Halla Ahmed

Juris Doctor, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law; Honours Bachelor of Science, University of Toronto (double major in Psychology and International Relations).

Law. Currently an articling student (judicial law clerk) at the Superior Court of Justice, Central West Region.

Years of Experience: 

When you were a child, did you envision becoming what you are now?

I remember one of my earliest thoughts as a child related to how I wanted to spend my life was I really want to help people. As a kid, through my voracious appetite for novels, I felt deeply connected to the struggles of children in other places around the world, and I often felt my empathy pulling me to be of assistance in some way. For most of my life, I worked towards collecting the skills that would allow me to finally do just that: help and support the people around me. Now that I am very close to practicing as a lawyer (I will be called to the bar in June 2021, God willing), I am grateful and privileged to have many opportunities and resources at my disposal to be able to help individuals and communities in myriad ways. I am humbled and excited to begin a career in this field to actualize this dream.

Can you please tell us about your journey? When did you first think to yourself, “I made it”?

Truthfully, much of my journey towards a career in law was characterized by extreme doubt in my ability to get into law school. It’s not so much that I didn’t believe in my intelligence or diligence –my academic record and balancing of various responsibilities spoke to my ability to get there– but rather, it was more that I had no blueprint to follow, and I was always unsure if I was “doing the right thing” to get to where I wanted to be. Like many other Black students, I didn’t know anyone who had been to law school, and as the eldest child in my family, I didn’t have anyone older to tell me what I had to do to get there. However, I’ve always remained that same voracious reader that I was as a kid, and so pouring over university webpages on the internet became the way I learned what was required to get into law school. In short, I really did my homework. At the same time, because of my doubt in my ability to ultimately get to a career in law, I found myself entertaining a number of other career options during undergrad, just to see if anything else might work better, all the while secretly harbouring my law school dreams. I looked at numerous masters programs in occupational therapy, social work, public health, etc. Only after I deeply researched these programs, spoke to people from these fields, and concluded that I couldn’t really see myself practicing in any of those areas, did I recommit myself to pursuing law school. In my own personal journey, I had to thoroughly close all of those other doors, shoot down those every other reasonable option, before I could fully allow myself to dare to dream that I could do the law thing. Once I knew that law was it for me, my dedication, hard work, belief in myself and trust in God’s blessings got me into numerous law schools. That’s when I was validated, once again, that trust, faith, and hard work could get me anywhere.

Getting into law school didn’t necessarily feel like “making it,” because I knew that my being there was due to something much greater than me, and I knew that law school was really just a new beginning, as endings are often simply new beginnings. However, I do vividly remember how I felt that entire first semester at uOttawa Law. I recall sitting in those big and fancy lecture halls, one among a group of 60 students, listening to a real life law professor teaching us about the Canadian common law, and I remember feeling immense privilege and gratitude. I remember being immensely present, thinking this is what thousands of students apply for every year, to be here, to learn from these professors, to have this experience. I am so privileged to be sitting her here. Mostly, I remember thinking that my role was to take those moments and make the most of them. Looking back, I can smile to myself knowing that I truly did.

Did you face any challenges on your journey to get where you are? Do you currently face any challenges?

We all go through challenges on our journeys to get to where we’re going, and it’s always been the support from my loved ones and mentors that has assisted me through the challenges and into success. As I’ve mentioned, some of my challenges in getting to law school were around a lack of know-how, and my own internal monologues telling me about everything that there was to fear in the path towards a career in law. When I would share my fears and doubts with my parents or my friends, I would undoubtedly always be told to remember who I am, to keep my chin up, to have faith, and to trust that I would receive what was meant for and best for me. These reassurances meant the world to me, and encouraged me to stay the course and keep working very hard. Further, my loved ones supported me every step of the way: during LSAT studying and test-taking, in connecting me with Black lawyers they met, and in showering me with encouragement and belief in me when I was feeling down. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my tribe and support system.

What skills do you believe a person needs to succeed in your profession?

From my personal perspective (which admittedly might not be everyone’s view), to get to a career in law, to succeed in law school, and to do well in this profession, a person needs to be incredibly disciplined, organized, hardworking, and to have a lot of heart and faith. Discipline, organization and hard work will get you through all of the many hoops you need to jump through in order to first step foot into law school: getting good grades in university, balancing school and extracurriculars/work, studying for the LSAT, taking the LSAT, preparing and submitting your application materials, etc. Discipline, organization and hard work are also required for success in law school, as the program is very demanding with respect to your time, mental, and physical health. However, I always tell students that the journey to law school and law school itself is a marathon, not a sprint. This means that prioritizing your mental and physical health, relationships with loved ones, and personal time is mandatory in order to fill your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual cup so that you can keep on course and succeed. In this way, having a lot of heart and faith will not only help in getting you through those inevitably challenging times, but having heart and keeping the faith will allow you to maintain stamina on this marathon, and will see you through to the finish line. Remembering that the goal is far beyond getting a good grade on the LSAT, getting into law school, or getting an A on any given course always helped me to put my journey into perspective, and to calm my heart when I felt any anxiety to stress. Remembering that the goal was beyond any one particular challenge freed me to let go of the big looming goals (oh man, what will I get on the LSAT; omg will I get an articling position??) and to focus on what was properly within my control: studying for that test, writing that application or cover letter, and taking time to rest and cultivate peace and joy. Today, these principles remain the keys I hold on to for my own success in health and life.

What advice would you give to others who aspire to be where you are?

Trust in yourself, trust the process, and trust in God (or the universe, the Creator, life, whatever you believe in that’s greater than yourself).

We can only get ourselves so far. I truly believe that any success in life ultimately depends on the courage we have to dare to believe in ourselves, to believe in the truth that our goals will come into fruition, and to believe in the Creator that will take us there. Nothing is wasted: no experience, no setback, and no challenge. Everything we go through sets us up to get to where we’re going. Our task is to work hard, to learn the lessons as they come, and to trust the process.

Can you please share one goal you achieved that you are extremely proud of?

It’s not really related to law, but I think I’m most proud of the person I’ve become after this entire journey through many years of schooling. As I said before, even being done law school, endings are really just new beginnings. Following the abrupt end to law school due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ensuing challenges in completing school online, studying for the bar exams during a global pandemic, taking and passing the bar exams (praise God!), and beginning my articles in such an uncertain and difficult time, I am exceptionally proud of myself for moving through these challenges with grace, patience, and strength. I can see that the person I’ve become over time is someone pretty great, and so I can say that I’m most proud of my character, and I hope to continue to develop it towards kindness and excellence.