including global corporations and Fortune 500 companies, as well as small and medium-sized companies.
He has also served as head of communications and marketing within a division of global engineering firm, Worley. He provided the company’s leadership team with strategic marketing, advertising, and internal communications advice around multiple long and short-term corporate outcomes.
Donovan is a member in good standing of the Law Society of Ontario and has been admitted to the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. He is also a member of the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers. Under appointment under The Notaries Act, RSO 1990, Donovan is a certified Notary Public & Commissioner.
A graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Canada, Donovan holds a Juris Doctor (Law degree) and a master’s degree in Communications and Technology from the University of Alberta, Canada. He is also a proud alum of the University of The West Indies (Mona) in Jamaica.
BOARD DIRECTORSHIP AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
Donovan has held positions on several boards and committees and has served in advisory and managerial role for different political campaigns in Alberta and Ontario. He is currently the Director of Human Resources & Legal Affairs at CANCARO (Canadian, Migration & Counter Trafficking in Persons Organization). He has served as Communications Director, CARIWEST Festival (Western Canada’s largest Caribbean street festival) as well as on the M.A. in Communications and Technology Advisory Board at the University of Alberta. He also served on the Faculty of Extension Awards Committee also at the University of Alberta.
Recent Speaking Engagements
- Speaker – Collision Conference June 27, 2023, Toronto – Masterclasses at Collision Conference 2023: Effective Immigration Strategies: How to Bring Global Tech Talent to Canada (upcoming).
- Guest lecturer – University of Victoria Faculty of Law – September 4, 2022: The statutory and regulatory scheme governing the immigration of temporary skilled workers required for Canadian and multinational corporations.
- Panelist, Osgoode Hall Law School, Immigration Law Intensive (York University): Pursuing a career in Immigration law
- YouTube channel Host: Presenter on a YouTube channel with close to 40,000 subscribers globally and a focus on Canadian immigration: @GOOSELAWImmigrationTV
- The Monitor magazine – published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives,
January 26, 2022: We are all Afghanistan
- International Business Times, May 2020: Americans Are ‘Window Shopping’ Canada Move Requirements Amid Election Result Wait
- Asaase Breakfast Show – Asaase Radio, July, 2022: Canadian immigration session in Accra, Ghana
- The Entrepreneur Nation™ on Rogers TV, May 2022: Immigration for Canadian
businesses and families
Check out our Career Crisis Interview Series:
Full Length Episode:
Complete Episode Transcript
Coming up next…
If you are considering a career in law, I’m sure it’s something you’re passionate about.
If it’s something you’re really convinced you’re going to excel at, then go for it.
Don’t be put off by what people say or any perceptions that are out there about what the requirements are just go for it.
I’ve done it.
You can do it, too.
Welcome to the Job Talk Podcast, where we talk with people who love their jobs.
Our guests open up about their challenges, surprises and secrets to success in their industries.
Through conversation, we explore their careers, past work experiences, and the education that got them to where they are now.
Today’s guest is Donovan Francis.
Here’s our job talk with the lawyer.
Donovan Thank you so much for for coming on the podcast today.
I’m really interested to hear your story and how you became a lawyer.
I think the best place to start would be Where did you grow up? Yeah.
Thanks for having me, Kim, and good to be catching up with you again, you know, from our days together in Edmonton.
So I’m Jamaican by birth, my wife and I moved to Edmonton, Alberta many years ago.
I’ve lost I’ve lost count and we spent a significant number of years there before moving to Ontario, where I moved to Ontario primarily to go to law school.
And then I decided to kind of set up my law practice here in in Ontario.
So that has been there, the journey so far.
What was it like coming to Canada? Was there a culture shock? How did you find the weather? Because in Edmonton, we can we can get to some pretty low temperatures.
Yeah, you’re you’re you’re right about that.
So, I mean, we’re we’re into research, so we do a lot of research.
We did a lot of research prior to coming.
So we had some kind of an idea of what we were getting ourselves into.
I mean, but normal daily preparation can prepare you for -35 degrees temperatures and not factor in the wind chill.
You know, I think I think probably one of the biggest surprises I had, you know, as somebody who grew up in a in that environment where you you equated sunlight and sunshine with warmth and heat, you know, one of the biggest shocks I had was in the middle of winter when the sun was high in the sky and shining down in Edmonton.
You know, I thought that it would have been at least been warm, but I discovered that that’s when it was coldest.
So that was a big surprise.
Well, as far as the culture is concerned, there weren’t any major culture shots.
You know, there there were adjustments that needed to be made, for sure.
But I think we did a good job of assimilating.
And I mean, Edmonton made it easier.
So when you arrived in Canada and in Edmonton, what career were you in? Yeah, so I was, I was in communications as I was what was back then a communications officer.
