Escapes and opportunities: Is YLIP right for you?

  • October 26, 2018
  • Laura MacLean

Since high school, I’ve dreamed of having a dynamic, international career in human rights. I loved the idea of filling up my passport with stamps, learning dozens of languages and becoming a respected, unapologetic advocate for social justice. However, the stress of law school showed me I need to be near my family and friends. An international career was not in the cards for me after all. Still, I often fantasized about lighting my bar materials on fire and getting on the next flight to anywhere.

The Young Lawyers International Program is perfect for someone like me.

My craving for adventure came to life again while I was searching for post-articling work, and found out YLIP was recruiting. The program places 32 interns in ten different countries to work in law reform, human rights and access to justice for six months. I applied, underwent the rigorous interview process, and was placed at Lawyers for Human Rights in Durban, South Africa. Before you could say “Nelson Mandela,” my flights were booked, my bags were packed and I was off.

I am three weeks in, and so far I love the experience. The work is meaningful and challenging, my colleagues are welcoming, and strangers have been exceedingly generous to me. I’m grateful that I took a chance on this program – a decision largely informed by David Cote, a YLIP alumnus who also might say that YLIP was the perfect program for him.

David joined LHR’s Johannesburg office as a YLIP intern in 2006 and stayed for 10 years. He went on to become the program manager for LHR’s Strategic Litigation Program, working on high-profile refugee rights cases, publishing papers and earning a South African law degree. David says YLIP “really was a phenomenal experience and fundamentally shaped where my career headed.” He now runs a successful immigration and refugee law practice in Toronto as a sole practitioner.

If you are wondering whether YLIP is right for you, here are some things to know:

  • Despite the program’s name, you do not necessarily have to be a called or practising lawyer to participate, but you do need to be a law school graduate by the time you are deployed. Third-year law students and law school graduates can apply before being called to the bar. In fact, some in the past have used YLIP to fulfil part of the articling requirement.
  • The internships are unpaid, which might be problematic for low-income individuals. However, major expenses (such as flights, visa fees and travel insurance) are covered and a modest stipend is provided for day-to-day living.
  • You must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident aged 30 or under to qualify for the program.

If you’re still unsure, you can reach out to former YLIP interns. In my experience, they are all eager to reminisce about their experience.

Whether you want one last escape before settling down, or are looking for a life-changing opportunity, as long as you have a passion for adventure and a desire to work in human rights, YLIP is the perfect program for you too.