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‘Don’t be afraid’, Ukrainian lawyers are told
(L to R): Alina Kuksenko, Yulia Borowyk, and Roman Khorolskyi Pic: Cian Redmond

01 Dec 2023 / law society Print

‘Don’t be afraid’, Ukrainian lawyers are told

Ukrainian lawyers looking to build a career in Ireland have been encouraged not to be afraid, and to “stay positive”, at a Law Society event in Blackhall Place (28 November).

The information and networking event for displaced Ukrainian lawyers was held in partnership with Ukraine Ireland Legal Alliance (UILA), a group that aims to provide a platform for the Irish legal community’s response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The well-attended event heard from Ukrainian lawyers who have been working in Ireland about the challenges they have faced, while attendees were also given an outline of the practical details of becoming a lawyer in Ireland, as well as the supports available.

Law Society President Barry MacCarthy and director general Mark Garrett welcomed attendees, with the president wishing those present well in their training and future careers.

“The legal profession has no borders,” he said, praising UILA for demonstrating the “collegiality that is integral to the legal profession”.

Cross-border experience

Alina Kuksenko, an associate at Arthur Cox, told the event that it took her “several months” and more than 300 applications to find a job. She urged those attending to familiarise themselves with the Irish legal landscape, attend networking events, and emphasise to employers any cross-border or international experience that they had.

Yulia Borowyk, who was awaiting her FE1 results as she spoke, outlined the process of qualifying as a solicitor in Ireland.

She said that the biggest challenges for a foreign lawyer in Ireland were the unfamiliarity of a new legal system and the complexities of a different language.

Borowyk said that the most important thing during exam preparation was to “maintain your mental clarity”, as the process was tiring and stressful, but “worth it in the end”.

‘Take action’

The conference heard from Roman Khorolskyi, now an assistant solicitor, who arrived in Ireland in July 2022 with what he described as a “very poor” level of English.

He described how he began, later that year, to attend Gorey District Court regularly, making contact with barristers, solicitors and gardaí until he was eventually offered an internship in a local solicitors’ firm.

“Don’t be afraid,” he urged his colleagues, advising them to search for all the available ways of returning to the legal profession.

“Just do it. Take action and you will definitely get a result,” he said.

Qualification process

A second panel discussion focused on the challenges that cultural differences and language barriers pose for Ukrainian lawyers in Ireland.

Karina Khusainova, a senior legal advisor at A&L Goodbody who is currently on secondment with TikTok, told those present that the fact that she had not been qualified in Ireland initially was not considered to be a “huge problem” for Irish firms, who were more focused on her experience.

She said that Ukrainian lawyers in Ireland should be prepared to explain how the qualification process works in Ukraine, because it was "really important" for Irish firms to understand this.

Khusainova added, however, that Ukrainians should also be ready to explain what their plans were to eventually qualify in Ireland. She has now been admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in England and Wales, and in Ireland.

‘Things are often hinted’

Marta Halabala, who had worked for Arthur Cox in Ireland before returning to Ukraine, spoke from Kiev about the cultural differences between Ireland and Ukraine, warning that these had the potential to cause misunderstandings, or even conflict.

She described the Irish communication style as “indirect”, adding that, for Irish people, being polite was sometimes more important than “telling the hard truth”.

“I had the feeling that they don’t want to hurt you in any way – even to give you honest feedback,” Halabala stated.

“Things are often hinted, instead of being said directly,” she said, adding that Ukrainians were more used to things being said clearly and directly.

The lawyer also highlighted the importance of personal interactions and building relationships in Irish workplace culture. She also told attendees that there was a more “democratic” approach to decision-making in Ireland, with law firms’ partners always considering the opinions of their associates.

Accept mistakes, event told

Kateryna Andarak (A&L Goodbody) spoke about the challenges of working in another language, and the stress of worrying about making mistakes, describing her initial experience of working as being put into a “panic room”.

“The hardest part is to just accept that you’re going to make mistakes, because mistakes are just part of the learning process,” she said.

Andarak told attendees about the particular stress of trying to follow conversations during phone calls and team meetings, advising colleagues to record such calls as a back-up, as this would also help them to concentrate more during the calls.

She also told attendees to communicate the need for more time for non-native speakers to perform some tasks.

Attendees were also given some advice on reading resources for becoming more familiar with legal English – including judgments on the Courts Service website, the annual reports of large multi-national companies and A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms.

Ukrainian lawyers attending the event were also told about the supports available to them from a number of groups working in Ireland – including UILA, Ukrainian Action in Ireland and United for Change.

For additional information on supports, contact memberservices@lawsociety.ie.

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