Interview with Deborah Morrish: What It Takes to Be a Career Adjudicator

A humanitarian consultant and adjudicator, Deborah Morrish understands what it takes to negotiate on behalf of others.

Most of Deborah’s career has been advocacy work for refugees seeking safety for themselves and their families. Often, refugees have few defenders, despite facing resentment, lack of employment, and political instability.

Deborah’s 35-year career began as Vice-Chair of the Ontario Social Assistance Review Board. She then served as the Assistant Deputy Chair of the Immigration and Refugee Board and most recently as a consultant to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in South Africa.

Her broad experience speaking on behalf of those who are often ignored gives Deborah a unique perspective on the complicated and difficult work of adjudication. As a result, she has developed effective strategies and solutions that are likely applicable to anyone pursuing a career as an adjudicator.

Deborah has earned several degrees, including an HBA, a Bachelor of Education degree, a Bachelor of Science degree, and two Master’s degrees. She has also earned the Management for Executives certificate from the Canada School of Public Service and a Diploma in Studies in French at La Sorbonne, Paris.

Learn more about Deborah’s approach to adjudication in the interview below.

Can you provide a brief description of what you do, for those who aren’t familiar?

Deborah Morrish: I would love to. It’s not something that most people are familiar with, I think, so I have a lot of experience explaining this. In general, an adjudicator is anyone who assists or mediates in a conflict, usually a legal conflict. Like with any job involving legal issues, there’s a tremendous diversity of specializations in this field.

My specialization is in assisting refugees and immigrants. These are people who usually need a tremendous amount of assistance because they may not speak the language and they certainly don’t know the legal system of this new country they’re in. As an adjudicator, I help them through the process of obtaining the paperwork by serving as an intermediary between them and the government or other legal entities.

That sounds complicated, but also rewarding. After so many years as an adjudicator, do you still feel as passionate as when you started?

Deborah Morrish: I actually feel much more passionate than when I started. The plight of refugees is something that’s difficult for most people to fully understand. It’s so overwhelming to be in such a perilous position. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Witnessing the plight of refugees has made me much more sensitive to the issue of human rights all over the world, but especially for refugees and migrants.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about doing this job effectively?

Deborah Morrish: You have to learn to play well with others. Collaboration is key when you’re working at the intersection of government and social programs assisting high-risk populations like refugees and migrants.

In that sense, adjudication is all about convincing people to work with you. That’s often all it takes. I think most people understand that bureaucracy is all about persuading bureaucrats to sign that piece of paper, or push through someone’s application, or even make an exception for someone in a dangerous situation that needs immediate attention. Adjudication is all about getting people to work together — which might be one of the absolute hardest things to do, but that’s the job.

What’s one modern trend in your work that you see expanding in the future?

Deborah Morrish: Social consciousness is rising all over the world, thanks to younger generations who feel that making a positive difference isn’t just a side project of a career, but should be an essential part of our lives.

As these young people grow and obtain positions of power in government and industry, I’m hopeful that will result in a kinder world that opens more doors for refugees and migrants. In general, I think the majority of people have become aware that we’re living in a globalized world.

We can’t afford to ignore our neighbors’ problems. Society functions better for all of us when we make the time and effort to take care of each other.

Posted by Dragan Sutevski

Dragan Sutevski is a founder and CEO of Sutevski Consulting, creating business excellence through innovative thinking. Get more from Dragan on Twitter. Contact Dragan