Elaf Khadhair steps out of comfort zone for international legal training

Internationally Trained Lawyer Pathway brings UAlberta alumna home

Sarah Kent - 03 September 2020

When Elaf Khadhair, ‘12 BA, returned to Edmonton from her legal training in the United Kingdom, she knew her international experiences would serve her well for practising law in Canada.

In June, Khadhair completed the requirements set by the National Committee on Accreditation that qualify her to practise law in Canada after undertaking the Internationally Trained Lawyer Pathway at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law. Those credentials enhance her overseas experience.

“Moving your entire life to another country on a one-way flight really pushes you outside of your comfort zone. It is not a skill that can be acquired in the classroom,” said Khadhair.

“It not only strengthened my ability to adapt, but also to connect and empathize with people of various demographics and socio-economic backgrounds. It is very important to have skills like that when it comes to practicing law.”

Advocating for others has always been a central value to Khadhair. She volunteered at the Provincial Court of Alberta with the Elizabeth Fry Society (an organization that supports women and vulnerable youth) and served as an executive board member with the Centre for Race and Culture (which focuses on intercultural awareness in Edmonton) during her undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta.

She was studying to become a paralegal at Grant MacEwan when she realized she had found her calling in law, a career that would capitalize on her advocacy skills.

“I wanted a little more of a challenge, so that year I applied for law school in the UK,” said Khadhair, who attended the University of Southampton to complete a bachelor of laws (honours) in juris doctor, a specialized law degree tailored to Canadian students.

The degree is intended to equip Canadian law students with the tools and knowledge to return home and complete the requirements to practise in Canada.

Getting Involved

After adapting to the unexpected culture shock, Khadhair thrived. She served as the vice-president of the Canadian Law Society and even facilitated a visit from UAlberta Law to speak to students at the University of Southampton about the Internationally Trained Lawyer Pathway.

“Being able to not only study abroad but also to travel and network across Europe really opens and expands your understanding of the various values, cultural norms, belief systems, and human behaviors that exist around us,” she said. “Growing up in Edmonton, where we have a diverse array of people, the ability to understand and empathize with people of various backgrounds is integral to client management and building rapport.”

With plans to return to Canada to practise, Khadhair naturally gravitated to UAlberta Law.

“Edmonton has been my home. It has been the starting point for where my academic journey began, and I thought, ‘Why not end it here too?’ ”

For Khadhair, the Pathway was not just about completing the NCA requirements to practise in Canada but also an opportunity to get involved with the UAlberta Law community alongside JD students.

She became the first internationally trained lawyer to hold an executive position with the Women’s Law Forum, which required an amendment to its constitution, and moderated a speakers series discussion on intersectional experiences of the criminal justice system alongside keynote speakers Judge Julie Lloyd, QC, ‘91 LLB, and Kanchana Fernando, ‘07 LLB.

Khadhair also volunteered with Student Legal Services, where she continued to refine her strength in relationship-building with clients.

Khadhair begins her articles at Ogilvie LLP in September and looks forward to bringing her depth of knowledge and range of experiences to her practise of law.