Mohammad Ali Raza finds family, career fulfilment in Halifax.
Five years ago, Mohammad Ali Raza was a lawyer who couldn’t practise in Nova Scotia. Now, he’s a partner at Cox & Palmer in Halifax.
The partnership came about earlier this year, but the journey to this point was a long one.
Originally from Pakistan, Raza received an LLB, Honours in Law from the University of London in 2004, followed by a Bar Vocational Course Post-graduate Diploma in Law from the University of the West of England, Bristol in 2005. From there, he built his career working across Europe and the Middle East for companies and organizations like Pakistan Petroleum Limited and Eni Pakistan Limited.
“It was a nice slice of life,” says Raza.
But one thing was missing: his family.
In 2007, his wife, Maliha Azhar, and her family immigrated to Nova Scotia. The couple married here in 2008, but their relationship was long distance, with visits happening every few months.
In 2011, they had their first child.
“As she got older and older, it became very traumatic not to see her,” Raza says of his daughter. “When she got to the age of three, a very impressionable age, it became much more difficult, so either my wife moves, or I move.”
Raza wasn’t going to ask his wife to relocate, so he made the move.
Despite his education and experience, Raza had to be reaccredited to practise law in Nova Scotia. At the same time, the couple also had to decide who was going to be the lawyer, as Azhar had the same background.
“Both of us couldn’t go through that journey because it would have been too tough, so she kind of said, ‘I’ll engage in something stable, while you go for it and I’ll support you,’” says Raza.
Without a doubt, Azhar says, they made the right decision.
“He would not be happy (doing something else),” she says. “It’s important to me that he continues to do what he loves to do.”
Raza tried to prepare himself for the reaccreditation process, but it wasn’t easy. He thought he’d be working as a lawyer within six months, but it took a year and a half.
“The process of immigration and requalification can be draining emotionally on you,” says Raza. “There were times, I was like, ‘What have I done?’ because I was so well set where I was.”
He may have had his doubts, but Azhar didn’t.
“He was very determined and he wanted to complete the process,” she says. “I think it’s amazing he was able to complete the whole process in a year and a half.”
Raza was equally supported by Cox & Palmer. After landing, he emailed three law firms, telling them his background and asking for a meeting. He didn’t expect anything to come of it, but one, Cox & Palmer, hired him as a paralegal.
“It started with a coffee and as we started having a conversation and peeling pack the layers, we just liked more and more about this guy, both as a person and as a professional,” says Kevin Latimer, managing partner of Cox & Palmer from 2012 to 2018.
The firm wanted to help Raza with his career, while also getting better insight into who he was beyond that initial meeting.
“It would really give him a chance to understand the legal environment here in Nova Scotia, work with a firm and assess whether that what’s he wanted to do and, at the same time, see if we saw a long-term fit and opportunity for him,” says Latimer.
It was a good fit, as Raza was hired with as an associate lawyer after passing the bar exam in April 2016.
“He’s a highly personable guy with a genuine interest in people in their challenges and opportunities,” says Latimer. “He’s a suburb professional with a terrific work ethic, second to none, and someone who has a positive attitude that’s infectious, both inside and outside the workplace.”
Raza is humbled by the amount of support he was given.
“I was very privileged to have so many people there to get me through that journey,” he says. “That respect, that push, that support I got from (Cox & Palmer) and then from my family, my wife. Over that year and half, when I was always looking back, she was showing me what’s in front of me.”
In early 2019, the firm was looking for new partners; Raza applied and was accepted.
“I was honoured and privileged they accepted me as one of their partners,” he says Raza.
While he’s grateful for the opportunities he’s had in Nova Scotia, Raza knows not every immigrant has the same experience.
“I know people who were professionals who land here and see the process for requalification is to a long road ahead,” he says. “They have all the skills to integrate into their profession, it’s the longevity of the process that discourages them from going through it.”
No matter what they choose, he says it’s important to “plan ahead.”
“It’s always important to have aims and goals in life,” he says.
“Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t, but at least you have something to work towards.”
Since landing in Canada, Mohammad Ali Raza has also dedicated time to helping others, especially immigrants and newcomers. The following are a few organizations he’s part of:
- Participant, ISANS Workplace Placement Program (since 2017)
- Vice-president and director, Pakistani Canadian Association of Nova Scotia (since 2016)
- Global Advisor, NS Exporters, NS International Connectors Program (since 2016)
- Participant, Halifax Partnership Connector Program (since 2016)
Photo by Lumi Studios Media and Yunlinghao He