My legal bucket list

  • July 10, 2023
  • Sabrina Clark


It was during my legal studies that I developed this itch to work overseas in law. I’ve always had this deep desire to work overseas. I definitely experienced working abroad in my younger years and couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to do it again. It was during my studies with Queen’s Law, while completing the International Law Program, that I heard about the Young Lawyers Intewrnational Program (YLIP).

What is YLIP?

I was fortunate enough to have been chosen as a Young Lawyers International Program (YLIP) candidate to work for six months with Natural Justice, which is headquartered in South Africa. YLIP is a work experience, aimed at young Canadian law graduates and lawyers. It is funded by Global Affairs Canada, and executed by the Canadian Bar Association. The program has two objectives: first, to facilitate “opportunities for young Canadian law graduates and lawyers to gain effective skills and perspective in relation to the field of justice and development” and to enable “support by young Canadian law graduates and lawyers for the work of overseas organizations in law reform, access to justice, and human rights.”

Being matched with Natural Justice

This program provided me with the unique opportunity to work with Natural Justice, “an organization rooted in the struggles of communities in Africa.” Natural Justice specializes in human rights and environmental law and strives to protect the sacred relationships that Indigenous Peoples have with nature.

Working remotely for an overseas organization may seem counterintuitive... to some

Due to the pandemic, my work experience with Natural Justice was completed remotely, from the comforts of my home, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I have been working remotely since my second year of law school, when the pandemic began. I was already quite used to working remotely. This did not deter me from working with an organization overseas. Although remote work has a lot of pros, it also has its flaws. Working remotely for an organization overseas may seem counterintuitive to some. It would seem counterintuitive because of the missed opportunity to experience life in another country, and the missed opportunity to work with your supervisor, other colleagues and clients in person.

Despite these issues, in my YLIP experience, I was able to help Natural Justice and make a meaningful impact. During my time with Natural Justice, I worked on three specific projects.

Natural Justice’s Senegalese office asked me to develop a litigation strategy. This litigation strategy discussed various legal recourse mechanisms against the government and a multinational corporation for human rights and environmental rights violations in Bargny, Senegal. For the second project, I was tasked with researching the international, regional and national systems of protection. These systems of protection focused on Indigenous rights especially rights that aimed to protect Indigenous traditional knowledge. This research would be used for empowering an Indigenous community in Namibia. Lastly, for the third project, I was tasked with researching and summarizing the legal framework that dealt with protecting the Vhembe communities’ human rights, environmental rights and cultural rights.

In addition to working on these projects, I gained several skills. I was able to:

  • work independently;
  • make an impact across countries;
  • learn another country’s legal system;
  • research case law and legislation belonging to other countries;
  • absorb the legal frameworks of international, regional and national instruments;
  • work in the area of international law, human rights, environmental law and Indigenous rights.

Reasons why you should gain an overseas legal experience too

Finally, there are plenty of reasons why you too should work for an overseas organization.

First, working with an organization overseas made me step out of my comfort zone. My legal studies and the majority of my practical legal experience dealt with Canadian common law. I was comfortable with researching Ontario case law on CanLII and researching Ontario and Canadian federal legislation. However, it was during my work experience with Natural Justice, that I had to research case law and legislation of other countries and learn about their unique legal system. This forced me to step out of my comfort zone.

Second, working with an overseas organization gave me the opportunity to work with and learn from others. Working with people from various backgrounds exposes you to people with different communication styles, work styles, ways of thinking, being and living. It gives you the opportunity to learn from others, to step back and to listen, and to provide help in a way that they would want to be helped.

Third, working with an overseas organization provided me with the opportunity to expand my network. An overseas legal opportunity will allow you to meet others in the area of law that interests you and will allow you to make new and valuable contacts in the field, domestically and internationally.

Lastly, you only have one life to live, so why not experience life to the fullest and work with an organization overseas. Not only will working with an organization overseas be a valuable advantage when you apply to work with domestic employers and employers abroad, the connections you will make, the new-found knowledge of another country’s legal system will all be worthwhile. Working with an organization overseas is an opportunity that will help you develop and grow as a person, professionally and personally. The Young Lawyers International Program (YLIP) is an experience that will stay with me throughout my legal career and I will always be grateful for this experience. Learn more about the YLIP experience. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to discuss further.

Sabrina Clark is a third-year student in the Programme de droit canadien at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law.