Recent graduate Jordan Leigh Lacroix is currently working as a Legal Aid in South Africa through the CBA Young Lawyers International Program. The program places young law graduates and lawyers in internships with overseas organizations working in law reform, human rights and access to justice.
Tell us about the work that you’re currently doing in Cape Town, South Africa.
Jordan: I have been working alongside a lawyer who takes on criminal cases at the High Court. She has over 20 years of experience and has been an amazing mentor and friend throughout my internship. While most Candidate Attorneys (South Africa’s articling students) are given only lower level court cases, I’ve had the opportunity to work on trials and appeals pertaining to murder, gangs, domestic violence, rape, and corruption. My work has consisted of compiling research, consulting with clients, and drafting heads of arguments and plea agreements. I’m in the High Court every week. I’ve been able to shake the hands of numerous judges, and visited many prisons around Cape Town.
What does a typical day look like?
Jordan: You can usually find me sitting next to my mentor lawyer in court, at the Legal Aid office conducting research or writing arguments, or at one of the nearby prisons consulting with a client.
What are some challenges that have arisen from working in a foreign country?
Jordan: The language barrier is always a challenge. Although English is an official language in South Africa, many clients don’t understand it well enough to legally consult in English. Legal Aid doesn’t have translators in the office, so we rely on coworkers to help out. Court proceedings are always translated thankfully.
What has been a highlight of your experience so far?
Jordan: Working at Legal Aid has given me a glimpse into a part of South Africa I would not have been able to experience as a tourist. Working in criminal law especially has been extremely rewarding and eye opening. I am humbled everyday by the lifelong struggles my clients here have faced.
Have you had a chance to explore South Africa on your days off? What do you enjoy most about living in South Africa?
Jordan: I’ve travelled all over South Africa, to the East Coast, along the Garden Route, and through Kruger National Park on safari. The country is expansive and each area has its own unique landscape and attributes. I love the warm climate, numerous surf breaks, and great hiking. I have also taken up kite boarding in Cape Town, in order to take advantage of the strong summer wind dubbed the “Cape Doctor.”
What are your plans for after the program ends?
Jordan: My boyfriend and I are starting our own campervan rental business back in our hometown, Penticton, BC. It’s always been a dream of ours to start something together, and campervan life is a passion we share. Although not directly in the legal field, my law degree and practical legal experience has undoubtedly given me an advanced skillset for running my own business.
While you are only a few months into your placement, what are some skills you have gained from your placement that you are excited to carry over into your future endeavors?
Jordan: This experience has been an immensely valuable opportunity for me professionally, as well as personally. Living abroad challenges you to accept new norms, and promotes a greater understanding of other cultures - much more than you achieve by travelling through as a tourist. I would encourage any young lawyer looking for a unique and mind-opening experience to apply for the YLIP program. They are taking applications right now!