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Fourth-year Bay Street Litigation Associate - AMA


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#51 Dwarvishleaf

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 12:58 PM

I just want to say that I'm jealous of Uriel's AMA and I think I'll do one around the end of next week when I have time.

 

I'm sure it's going to be a great read, but please, I beg of you, change your avatar before this happens.

Kittyshark makes me want to simultaneously run away in fear and vomit. Seeing it ten times on a single page...bad things might happen.


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#52 CausalInversion

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 12:59 PM

Uh, guys. He went abroad AND he has an LLM. I think we all know what that means.

 

I assume this is sarcasm?

 

 

 

TL;DR: A job is good enough if it makes you comfortable without making you wish your life would pass by faster.  A job is actually good, and should be treasured, if you don't resent going in and there are flashes of actually enjoying the work and the people you work with.  Just my subjective opinion.

 

I identify with this - and your experience with pre-law school jobs - so much. Like you, I've had a few jobs I hated (at one point, I started breaking my shift down into 5-minute chunks to make it feel like time was passing at all) and one job that's mostly OK, has a set schedule/decent pay/almost complete stability...but no challenge. Definitely, both are factors in why I'm going to law school next year.


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#53 Uriel

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 01:19 PM

I just want to say that I'm jealous of Uriel's AMA and I think I'll do one around the end of next week when I have time.

 

I also want to say that it's utterly fascinating to watch the evolution of people's careers, over long periods of time, on this board. Uriel is one of the best examples, but still just one of many. It's amazing to be reminded where Komodo is now. I still catch myself thinking of Komodo as a student, and of Uriel as a newly minted associate (which I had to update from my impressions of him as a student) and of others in similar ways. Bob showed up here as a lawyer already. He's just Bob. But man, everyone else...

 

This board, for all the drama and the shit sometimes, really is one of the best resources around - increasingly not just for law students but for legal professionals full stop. And huge props to all the folks who are making that happen.

 

It's pretty crazy.  I can't keep track of who's a student anymore.  It's kind of like that in real life, though, too.  If you article around the same time someone's doing a 1L summer you'll always be baffled at how junior they are to you, even though you've been working there pretty much the same period of time.

 

That and I still feel like a newly minted associate.  You never really feel like you're good at anything until you're trying to help other people learn to do it.

 

I identify with this - and your experience with pre-law school jobs - so much. Like you, I've had a few jobs I hated (at one point, I started breaking my shift down into 5-minute chunks to make it feel like time was passing at all) and one job that's mostly OK, has a set schedule/decent pay/almost complete stability...but no challenge. Definitely, both are factors in why I'm going to law school next year.

 

I think my worst job was working an in-bound call center for a parcel delivery company, fielding calls from the southern US. 

 

No one ever calls because their urgent package got there just fine.


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#54 Diplock

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 02:10 PM

Kittyshark makes me want to simultaneously run away in fear and vomit. Seeing it ten times on a single page...bad things might happen.

 

But ... Imma Catfish!


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#55 kcraigsejong

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 02:12 PM

I assume this is sarcasm?

 

The foreign section is over there, pal. Extra starch on the collars while you're at it.


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#56 PerniciousLaw

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 02:26 PM

But ... Imma Catfish!

 

 

No. Based on my mental image of you in real life, this is more suitable: http://www.etotheipi...v/bearshark.jpg

 

Bear-shark bitches. Fuck your avatar.



#57 TKNumber3

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 03:58 PM

Without derailing too much, I just want to comment on the "how do you know you enjoy your job thing." I really think the whole "only do something you love" push that kids get exposed to is dangerous. It leads to the grass is greener situation where people get sad cause their job isn't 200% perfect and they wonder what job Y would be like. A great job is still a job in the sense that they are paying you to do something and that means there are probably parts that aren't ideal.  I totally agree you don't want to be doing a job you hate, but your job shouldn't be the greatest part of your life. You have family, hobbies, friends, etc. Enjoy what you do more days than you hate it, don't be stuck counting the minutes, and find a way for life as a whole to be enjoyable.


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#58 Diplock

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 04:32 PM

Without derailing too much, I just want to comment on the "how do you know you enjoy your job thing." I really think the whole "only do something you love" push that kids get exposed to is dangerous. It leads to the grass is greener situation where people get sad cause their job isn't 200% perfect and they wonder what job Y would be like. A great job is still a job in the sense that they are paying you to do something and that means there are probably parts that aren't ideal.  I totally agree you don't want to be doing a job you hate, but your job shouldn't be the greatest part of your life. You have family, hobbies, friends, etc. Enjoy what you do more days than you hate it, don't be stuck counting the minutes, and find a way for life as a whole to be enjoyable.

