TamilCulture had the opportunity to sit down with Aghi Balachandran, a highly respected Criminal defense Attorney from Toronto. Mr. Balachandran has experience representing clients at all levels of court in Ontario. He has hundreds of hours of courtroom experience on his side. Efficiency and confidentiality are the hallmarks of Mr. Balachandran’s practice. He is involved in the Tamil community and able to help those that speak the Tamil language. Mr. Balachandran completed his Honours Bachelor of Arts at the University of Toronto, majoring in Criminology and Sociology. He subsequently obtained a Juris Doctor from the University of Calgary
TC: When did you know that you wanted to be a lawyer and how did you get started?
I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer at a very early age. I vividly recall a lawyer coming to speak at my high school. He polled the audience on how many of us wanted to enter into law. I remember putting my hand up and being surprised by how many of my classmates did the same. It was then that I realized how competitive it would be.
Having very typical Tamil parents, there was a strong emphasis put on my education and schooling. They steered me away from trying to become the first 120 pound Tamil shortstop in professional baseball and encouraged me to pursue an undergraduate degree that would put me on the path to hopefully, one day becoming a lawyer.
By taking criminology at the University of Toronto, I got to learn from some brilliant criminal defence lawyers who filled me with a passion for law and defending people who need someone to fight for them. At that point there was no turning back- I knew that I would become a defence lawyer.
TC: How did you get your job? What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position?
I got my job by creating it. I started my own practice the day after I got called to the bar and haven`t looked back since. Working with various lawyers early in my career, I saw that I would be able to create the practice that I wanted to create and take on the types of cases that I was passionate about only by being my own boss. The early years were tough. Not only did I have to deal with the usual learning curve of a junior lawyer, but I had the added burden of developing a new business. Luckily, I was given lots of sage advice from experienced lawyers. The most important of which was that if you are going to have only a few cases under your belt, you have to make sure to devote 500% more time to them than the other lawyers out there. I’ve made sure to maintain that attitude even as my firm as grown. My advice to anyone starting their own businesses- do quality work and that will be all the marketing that you need.
TC: Describe a pivotal moment in your journey to pursue this profession.
A pivotal moment in my journey was Watching Matthew Mcconaughey’s big speech at the end of ‘A Time to Kill’ for the first as a kid.
TC: What skills or talents are essential to being effective in your job?
This is a job where empathy is essential. All lawyers are expected to be hard working, critical thinkers, problem solvers and have a dozen other qualities to even qualify as a lawyer. But criminal defence is impossible to do without empathy.Clients come to us during some of the lowest points in their lives. Having someone who understands and cares about you as a person and not just as a legal problem- This is the kind of lawyer that I would want during my lowest time.
TC: What do you like most about working in this industry? What do you dislike most?
Being in court is the best part about my job. For anyone who hasn’t seen a criminal trial, it`s not exactly as it seems on Suits, but it’s pretty exciting all the same. You are always bound to see something new.
The worst part has to be all the driving. I’ve had days where I have had to be at the courthouses in Brampton, Old City Hall and Scarborough, all on the same day. On those days you begin to envy a desk job.
TC: What is the key to your success?
I have a long way to go before I would consider myself successful, but any success I have had so far has been a product of my drive. Anyone that regularly follows the news knows that there are many parts of the criminal justice system that need fixing in Canada. I strive to continuously improve my skills so that I can be a part of bringing about those changes.
TC: Who supported you when you started out with your career?
My parents were, and are, my biggest supporters. Anyone that my parents interact with know about their lawyer son. When I was younger I used to be embarrassed by it, but now I see it as the best marketing tool I could ask for. I imagine that this article will find it’s way into many of their friends and family’s inboxes.
TC: Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? What are your personal goals?
Five years from now, I will hopefully still be doing cases that challenge me and make me excited to wake up in the morning. I want to make sure that I maintain my level of enthusiasm for the job. Sometimes you meet people who have been in a career for a while, and it becomes just another pay cheque. I don’t want to ever lose the excitement I get from being able to have an effect on the justice system. I never want to forget that someone is trusting me to give my all to the job.
TC: What is your advice for aspiring students with a similar passion?
Take the time to volunteer in the field before signing up for it. Criminal defence is not for everyone. As with anything, sometimes the reality of a job varies greatly from what they put in the textbook. If you decide that you like even the tough parts of the job, then criminal defence may be for you.
Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to senior members of the field you are entering. More likely than not, they will be more than happy to give you guidance.