I believe they still have communications officers today.
So that’s what I did while I was in Jamaica, and that’s what I transitioned to when I was in Alberta.
And that grew into a communication slash marketing manager role while I was in in Alberta.
And and I did that right up until I decided to transition into law.
May I ask how old you were when you decided to pursue a career in law? Yeah, good question.
So so I was a I was what was called a mature student, right? I was almost 40 years old.
And I decided to do it to go to law school.
You know, I was I was in my mid-thirties when I decided to go to law school, and that had its pros and its cons, you know, being a mature student, having had a professional career before, it kind of prepares you to handle you know, the there there the culture and the the politics and and so on of of law school.
I did kind of made me focused on on on kind of what I wanted or not wasting time on other stuff.
So so that was definitely a pro the con was I felt like I was wasting away an important part of my life just going to school when I could have been out there working and, and providing for my family.
So the year going to my school, making a career switch at that point in my life was definitely an unusual decision, to say the least.
And you had a degree.
Was your degree in communications? Yeah.
So I had a degree from Jamaica in communications.
Then when I came to Edmonton, I did a master’s at the University of Alberta in communications and technology.
So that was more focused on not just the the communication side, but how to leverage primarily the online Internet based technologies, you know, to effectively communicate with with an audience and at the market to an audience.
Education in law is very competitive.
So when you’re a mature student and you’re applying to law school, what is that like? What are they looking at? Are they looking when you’re a mature student, are they looking at your life experience? But are they also looking at your grades from your previous degree? Yes.
They look at everything and it varies from university to university as well.
You know what? There are there are certain themes that are common across all the universities.
You know, you have to have sat the LSAT exam, right? So the LSAT is are required to requirement and you need to have generally speaking, you need to have gotten a competitive score in the LSATs.
You know, so that can be the first and probably most challenging barrier.
Secondly, yes, your academic performance up until the point in time you’re applying for law school, and that’s also going to be taken into consideration.
So in my case, both my undergraduate transcripts and my master’s transcripts from the U of A would have been taken into into consideration.
And then there are other factors, you know, around your involvement in the community.
So the fact that I was actively involved in the community in Edmonton, you know, volunteering and leading and so on, all of that stuff was also taken into consideration as well as my maturity and the contributions I’d be able to make to the law school are given the experience that I was coming to the law school with.
How do you successfully prepare yourself to write the LSAT? Oh man, that’s right.
That’s a difficult, difficult question.
You know, for me it was about preparation.
A lot of these exams are more about preparation than they are about anything else, you know? So it really is about spending a lot of time preparing, you know, looking at looking for certain themes that are common throughout, identifying them, understanding what the expectation is around them and addressing them as you go along.
You know, for some people, there are courses available as well that can help you prepare for the LSAT.
So there are different things you can do, but ultimately preparation is key.
Can you only write the LSAT once, twice? Is there a time limit or no? Otherwise they they never want those of the exams to not make any money.
So you can write as many times as you want until you you have a score that’s competitive and from start to finish.
How long did it take to go through the LSAT for you? Oh man, it’s been a while.
It’s been a while.
I don’t remember exactly how long, but that is something that I had been.
So I’ve always worked while studying with the exception of law school.
You know, So whether it was while I was doing my masters, I worked full time studying.
I had no issues in preparing for the LSAT.
I worked full time while while preparing.
So that would have happened over quite a period of time.
Then the preparations and is there.
I’m not going to ask you how much it is, but there’s obviously a financial aspect to writing an LSAT.
It it it added up at the time.
It did add up, right, because you have to the exam itself costs, you know, all of the material cost, you know, all the books and stuff you’re going to by those cost money if you’re going to be paying for courses, those are going to cost money.
So it certainly adds up.
You know, my view, it’s nothing compared to what you’re going to be paying when you actually get into law school, But that’s an entirely different story.
So which law school did you attend? DONOVAN Yeah, So I attended Osgoode Hall Law School, which is at York University in Toronto.
Let’s talk about your experience as a mature student.
When you were taking your studies.
How intense is it? Is very intense, oftentimes reflecting back on on those years.
I think that people who are in law school make too much of a big deal about it.
And as a result, they create a lot of pressure, a lot of tension on themselves, Unnecessarily.
And I found that to be the case throughout.
You know, it’s a very competitive environment where people are continually thinking that what they ultimately determine their fate in life is what kind of score they get on a particular in a particular course.
And nothing is farther from the truth, actually.
But but that’s the reality of of of the law school experience, as I experienced it.
So, I mean, as a mature student, thankfully I, I had the experience of working prior and of having had an understanding of how the real working world operates, how the corporate space operates.