 

Sure. I can get behind that. When I encourage people towards doing what they enjoy, it isn't meant to be a denial of the fact that work is still work. Between various options for work, I do think that people should always do what they enjoy most. But not everything you enjoy necessarily becomes a job either - otherwise the large majority of teenagers would by studying to be professional computer gamers. Still, within the range of things you can realistically get paid for, I maintain it makes sense to get paid to do whatever you like most.


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#59 Uriel

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 08:05 PM

I have found that several people regret having left the firm, apparently having come to discover that when they said "I don't like working here" what they actually were feeling was "I don't like working".

 

If you've never had a real job before, you should give any legal job extra latitude to be crappy.  All jobs are.


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#60 Diplock

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 09:01 PM

I have found that several people regret having left the firm, apparently having come to discover that when they said "I don't like working here" what they actually were feeling was "I don't like working".

 

If you've never had a real job before, you should give any legal job extra latitude to be crappy.  All jobs are.

 

Ya. And maybe Uriel can comment on this, because this is a semi-question semi-statement, but in my experience I've found that many large firms show a bias towards hiring straight-from-high-school candidates. In other words, students who are now entering the legal profession after following a straight path from being good in high school to being good in undergrad to being good in law school to now looking for their first real (possibly first ever) job. Now I can understand why this makes good sense from some perspectives (younger and unattached people are generally in a position to make the sacrifices required) but on other levels I see it as self-defeating. Maybe for the same reason that most people never stick with their first serious relationships ... lacking context, how can you ever settle into something if it's the first something you've ever had?

 

Is this something that firms are taking into account with hiring? Is my impression of hiring accurate, or what?


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#61 SaucyIntruder

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 11:36 PM

What makes a good or bad principal:  I'd say empathy is the main factor.  I've had three "formal" mentors at this point --- we rotate based on evaluations --- and the good ones were the ones that followed up about whether I was actually okay with the hours in a given month or if I was just being a cheerful soldier; that introduced me to their families and gave me a sense of what it would be like joining the partnership.  

 

The less good, but still not bad one, I valued for his blunt honesty about the nature of the legal business.  But I wasn't too keen about his "more hours is objectively better no matter what" approach.  That being said, I did get a really, really important piece of advice out of him to the effect that people quit Biglaw too soon.  First you work for everyone at a moment's notice, which is stressful and frantic, and then you're sandwiched between being everyone's monkey and being responsible for students that might be terrible (this is where I am now), which is even more stressful --- and at that point you start getting offers to leave.  But right after that phase is the part where you're in charge and really just collaborating with senior counsel that trust you and include you in scheduling and strategy.  He was of the view that you should always stick it out for five years, because that's how long it takes to get a sense of what it's actually like.  Not sure I buy it 100%, but it's been a valuable viewpoint.

 

Best questions:  Anything that suggests (respectfully) that you're actually using your brain and getting engaged in your own career.  85% of students at OCIs and firm tours ask the three or four questions that their CDO recommends.  I've had tough questions asked of me by students about the firm's prospects and exposure to certain subjects; or fairly blunt questions about hireback or articling, and I've appreciated that because it shows someone that doesn't just float from task to task like a robot.  It shows someone that is really trying to plan out what career move to make.  

 

But, I would refrain from prefacing such a question with "Let's cut the bullshit though, bro".  That was less of a glowing moment.

 

Thank you.


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#62 yeezy

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 01:12 AM

I'm sure it's going to be a great read, but please, I beg of you, change your avatar before this happens.

Kittyshark makes me want to simultaneously run away in fear and vomit. Seeing it ten times on a single page...bad things might happen.



#63 Another Hutz

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 01:13 AM

...
 

I hate just being a cog, doing a job anyone else can do --- I don't even like shooter games because my outcome is the same as everyone else's --- and this job lets me be creative and to approach problems in my own way.

 

...

 

Did someone say they wish they could express their creativity in a game?


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#64 t3ctonics

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 02:48 PM

How much would you say your answers translate to big firms outside of Toronto (say, Ottawa)?

I'm keeping in mind your disclaimers that you are not a mega authority on any specific issue and that your answers revolve around experience in a big firm in Toronto. But I'm curious if your experience working in a firm, or in dealing with firms, that have offices nationwide, means you can say with any degree of confidence that the circumstances you describe are likely similar in big firms in other big cities.

 

I work at a big firm (for SK) and my experience has been surprisingly similar to what Uriel has described. I'm junior to him (2014 call), but I've got enough experience under my belt to compare notes. I am also a civil litigation associate, doing primarily commercial litigation.

