The Harold G. Fox Scholarship is a litigation focused exchange program. It funds and organises a series of mini pupillages for two new Canadian lawyers in London and placements at Toronto law firms for two British Scholars. Sara and Sarah were Called to the Bar of Ontario in June 2022 and have worked at Essex Court Chambers, 4 Pump Court, Lamb Building and Littleton Chambers since arriving in London in September.
I remember stepping past the gates of Middle Temple on my first day feeling like I were stepping inside a time capsule. I was immediately gripped by the beauty and history of the buildings around me. Over the months, as I rotated through different chambers, this magical realm that felt like something straight out of a movie (with its gaslit lanterns and everything), started to feel like home. I was delighted to discover the strong sense of community at Middle Temple. Some of my most fond memories were connecting with barristers over lunch in Hall or a walk in the garden, while hearing ever so entertaining ‘war stories’ of battles fought in court. Christmas at Middle Temple was particularly memorable time for its Revels and festive spirit.
My first legal culture shock in London came whilst trying to understand the solicitor/barrister divide in the profession – since that is not something that exists in Canada. With time, I began to grow appreciation for a system that allowed for this high degree of specialisation. As someone who is deeply passionate about oral advocacy, working with barristers, observing their advocacy in court, and receiving mentorship in chambers provided me with invaluable training. The opportunity to rotate through so many different chambers gave me a hands-on exposure to a wide range of practice areas including criminal law, corporate law, and public law. Whilst I am now familiar with the way the split profession functions in the UK, it will still take a lot longer for me to stomach the fact that barristers on opposing sides of a case can sometimes share a wall or the fact that some criminal barristers can act as prosecutors on one file and defence counsel on another!
I am immensely grateful to Carolyn McCombe, Christa Richmond and all the wonderful barristers who have been so generous with their time in mentorship for such a marvelous time at Middle temple. I know that I will cherish my memories here for a lifetime.
It’s a running joke in Canada’s sparsely populated and close-knit Atlantic provinces that two locals, upon meeting for the first time, will greet each other not with the conventional niceties but with a once-over and an affable ‘who’s yer father?’ The conversation will only proceed once a link between the two families is established (say, one’s uncle coached the other’s high school basketball team). Having grown up in Nova Scotia, I learned from a young age that connections mean everything.
I was surprised to find a similar web of relationships among London’s vast numbers of barristers. I expected to find advocates working in anonymity, dashing from one courtroom to another with stone faces or buried behind an impenetrable wall of books in the library. Instead, you ask after each other’s children, discuss upcoming weddings and plan long-overdue trips to the pub. You marvel privately at each other’s athletic feats and musical abilities. You divulge small kindnesses, like a KC who sent a bottle of wine to a junior who was wrapping up a late night. Twice this year I have found myself involved in a clandestine operation to purchase a celebratory cake: one for a birthday, one for a publication.
Why are barristers in London so community-minded? It cannot be attributed exclusively to ambition or a desire for career progression. As self-employed workers, barristers can get along just fine without such a strong social network. I believe the answer lies in the nature of the work itself.
Like Nova Scotians, barristers boast a unique history, culture, and set of challenges. The job can be equal parts fascinating and excruciating. Whether one spends days on end analysing the use of limitation periods under Thailand’s Civil and Commercial Code or scrambling to quiet a volatile criminal defendant’s repeated courtroom outbursts, we all could use a reminder that we have lives beyond our jobs. Many of our priorities, like our families, health and hobbies, lie outside the legal sphere. And there is nobody better placed to jolt us back to that reality than someone right beside us in the trenches. It is not mere collegiality; it is a necessity.
The community spirit evident among London’s barristers, rather than being exclusionary, has helped me feel at home in an enormous and unfamiliar city. I have been warmly welcomed by each barrister I have met since the day I began working, and for this you have my heartfelt gratitude. I hope that, like in small-town Canada, the importance of connections and community will be recognised and replicated by the generations to come.
Sara Bolourchian is a junior Canadian lawyer, called to the Ontario Bar in June 2022. Prior to completing her Juris Doctorate at the University of Toronto in 2021, Sara obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English and French literature. Sara has a keen interest in media law and intellectual property law and competed in several moots during law school, including the Oxford International Intellectual Property Moot in 2021, where she was awarded best individual speaker. Following the Fox Scholarship, Sara will be returning to Canada and joining the litigation department of a full-service corporate law firm in Toronto.
Sarah Frame received her Bachelor of Arts in French and History from Dalhousie University in 2018 and her Juris Doctor in 2021. She clerked at the Federal Court of Canada and was called to the Bar of Ontario in June 2022. Having completed the 2022-2023 Fox Scholarship, she plans to join the Public Prosecution Service of Canada with the Northwest Territories Regional Office.