And so I was able to leverage that throughout.
But even that oftentimes is not sufficient to cushion you from just the the intensity of law school.
It’s fiercely competitive.
You have to be continually trying just to to score that at the highest levels, you know, because your grades are marked on a curve.
And just all of these are crazy things that in hindsight are, in my opinion, very unnecessary, at least unnecessary for you to succeed in the real world.
Do you think you would have been as successful as a law student if you went into law at, say, age 20, 21, as opposed to when you were a little bit older and had some more life experience? Yeah, I probably would have been a more successful student and then a less successful lawyer.
But how you know, one of the one of the criticisms of law school is that it is kind of geared towards young kids.
So younger kids who are trained to, you know, to to sit the exams and to respond to the questions exactly as as as they would have been presented and so on.
And and for somebody who comes at it with a little bit more of a critical outset – outlook, rather may not fit into that as seamlessly, you know.
And so I think that had I gone to law school as a much younger person, I may have relished the competitive nature of of of law school more than I did as a more mature person.
But ultimately, I think my experiences prior to going to law school have definitely helped me in the in the actual real life practice of law.
And I would not have had that advantage had I gone in early.
Donovan Are you argumentative? Do you enjoy a good, good arguments? And do you think that’s an important trait? If you’re looking to to be a lawyer, It’s not a necessary trait.
There are all kinds of lawyers there.
Oh, man, there are.
There are people who are high risk in your school.
There are people who are very reserved.
There are people who are quiet you know, but what ultimately I mean, these are usually all going to be people who know what they’re about, know what they are, believe in that kind of a thing.
And oftentimes for many people in law school, there’s going to be a commonality, which is that they have this dislike for the injustices for things that they perceive to be unjust in one way or another.
You know, but ultimately, in terms of your personality type, you definitely do not have to be an argumentative type of person to get into law because there are so many different areas of know, many of which do not require you to be that kind of a person, you know? Yeah.
So what area of law are you practicing? What did you pursue? Yeah, so I ended up practicing what’s called corporate immigration law or business immigration law.
So this is immigration for multinationals of corporations who have operations in Canada and who have business outside of Canada.
And they want to transfer high skilled employees from their businesses outside Canada into Canada to help support their Canadian operation.
So this is called business immigration.
So that’s what we do primarily.
So you probably don’t find yourself in a courtroom very often, then? No.
And I have chosen not to be.
I mean, you asked if I’m okay, if I I’m by nature and argumentative person, if it’s necessary, I will be.
But I’m not a combative person.
And typically the way our court system is set up, it’s adversarial in nature.
You know, you you have to be going at each other and trying to outscore though the party in order to convince the decision maker that your position is is the right position.
I chose deliberately not to go that route because that’s not where my satisfaction concern my satisfaction comes from the more transactional side of things where I’m able to we make arguments, but what our arguments are written arguments in all that are advocating for the approval of our of our clients applications based on certain grounds, you know, but I found that to be more satisfying, that to be standing in a court or in a tribunal arguing in front of a decision maker.
Did you choose immigration law because of your life experience? You were a new Canadian.
You came to Canada.
Is that why you pursued it? Good question.
Actually, it wasn’t.
When I went to law school, I thought I would have pursued something completely different.
You know, I had an interest in contracts.
You know, I had an interest in corporate law, those kinds of things.
But then while I was in law school, I decided to take an immigration law course and they had a guest lecturer there who came and started talking about corporate immigration.
And I was intrigued because I’d never heard of that area of practice before.
And and so that’s what really piqued my interest.
And and from there, it just kind of mushroomed and snowballed into, into, into a career for me.
What challenges do you do you face on a day to day basis in the work that you do? Yeah, the challenges are varied.
So I lead a team, I have my own firm and we are lawyers that and and immigration case workers on our team.
So there are going to be the managerial type issues that are going to be faced on a day to day basis, you know, issues around managing decisions around staffing.
You know, decisions are up budget decisions around managing clients, all of those managerial type issues.
And then they’re going to be the the legal the more substantive legal issues, you know, around trying to get our client application approved, notwithstanding certain challenges, our difficulties that may be associated with that client and so on.
So those are some of the things that I mean, on a day to day basis I have to grapple with.
Yeah, you’re not only a lawyer, but you’re also a business owner, which are two completely different things.
And I think you hit I mean, you hit on a good point there, because one of the criticisms of law school is that it does not train you to be called a businessperson, trains you to become a lawyer.
But the truth is that once you go out and you set up a law firm, what you’re doing is you’re setting up a business that offers that that happens to offer legal services.
So what what in essence happens is that you become a business person first and a lawyer second.
And at the need.
That is where a lot of lawyers struggle because we were never trained to be businesspeople.
