Lorne McClenaghan (LLB ‘99) figured out that he wanted to be a lawyer from a young age. He found himself drawn to law while watching films and programs like The Paper Chase, LA Law and Street Legal. “I don’t come from a family of lawyers and didn’t know any lawyers growing up, but I remember thinking law was a good fit for me,” says McClenaghan. “It seemed exciting, engaging and challenging.”
At first dissuaded by how long it would take to become a lawyer, McClenaghan pursued an undergraduate degree in business and economics at Simon Fraser University – an area he found compelling thanks to his entrepreneurial spirit. Mid-way through his undergraduate degree, while considering graduate studies in economics, McClenaghan remembered his initial interest in a legal career. “When I was considering a master's in economics, which is two years, spending three years in law school no longer scared me,” says McClenaghan. “I decided to start studying for my LSAT.”
Reflecting on his experience at Allard Law, McClenaghan says that fortunately it was not as crushing as its portrayal in The Paper Chase, but it was a period to focus entirely on studying and connecting with his classmates. He advises current students to do the same: “Give it your all – both the study of law and making an effort to get to know the people in your classes and in your year – because you will be following along with them throughout your professional life.”
Having lived in the Lower Mainland all his life, McClenaghan wanted a change after completing law school, and decided to move to Ontario. “I think if I had gone to an out-of-province law school, I would’ve stayed in Vancouver, but after finishing my studies, I really wanted to experience life somewhere else.” Since then, he’s called Ontario home, but still enjoys making regular visits back to Vancouver.
After moving to Ontario, McClenaghan was on the hunt for positions on Bay Street. But at the same time, the Department of Justice was expanding its immigration practice section, and McClenaghan found himself in demand. “Because of my background clerking for the Federal Court, I became a competitive candidate to work with the immigration department and was quickly hired.” Since then, he’s built his career with the Federal Department of Justice.
One of the things McClenaghan values the most about his work is the collegiality. “It’s something to be cherished and proud of,” he says, working in a large office with 110-120 lawyers practicing immigration law. “I’ve never had a bad feeling walking into the office over the last 20 years.”
In a typical day, McClenaghan works on a number of different files. “Some are reviewing pleadings, legal research, drafting memos and lots of planning ahead,” he explains. “For example, if I need to provide affidavit evidence in a particular case, I want to consult with my client department to identify an affiant, and to draft or spend time to prepare for upcoming court hearings.”
In the office, one thing McClenaghan keeps front of mind is that his role is to represent the government. “Institutional clients are risk averse and sensitive politically,” he says. “Sometimes, as lawyers we like to be really aggressive and take risk and make strong arguments – that doesn’t necessarily work for an institutional client. My client wants us to be very steady and at times it can be a challenge to maintain that.”
Over time, McClenaghan has made an effort to find a healthy work-life balance, allowing him to spend time with his husband and two-year-old Rottweiler, as well as their three grown sons. “The first few years, you’re on a steep learning curve and trying to make a name for yourself, so those tend to be the busiest years as they are a bit unpredictable,” he says. “Now my work hours are pretty much 9-5.”
Living in a city outside Toronto, McClenaghan enjoys exploring nature and spending time at the family cottage near Georgian Bay over the summer. “Travel takes a lot of our spare income and time, and Florida has become our second home as we spend a lot of time there in the winter.”
When asked to share some advice for students who are interested in a career in the public sector, McClenaghan recommends first considering whether they’re interested in the subject matter they’d be working with – and to be aware of the benefits and tradeoffs. “You’re not making as much money as you could in the private sector, but your pay is guaranteed, it’s stable and you don’t have to concern yourself with the business aspect of law or trying to find clients,” he explains. “For students, that could be good news or bad news – they have to think about whether that’s a good fit.”