 

One of the things he's said that resonated with me is how, as an articling student or junior associate, you have the least control over your schedule. As an articling student I worked 2-3 nights a week and never knew what nights it would be in advance. I often wouldn't know until late afternoon. This is for a variety of reasons, including the time lag caused by the telephone game of instructions, the fact that the lawyers instructing you might not be the most organized, and the simple fact that nobody really cares if they're making you stay late (well, some people do, but that doesn't mean much when something has to get done for the client in 24 hours).

 

It does get noticeably better with time. I already have much more control over my schedule and what I do day-to-day. Like Uriel, I can usually know on Monday morning if I'm going to have to stay late, and if so, on which days. It's become easier to plan things on weeknights. I work less on weekends now. But I still get surprised sometimes, and I still often end up working late a couple of nights a week.

 

That is not reassuring, haha. I figured things would get better in time; at a large firm, I am supposed to 'know' what I'm getting myself into. I guess my question is how much of your life do you have to sacrifice in order to do well at your work (as a student and young associate)? I fear I may have to miss out on a lot of my life with my friends, family, relationships, etc. in order to truly excel in the early stages of my career at a large firm. Is this accurate?

 

What about relationships? Are they even remotely possible as a student or young associate? Would you have to essentially live with your partner in order to ensure you saw them more than once every two weeks?

 

How did you approach the early stages of your work - as a summer student, articling student, and as a young associate? Did you just never make plans with friends or family out of concern something may come up at work? Did you miss out on a lot? Were you unable to do a lot of the stuff you wanted to do (i.e., go to the gym daily, play a sport, etc.)? I realize my question is quite vague and I'm doing my best to phrase it in a way that's easy to respond to. I'm just concerned about maintaining a balance in my life from the get-go but I fear it's not possible.

 

It is a significant sacrifice. You will not be able to spend as much time with your loved ones as you (or they) would want, and when you are spending time with them you will often be tired, stressed out, and distracted by your phone. You can set time aside for things, and tell people at work that you are unavailable, but if you get a reputation for being unresponsive or unavailable you will stop getting work and you will eventually be asked to leave (or just not get hired back if articling). I can't say where the bar is, and I'm sure it varies from firm to firm.

 

I just put my head down and did the work that was given to me.

 

This year is the first year since I started articling in 2013 that I thought I could maybe sign up for a weekly thing in the evening, like a team sport or golf lessons. I don't think I worked out at all as an articling student, and that was extremely important to me for years before articling. I didn't start again until last spring.

 

Articling was difficult for my wife and I. I'm lucky she is as supportive and understanding as she is. I used to do almost all of the cooking  and most of the dishes, as well as all the home maintenance and repair stuff. While I was articling she had to do the vast majority of the work around the house and I would try to play catch-up on the weekends (she has a 9-5 type job and never has to do evenings or weekends). It's not as bad now, but she still has to do more around the house seeing as I just don't have time most weeks. Quality time was another issue. I think it would be difficult to maintain a non-live-in dating relationship while articling. It's hard enough even when you sleep in the same bed.

 

It's tough for friends and family to understand too, especially if you don't have anyone with a similarly demanding job in the family or circle of friends. People will tell you that you work too much, that you should put your foot down and refuse to take the office home with you, refuse to answer calls after X time, etc. But the fact is that if a client has entrusted you with a time-sensitive matter, you are the one facing a Law Society disciplinary committee if you don't get it done on time. It's not the client's fault if you've got 40 other files demanding your attention. Unless and until we have entity regulation, it's not even the firm's fault for assigning you more work than you can do (speaking more about junior associates here than articling students).

 

That is a big question.  You could write a book on it. 

 

I'm probably not the right person to answer.  I did a terrible job of balancing it all out.  I worked a lot more than I probably had to.  I still don't see my friends as much as I'd like, but I'm at the stage now where I don't feel like I'm being a bad father that's gone too often, and I feel good about having achieved that small measure of balance.  I see Urielette every morning for two or three hours and we hang out two nights a week and all weekend long.  It's pretty good.  

 

Of course, to get that kind of time with her I have to really do a dance to fit in friends and the gym.  Every minute is taken up with something.  There's not a lot of Netflix going on over here.

 

Everyone's got stories about the toll the hours can take on relationships.  And yet, virtually everyone winds up in a relationship and with kids somehow.

 

You'll get a lot of different advice.  Some people will say, just bite the bullet.  You're going to put your head down for one summer, and then for 10 months.  That's nothing in exchange for the kind of career you can strive for if you do that successfully.  That was basically my school of thought, and it worked and I'm pretty okay with it.  

