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Reflections on a 30 Year Legal Career

by Andy J. Semotiuk
I am the son of immigrants. My father came to Canada in 1913. My mother came to Canada in 1948. They met in Edmonton. While our lives may have been difficult, I had a happy childhood, although my father died when I was nine years old. My mother was left with the task of raising me, and providing for our livelihood. She did this by running an apartment house, renting out suites. I still remember nights when I would come home, and find my mother cleaning one of the apartments. It would be late at night, but she would be washing floors on her hands and knees. This is how she provided the income we needed and this is how she put me through school. I am eternally grateful to her for doing that. I'm willing to bet that if you reflect on it you'll find that there is someone who has made a similar contribution to your life or career.

Neither my father nor my mother planned to stay in Canada permanently, but events overseas sealed their fates. In the case of my father, the Red Army invasion of Ukraine made it impossible for him to return. In the case of my mother, the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 ended up making it impossible for her to return. These events, and others like them, contributed to the vision that I formed of my future. I imagined that I could become a kind of Henry Kissinger, a political leader who could employ his knowledge of the law in solving international political problems. This was the vision that propelled me into law school, and that was the vision that guided me when I went into the profession in 1972. Over the last 40 years I have practiced law in Toronto, in New York, in Edmonton, and most recently in Los Angeles. There have been many highlights in my life. Some of the most important were marrying my wife Ann, raising my two children Mark and Natalie, working at the United Nations for a few years in New York as a U.N. correspondent writing for Southam Newspapers and joining the law firm of Manning and Marder where today I practice business immigration law.

In 1999, my life took a turn in a different direction. One day when I was sitting in my office in Edmonton, I received two urgent phone calls. The first was an urgent phone call from the emergency ward at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton. They reported that my mother had just arrived because she had broken her hip. While I was taking this call, on line two I received a second urgent call. It was from the emergency ward at the Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Los Angeles, California. That hospital reported that my Aunt Helen, my mother's 90 year old sister, had just arrived by ambulance to the emergency ward there. These two calls signaled a change in my life that has lasted until this day. From that day on I have been shuttling back and forth between Edmonton and Los Angeles looking in on these two sisters, and looking after their financial affairs as well as taking care of my family.

In looking back over my 30-year career, I am grateful to the legal profession for the many opportunities it has provided me. I am grateful for the freedom and flexibility it has provided me to look after my needs. I am grateful for the opportunities to travel, for the great friendships I have established, for the knowledge I have gained through studying law, and also for the income I have earned from the practice of law, albeit modest compared to what I had hoped for.

I can't say that everything in my career has worked out without disappointment. I am disappointed, for example, in the low esteem in which our profession is held in the community. I have had my fair share of failures, setbacks, heartaches, and frustration. In those darkest moments, I have often said to myself "I don't want to lead this life." I have said "I don't want to be Andy Semotiuk. I want to be Henry Kissinger, or Bill Gates, or Stephen Spielberg...anyone except Andy Semotiuk." But I've learned over the years that the best I could be is an imitation Henry Kissinger, an imitation Bill Gates, etc. But I can be a unique Andy Semotiuk. I've come to understand that the gods up in the heavens decided to assign me way down here the task of leading the life of Andy Semotiuk. To find the purpose and meaning in his life, and to squeeze out every ounce of happiness, joy and fulfillment out of his life. Finally, I've come to understand that the biggest contribution I can make to the world and myself is to be the best Andy Semotiuk that I can be. I hope that you see the world in the same way with respect to your life and career.
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