Jun 19, 2024

Melissa Remulla-Briones: Fast-tracking a legal career in Canada

When one immigrates in mid-career, one expects to bid one’s old career farewell. Usually.

 But not for Melissa Remulla-Briones who faced that particular crossroads when she and her family moved to Canada in 2011, deciding they wanted to be “citizens of the world.” “I do not know why or how but I wanted to be abroad,” Remulla-Briones shared with. “(I wanted) to see if I could make it, to see if it is really better out here.”

Remulla-Briones graduated from the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Mass Communication with a major in broadcast journalism. She went on to work for the ABS-CBN network as an executive producer for Star Magic, the network’s talent management department. Plunging herself in showbusiness, she handled talents like actors Jericho Rosales and Kristine Hermosa.

Later on, Remulla-Briones felt she’s had “too much showbiz” and thought she needed some form of challenge. So back to UP she went and completed a law degree there.

Upon graduating from law school, Remulla-Briones practiced law at a legal firm and a real estate developer for a while until she found herself back at ABS-CBN as its legal counsel.

When the family decided to uproot and move to Canada, Remulla-Briones mistakenly thought she could bring her legal experience and continue doing that on arrival in Canada. She reveals with CFNet, “I thought my legal background would easily translate to employment in that field. I was wrong. No law firm would give me the time of day.”

Remulla-Briones again went back to the one place that enabled her to take the next level up – she went back to school. Under a scholarship, Remulla-Briones graduated with a diploma in human resources from Ashton College in 2014. Soon after, she worked as legal office and human resources manager for a vitamin and health supplement manufacturer based in Richmond, BC.

Not wanting to let go of a legal career, Remulla-Briones continued to challenge the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s National Committee on Accreditation exams, writing a total of eight exams and finally receiving accreditation in November 2017.

“I started articling at Lonsdale Law in January 2018,” Remulla-Briones tells CFNet. “In between, I took a professional legal training course and took the bar exams in August 2018.” She successfully passed the bar and completed her one-year articling requirement in January 2019. “The day after I took my oath, I started Northam Law Corporation.”

Northam Law in Vancouver is an in-house counsel boutique law firm that offers legal and human resource-related services. It is located at 2281 Burrard in Vancouver.

Remulla-Briones explains the range of services Northam Law offers. “While my main practice is business law, part of my practice includes family law, wills and estates and conveyancing.” She expounds, “On the HR part, aside from having a Chartered Professional in Human Resource designation, I develop employee handbooks, provide business development coaching and training in marketing as well as succession training.”

Remulla-Briones also offers culture strategies and solutions that bring an atmosphere of inclusion and diversity in an office culture, for example. Referring to “Filipino-ness”, she notes that Filipino workers “are easily trained, get along well with people from other cultures and, if they see that their employer takes care of them, they will give back in equal measure.” She has experienced these strengths first-hand in her years of experience in human resource management.

This wife and mother of two remains actively involved in the Canadian Filipino community through the UP Alumni Association of BC, the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society and other community groups. Her advice to Filipino professionals who want to practice their competencies in Canada? “Just do it, start the process and before they know it, they are done.” She underscores that hard work is a must and stress is almost guaranteed but qualifying to gain accreditation is only temporary. “With focus and determination, and with the support of family, anything is possible.”

About the Author
Rachel Ramos-Reid started writing for magazines and newspapers when she was still a junior at the University of the Philippines’ Communication degree program majoring in Journalism. She continued to write in a public relations/corporate communications capacity in various private and government offices until moving out of the country in 1997 to work as Programme Officer for the arts and culture branch of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO-SPAFA) in Bangkok, Thailand. At the end of her term, Rachel found herself immigrating to Canada in the year 2000 and again searching for new beginnings. Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the North Island College’s Board of Governors in a part-time capacity.

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