 

Others are going to say you have to defend your personal time jealously.  That might work, but I've also seen it not work.  When everyone else in the office has been working around the clock and giving up important things in order to respond to a crucial client emergency, it's not going to go over well when you dump the rest of your work on someone else because you have a family brunch every Sunday.

 

So much of this depends on your firm, and who you work for.  If you're working for organized, reasonable people that care about your sanity for the most part, you might have an easier time of it.  I made a conscious decision to work for the partners that are tough to get along with, who are very demanding and very brilliant and who are absolutely dedicated to their practice.  I'm learning more than I ever thought possible from these people, but at this point Mrs. Uriel knows what it means when I tell her I've been "Michael'ed"* at 5:00 when court lets out, with orders to have a fresh affidavit to respond in court the next morning.

 

Anyway.  I should probably stop prattling about that.  I have friends on Bay Street that bill 1900 hours and roll their eyes at how much I work, so I really am probably the very worst person to give that particular kind of advice.  I'll probably only scare you.  I'm the only person in the office right now, that probably tells you all you need to know.   :)

 

* Names changed to protect my bosses

 

I bolded a couple of things that I whole-heartedly agree with (and the "Michael'ed" thing, which I also often find myself saying to my wife...).

 

I'm also probably not the right person to ask about this kind of stuff either, but I'm answering it nonetheless! I usually bill considerably above my firm's target (and considerably more than the friends Uriel mentions, but I'm sure still a couple hundred hours less tham him!) and there are other associates around my level that work a lot less than I do. As in hundreds of hours a year less. I think it stems from the fact that I pretty much never turn down work, which is in part due to the fact that I don't want to get squeezed out of the areas I'm interested in because I turned something down once. I'm not sure if I'm more ambitious than them, more insecure, or if I'm just slowly becoming a bona-fide workaholic. Hmm.

 

 

I have found that several people regret having left the firm, apparently having come to discover that when they said "I don't like working here" what they actually were feeling was "I don't like working".

 

If you've never had a real job before, you should give any legal job extra latitude to be crappy.  All jobs are.

 

So true. Everyone complains about their jobs. Working sucks in general. The actual work of law is better than most jobs I've had, and the pay is much better. The trade-off is the general expectation of availability and the unpredictable demands on your time.


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#65 SpecterH

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 03:02 PM

Is this the general consensus?: If you're not married and/or living with your significant other, it's probably best to just not date someone seriously during articling and even as a very new associate at a large firm(?)


Edited by SpecterH, 07 March 2016 - 03:11 PM.


#66 celli660

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 03:07 PM

Its odd that it's a consensus but also in your opinion. I'm not making a dispute over anything you've said, I'm just enjoying the language.



#67 SpecterH

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 03:12 PM

Its odd that it's a consensus but also in your opinion. I'm not making a dispute over anything you've said, I'm just enjoying the language.

 

It very clearly meant that in my opinion, I felt the general consensus illustrates: 



#68 Another Hutz

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 03:13 PM

Articling was difficult for my wife and I. I'm lucky she is as supportive and understanding as she is. I used to do almost all of the cooking  and most of the dishes, as well as all the home maintenance and repair stuff. While I was articling she had to do the vast majority of the work around the house and I would try to play catch-up on the weekends (she has a 9-5 type job and never has to do evenings or weekends). It's not as bad now, but she still has to do more around the house seeing as I just don't have time most weeks. Quality time was another issue. I think it would be difficult to maintain a non-live-in dating relationship while articling. It's hard enough even when you sleep in the same bed.

 

It's tough for friends and family to understand too, especially if you don't have anyone with a similarly demanding job in the family or circle of friends. People will tell you that you work too much, that you should put your foot down and refuse to take the office home with you, refuse to answer calls after X time, etc. 

 

Can confirm. 

 

We are both articling. Our offices are 5 minutes from each other. But we have yet to have lunch together (she eats at her desk). We try to devote Saturday but the need for sleep takes about half of that. Sunday is left to prep for the following week (laundry, make lunches, personal time).

 

It's not that bad. But compared to every single other couple I know, comparatively it feels like we're doing long distance. My friends see their partners every other day, even if they don't live together. The life of my 8-4PM friends is vastly different than anyone I know doing 8-6PM* where * = usually 6pm but could be 6:30PM, 7PM or even later, and a few weekends here and there.

 

You just become perpetually at work. You're tired and irritable. Things that would otherwise not bother you just make you snap. Keeping up a certain kind of work "face", where you are positive and professional all the time, even if that's your default, it gets tiring.