And and that can that can become very challenging within the profession for a lot of people.
So we talked about your challenges.
What do you love about being a lawyer? And you know what, I’m going to fold in a second part to that question.
Is there a particular project or case or something that you worked on that you are proud of? Yeah.
So what I love is when my clients, especially the ones who have very difficult situations, when we are able to put forward a case that is an argument that is strong enough to lead to their applications being approved, I mean, that gives us a lot of gratification as a team.
We actually celebrate those those those wins.
So that’s where I get the greatest joy from.
And in terms of like the most challenging case or situation, I mean, we had a few who told me, you know, I only we had situations where persons have been told by all the lawyers that they don’t have much of a hope, and then they’ve come to us and their matter was approved.
But I think for me the biggest gratification comes actually from them or corporate clients.
You know, we have business clients who bring multiple foreign employees to Canada, high skilled employees, usually primarily the tech space.
And for us, the biggest satisfaction comes from being able to get those applications approved.
You know, the rate of success is bordering on 100%, notwithstanding the difficulties that each employee application has from time to time.
So so for me, that’s the biggest gratification that I have gotten from from everything that we’ve been doing.
Do you think you’re surprised that you became a lawyer? You know, it’s something I always aspired to be, But, you know, in life sometimes you have to get to where you want to get to by using different routes, you know? And so I came to law through the route of a communications and marketing person, but I would have been surprised if I did not become a lawyer because that is something I always aspired towards.
And I’m I’m very goal driven.
I’m so surprised.
What are some of the misconceptions about about lawyers and a career in law? I mean, I think one of the one of the biggest ones that I could think of is it’s like you just start to cash checks when you become a lawyer.
It’s it’s you could become or perfect money for charities.
Yeah, that could be farther from the truth.
You know there there are many lawyers who who struggle, you know financially and and that’s just the reality.
And then on top of that, there is this perception of prestige that is associated with a profession which brings an added burden on somebody who is struggling financially or otherwise, within the profession.
So I think that’s a misconception that once you become a lawyer, you make money.
The opposite can be true for many people.
You know, I think it depends on where you end up.
You know, depending on the firm you end up at or if you decide to set up your own business, it depends on how effectively you’re able to manage that business and even out even after being able to effectively manage a business, it takes time.
You know, it takes time to build up your clientele and all of that, all those things.
So so that’s definitely a misconception.
I, I think there’s a misconception that lawyers are typically going to be flamboyant people who are going to be standing in front of a judge and and really hammering all of their points.
You know, the opposite is true because of how diverse the profession is.
You’re going to find people who just sit in a corner the entire day and write stuff, you know, and their personality type is not one that would down.
Oh, I know them to go stand in front any court.
So so that’s another misconception that lawyers are these are very outgoing, adversarial type of personalities.
What advice would you give somebody that is considering a career in law? And I’ll tack on another item to that and ask maybe speak to a mature person that’s looking to go into law as well.
Yes, I would start off by saying there’s a place in law for you.
You know, one of the edge, the struggles the profession has is a lack of diversity at that.
Not that diversity not just has to do with racial or ethnic diversity.
It also has to do with diversity in terms of the experience level that people are coming into it with, you know, the stage at which people come into it, you know, and the kinds of background that people come into law with.
You know, if you’re going into law straight out of high school and university, then you would not have the kind of experience as somebody else coming into law may have.
So so that definitely is is going to be important.
I think I’ve strayed from your question here, Kim, just that just advice to to somebody considering a career as a lawyer.
So so definitely there’s a place in law for you because the profession needs people from all kinds of backgrounds.
And we should not be intimidated by the requirements that are in place to get you into and into law.
If this this is something you really want, then you will find a way to get into it.
Do not be intimidated by the LSAT exams, you know, on your your who you are as a person holistically matters.
And that’s also going to be important for you to learn.
And then even when you get into law school, oh, I just remember that for what you were before and what you bring with you into law school matters.
And so you should never be thrown off or be put off by anything you see or hear or what transpires there.
And then when you have graduated from law school, it’s important to note that you can add a little bit of you can bring your own personality to your practice.
You know, you can add some variety, you can try to do things differently, but within the confines of the the rules, when you do not have to be the person you grew up watching on TV, performing as a lawyer.
Yeah, well, Donovan, congratulations on your career.
And I’m sure your friends and family are very, very proud of what you’ve accomplished.
And, you know, thank you so much for for coming on the podcast to share your insight on being a lawyer.
Thank you so much, Kim.
Thanks for having me.
And it was good catching up with you again.
To learn more, please visit gooselaw.com Thank you for tuning in to The Job Talk Podcast.
For more information, please visit us at thejobtalk.com Our podcast music was created by our friend Mike Malone in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.