Due to the pandemic, jobs at many of the big firms with strong corporate/commercial practices are very hard to come by. This is especially true for a 3L yet to secure articles, which is the position I am in. In addition to corporate/commercial work, I have a strong interest in bankruptcy/insolvency law and restructuring, and, in-line with those interests, I have applied to every firm practicing in those areas. Those firms are usually the larger-sized firms.
However, in the past few months, I came across a number of job postings at some of those big firms who were looking for articling students late in the game. I secured interviews for a couple of those positions, but didn't manage to get the job. I applied for a bunch more, and the prospects of interviews at those firms were really good. Unfortunately, all of those firms have recently contacted me informing me that they will no longer be hiring articling students for the 2020–2021 year due to the pandemic. No similar job postings are popping up anymore, and I've had to consider other options.
In addition to my interest in bankruptcy and restructuring law, I have a decent background in criminal law. I enjoy learning about the area and I volunteered with my law school's criminal legal clinic for 2 years. I also took a few of the criminal law upper-year option courses just in case I changed my mind—or, like in this situation, have my mind changed for me. I also know many criminal lawyers in my city through connections that I've made throughout law school. I've built a good rapport with some of those lawyers and law firms through my clinical work, and because I've always played around with the idea of practicing in criminal defense. I think my fear with practicing in criminal defense is that I feel learning about the criminal law is so, so much different than the actual practice of criminal law, and that I might only enjoy learning about it. I don't necessarily have that same fear with other areas, for whatever reason.
A little while ago, I was speaking with a good friend of mine who is an associate at a well-known criminal law firm in my city, and I told him about my situation re: not being able to find an article in the area that I want. His firm has a strong focus on criminal law, but he also mentioned that his firm also allows their articling students and associates to do work in other areas of the law if they ever brought in that sort of business. He asked me if I wanted to go for lunch and talk about the job some more, so I went for lunch with him and, after we finished, he told me that his firm was looking for an articling student and that he thinks I'd be a really good fit. I even made sure to tell him that I'm unsure of whether I want to practice in criminal law, and that I would feel very bad about articling somewhere only to leave after my articling year for something else.
I started to think about what articling at that firm would mean for my future, and my chances of, at some point, transitioning into a job at another firm with a strong bankruptcy/restructuring practice if I end up really not enjoying criminal defense. I always hear from people that it's hard to go from a small firm to a big one, and that articling in criminal law kind of limits your options if you don't end up liking it.
I spoke to one of my professors with whom I have a really close relationship, and I asked him if he knew of any opportunities to article at a firm with a bankruptcy/restructuring practice, and/or if he'd be willing to help me get my foot in the door somewhere like that. He said he'd be happy to help, but that, given the current situation, it'd be hard for him to find something for me. I told him about the prospect of articling at the crim firm I mentioned above, and that I might want to leave to practice in another area if I didn't enjoy criminal defense while articling. He suggested that I find an article in "any area, for now" and that "the situation created by the pandemic is one that employers will understand" (I think that he means firms will be more understanding when an applicant has articled in an area unrelated to that in which they wish to practice because they couldn't secure articles in that area). He also suggested that working in criminal defense and being in court a ton will help me to become more comfortable in court faster, thus helping me to develop skills that will be beneficial for a bankruptcy/restructuring lawyer, given that restructuring law is largely fast-paced litigation.
In the meantime, my friend at that criminal defense firm has gotten back to me, and told me that his boss really liked my application and what my friend had to say about me from our lunch. He literally told me that if I wanted the job, I'd have it. I told him to give me some time think about it, and that I'd have an answer for him after my finals are done next week. The position wasn't advertised anywhere, so there are no other applicants, i.e., no rush of someone else swooping in and taking it.
I'd like to know what some of you think about this. Do you think it'd be hard to transition into another area after articling at a criminal defense shop? Is this something I should even do, or should I hold out for a job in my desired area? I know, I gave a lot of context, but I just wanted to make sure you guys knew as much of the situation as possible. I'm also procrastinating like crazy right now, so anything other than studying is soooo enticing.