 

That's why they look for "fit." That's why that whole "be yourself" is important. You need to be that version of yourself for a whole lotta time. You can't keep up being anyone else at these hours, with this kind of stress.
 


Edited by Another Hutz, 07 March 2016 - 03:15 PM.

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#69 celli660

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 03:15 PM

SpecterH, I know, I just enjoy the idea that something is a consensus and your opinion. Even if it is your opinion of a consensus or what it is.

 

Again, I'm not ripping on you, I just thought the wording was funny. Not like OMG, haha funny, but brief and barely audible chortle funny.

 

Edit: aw you changed it, so the joke won't make sense now.


Edited by celli660, 07 March 2016 - 03:16 PM.

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#70 SpecterH

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 03:30 PM

This is stressing me out and I haven't even summered at my firm yet.


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#71 Another Hutz

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 05:14 PM

This is stressing me out and I haven't even summered at my firm yet.

 

As long as people aren't breathing down your neck or your office is a hostile environment, it's generally NBD. Don't worry until you have to worry. When you are summering, you'll never say, "thank God I was so bummed out and worried about this job during law school!"



#72 t3ctonics

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Posted 08 March 2016 - 08:06 AM

Is this the general consensus?: If you're not married and/or living with your significant other, it's probably best to just not date someone seriously during articling and even as a very new associate at a large firm(?)

 

Despite the difficulties noted above, I think it's still worth a shot. If your significant other understands that you might have to cancel plans sometimes without much notice, and that you might be too wiped out (or just unavailable) on weeknights to do anything, I think it can still work. In fact, I've seen it work on numerous occasions.

 

I wouldn't deliberately put my love life on hold if I were starting over. Life's too short.


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#73 1960

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Posted 13 March 2016 - 04:59 PM

Hi Uriel, First I want to say thanks so much for taking the time to answer all these questions -- very helpful! 
 
I have been thinking about what practice area I would like to practice in for a long time now, but as my law school career comes to an end, it is getting more urgent. I completely agree with your "lifestyle" comment. That is a factor that is heavily weighing in my analysis. (In general, no matter what practice area, I don't think scheduling stability comes until you are further into practice anyways, maybe a third or fourth year...) 
 
What would you say about natural aptitudes. For example, if a student thinks commercial litigation is more interesting a subject area, but finds the work more challenging -- has difficulty quickly grasping complex legal concepts and thus takes longer to produce memos for their associate bosses/partners. Or, a student who is more "solicitor" oriented (detail-oriented, very organized and can handle a high volume of documents), but may not find the business law work as interesting. Is it better to go with the route that you are naturally inclined towards ... so that you don't have to struggle through your work day-in, day-out and be stressed out that you can't meet time deadlines?
 
Also, can you tell me what skills you think are essential for litigators versus business lawyers. What personalities do you see go in to one versus the other? 

 

I missed this one, and it's a good one!

 

The trick is, different practice areas bring with them totally different lifestyles.  M&A is very up-and-down, lots of vacation here and live-in-the-office there.  Class actions are consistently, endlessly busy while rarely giving rise to emergencies.  Regulatory work is stable and predictable, except in the rare case where it's an absolute tire fire.

 

What I'd recommend if you have no clue at all is to come up with a list of things you don't want to do.  That could be an area (like competition law) or an activity (like "talking in court" or "working with criminals").

 

Then, make a list of all the must-haves and nice-to-haves that you'd like to see in your career.  If "high pay" is a must-have, or upon reflection "business law" is only a nice-to-have, it might narrow down the kind of lifestyle you want.  Then, if you're not too keen on any particular area, you can start looking into whether or not you'll be interested in the areas that offer you the most of what you want.  A lot of people don't really consider tax planning law, or bankruptcy and insolvency, until they see how great that lifestyle can be and then start making inquiries into whether it's as hard, obscure, or boring as it might sound.


Edited by 1960, 13 March 2016 - 05:00 PM.


#74 Dwarvishleaf

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Posted 13 March 2016 - 05:13 PM

Regulatory work is stable and predictable, except in the rare case where it's an absolute tire fire.

 

Just saw this now...would you mind describing what a regulatory tire fire looks like?



#75 Starling

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 12:25 PM

According to the UBC website, only 10% of UBC students end up articling in Ontario. Is this because students from Ontario are preferred or because not many people from UBC tend to apply to Bay Street firms?

 

I guess it's probably a combination of both factors?

 

I'm planning on staying in Vancouver but I am curious.


Edited by Starling, 16 March 2016 - 12:36 PM.

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