University of Calgary: Foreign-Trained Lawyer Program opens doors for Ukrainian immigrant

UCalgary program removes barriers, builds on past academic credentials for recent graduate Igor Kyryliuk

Moving to a new country is never easy and this transition can sometimes be further complicated when one’s prior credentials and education are not recognized in their new home.

The University of Calgary is trying to make this transition smoother for international lawyers with the Foreign-Trained Lawyer Program (FTLP). FTLP launched in 2021 with just 10 students in its first year and has since grown to 33 students currently enrolled.

Igor Kyryliuk, a Ukrainian immigrant who graduated from FTLP in 2022, first immigrated to Poland in 2016, then made his way to the U.S. in 2017, where he remained for three years before moving to Canada. “It was a long journey and hopefully Canada is my final destination,” he says.

Back in Ukraine, Kyryliuk had law training, but in order to be licensed to practise in Canada, he needed to complete more courses.

“I did not practise law back in Ukraine, but I was an intern; I used to help other lawyers and I used to work in the university at the faculty of criminology,” says Kyryliuk. “Overall, it took me four years to complete my bachelor’s and then one year to complete my master’s degree [in Ukraine], so, combined with the FTLP, that’s six years of education.”

For Kyryliuk to challenge the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) exams, he was required to complete at least four classes and exams through a university. He could have done this through a one-year program such as FTLP, or through taking multiple single courses. For Kyryliuk, it made the most sense to choose FTLP.

“The problem with taking single courses is that, sometimes, you will enrol in a course and there are no spots available and so you wait for the admission decisions, only to see the email saying that, sorry, we don’t have any spots left,” says Kyryliuk. “But, with the FLTP, once you’re enrolled, you’re guaranteed to have the list of the subjects required in the syllabus. So it’s just way easier this way.”

With FLTP, Kyryliuk believes there are not only benefits for students, but also for Canada as a whole.

Not only do we have a Canadian education which makes us more familiar with how Canadians study and how Canadians practise law, it also is a matter of Canada getting a diverse background from these students.

“We all come from different countries; we have students from civil law countries, from common law countries and from three continents, basically, and so Canadian society will see that there is definitely variety and diversity in how lawyers practise and how lawyers interact with their clients, and I think that’s very important.”

Kyryliuk says he is proud to have completed FLTP and is excited for what the future holds. “Now that I know I can challenge the remaining [accreditation] exams and now that I know I have this physical certificate in my hand, and I can count myself as an alumnus from this program. That is a very happy feeling for me.”

Since graduating from FLTP, Kyryliuk has completed and passed two of his NCA exams and is waiting on the results of his third. Once the results are in, Kyryliuk will be able to begin his articling. When licensed, Kyryliuk says, he hopes to build his practice exclusively in immigration law.

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