Tucked suit with no creases, a briefcase on the right hand, and an unwrinkled necktie – eyes follow as the lawyer takes the courtroom floor, his steps and words echoing to the walls. It is easy to make out the details of a lawyer with this imagery, but a lawyer’s work is not limited to that of a litigator in the court room. Let us take a closer look at Filipino-Canadian Kristian Arciaga, who practices the profession as a commercial real estate lawyer in downtown Vancouver.
Case #1: The Lawyer
Kristian spent his high school years at Vancouver College, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours, majoring in Political Science at the University of British Columbia in 2011. After working in Victoria at the BC Legislature during his gap year, he attended law school at the University of Ottawa.
Now as an associate in the real estate group of one of Canada’s largest national, full service law firms, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, Kristian says that he enjoys the intellectual challenges that come with the law.
Kristian shares that he is excited to develop his legal career, but is taking things a year at a time, wishing to continue honing his skills to be a strong technical lawyer.
“Every file has its own intricacies and challenges, and learning to become a strong technical lawyer is exciting.”
But more than that, one of his short-term goals is to deepen and widen his connections and pool of people.
“Notably, older, more experienced lawyers have introduced the “pay-it-forward” mentality to me, in which I can willingly ask more experienced lawyers for help, so as long as I exercise and extend a professional courtesy to always help younger lawyers and law students who come through the pipeline.”
While his passion for his field and the balance of ‘vision and action’ are his core, Kristian does admit that there is always a least favorite part in every job. He admits the profession can be stressful, as he can be bombarded with high expectations, a heavy workload, and an incredibly steep learning curve.
A work and life balance may be non-existent for the first few years of practice he says; he however emphasizes that the rewards of skills and concepts he learned outweigh these difficulties.
Kristian remains grateful for everything that he has accomplished, and humble to say that he still has a lot to learn.
Case #2: His parents’ story
Once upon an immigrant’s story, was a mother and father’s dream to step into the land of the Great White North–Canada.
Unlike other immigrants who ventured into Canada of their own will with visions of a better life packed in their chests, it was not Kristian’s own footsteps that brought him to the country but his parents’.
His mother and father were born in a small town named Balaoan, in La Union, and they told him stories of their childhood in their islands.
“Life for them there was obviously different than in Canada, both on a day-today level and on a cultural level.”
The difference in culture was one of the main challenges that his parents faced, but the new connections they were able to make helped them adjust to the new environment.
Kristian backtracks to the late 1970s when his dad’s family moved to Canada and to mid-1980’s when it was his mom’s turn.
“My parents appreciated moving to a country where the rule of law was strictly followed.”
Kristian’s paternal grandfather used to work in a cement plant in the Philippines, which no longer received contracts from the government after ‘massive layoffs’ occurred. Kristian’s father attended college and became a certified assayer in Canada.
His mother on the other hand, worked at a major Philippine bank for a number of years, and continued in the same industry after her move to a major bank in Canada.
Case #3: Life in Canada
Kristian recalls how they moved a lot when he was a child due to the nature of his father’s work. Born in Kamloops, BC, he and his family have graced Venezuela, Honduras, and Vancouver.
He describes Canada as a very advanced country in various aspects, but mainly points on the country’s embrace of diversity, as he has met friends of various ethnic, cultural, religious, and socioeconomic roots and beliefs.
“I think an environment where we embrace our individuality is beneficial.”
As a lawyer, Kristian is highly proud of the country’s legal system, which he says has a great respect for the rule of law.
But the lawyer confesses that discrimination is a sad reality which his roots did not spare him from.
“Without delving into specific instances, I will say that ignorant comments are inevitable. However, at a micro-level, we can continue to root out racism by acting with more awareness and vocally standing up for our values. Unfortunately discrimination is a reality that many people with immigrant heritages encounter. I would not say we live in a post-racial society, but I think Canada has done a better job than most countries at embracing cultural differences.”
Kristian tells that his parents were able to retain their Filipino heritage while becoming proud Canadian citizens, thanks to Canada for not just welcoming but embracing cultural uniqueness, unlike in some other countries.
“I think the Philippines is a beautiful country with a rich cultural background.”
Similar to the uniqueness that immigrants celebrate in their cores, for Kristian, the Philippines as a country, is one that caters each region as culturally unique and ‘beautiful in their own way.’
He has been in the Philippines a total of six times, not only to visit his relatives in La Union but to appreciate known places like Vigan, Boracay, and Baguio.
Kristian was also a summer legal intern at Romula Mabanta Buenaventura de los Angeles Sayoc, in Makati.
“I had a great time learning about the legal processes of the country, as well as meeting many amazing lawyers, such as Ricardo Romulo and Benjamin Lerma. I found the firm very similar to the big-firm atmosphere that some law firms in Canada possess.”
Case #4: A lawyer’s advice
While many may seek his legal advice, Kristian still has some words outside his profession.
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, break the door down.”
Kristian greatly believes that waiting is not the basis of personal and career growth and that one should be passionate enough to make his/her own opportunities.
He adds that Filipinos in Canada should embrace both their Filipino heritage and their Canadian upbringing, enjoying every bit of each culture they are presented with and residing inside of them.
“A beauty of being in Canada is that Canadian-born Filipinos (or other ethnic groups, really) are not homogeneous. You can take the parts you enjoy the most from each culture and live a good life here in Canada. Furthermore, Filipinos are becoming more prominent in Canadian society.”
Just like how Canada has created an avenue in embracing different cultures, Filipino-Canadians should also help fellow immigrants in need and be open in promoting their own culture.
While he tells aspiring lawyers that being in the profession is more than what it seems. Investment does not come in terms of only monetary and wallet-draining scenarios, but an emotional one must bloom and be the source of the willingness to continue. After all, he says that law is not for the faint-of-heart.
“Two pieces of advice: work hard and be prepared for the investment. The first tidbit is obvious, but the work ethic has to develop early (whether in high school or the early years of undergrad). This is a profession that relies on understanding details, spotting a wide array of issues, and solving complex problems in a practical and cost-effective manner; a strong work ethic goes a long way to honing these skills.”
For Kristian, one must really know and one must be sure before entering the path to becoming a lawyer.