Jump to content


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by Uriel

  1. Just occurred to me that I could interview people I know in real life too, and just transcribe it over.
  2. Hi everyone! As discussed in another thread, there's a general sentiment around here that it would be helpful if we deflated the constant chatter about Bay Street on this board with a broader discussion of what the other 99.5% of lawyers in Canada -- including the vast majority of those that do go to Bay Street, then quit --- do for a living. This poll (which closes on August 15) seeks to sort out what it is you want to hear. If you have any other ideas for this thread, let us know below!
  3. I don't know if we're still discussing the term 'Seven Sisters' specifically, but my point throughout has been "No, but she's entitled to get accurate information as to what those firms might be."
  4. Hopefully there would be a lot of participation and therefore a troublesome number of sock puppets... Maybe it would be best if those bios were PM'ed for me to post? Or e-mailed through whatever anonymous e-mail that person might prefer, to my [email protected] account?
  5. Also, I know this probably doesn't help anyone at all, since this isn't a list of accepted definitions, but when I hear the following terms, I personally think of the following things: "Bay Street" or "Biglaw": Large (inter-)national firms or elite boutiques that handle big deals and cases for large public companies, operating on roughly the same business model of limited liability partnership, formal student recruitment, 200+ lawyers and 1800-hour billable targets. (About 16-17.) --> Note that there are dozens of firms technically on Bay Street that do not quality, and that several "Bay Street" firms are not headquartered on Bay Street, or even in Toronto. (Most of the biggest Canadian law firms are actually on King Street or Wellington. It's the banks that are on Bay Street, and that term stretched to include firms that handle their legal affairs.) "Big national firms": A subset of "Bay Street" that excludes specialized shops and boutiques. (About 13-14.) --> Generally used in business terms; litigators are less concerned about "national" firms because regional and boutique shops are some of the best in the business. "Downtown Toronto firms": A broader set of firms including boutiques, regional firms and larger midsized firms that handle big cases and have blue-chip clients, but may have a lower profile, more relaxed billable targets and tougher student/partnership admission processes. (About 25-40.) --> Generally used to refer to firms with a presence in downtown Toronto, even if their headquarters is elsewhere. Excludes equally competitive firms from Montreal, Halifax, Calgary and Vancouver but includes branch plants of New York and London firms.
  6. So many interesting posts to respond to! Here goes. You haven't lived until you've been in the room with a partner straight-up whining to you about being passed over for a compensation unit that the guy down the hall got. So here he is making a mere $525,000 when his buddy is making $550,000. It isn't fair! I am the hardest-done-by person in Canada! We need more of those threads compared to threads like this one. Very few students ever wind up on Bay Street, and those that do generally quit within three years. Virtually none of them go on to partnership, whatever their initial ambitions were. Our articling class was somewhere around 25-35, and there are two of us left. The conversation about legal careers needs to be way, way broader than the constant debate over which Bay Street firms are best. The misconceptions on that topic do need to be addressed for the mental health of students in the OCI process, but as @providence has pointed out, in the great scheme of things it applies to so few circumstances as to be a triviality. Students should be better informed about what happens if they're not in the < 1% of us maniacs that decide to stick with this circus. We all come to law school goal-oriented, arrogant and ambitious, and so we're hyper-focused on what the "best" stuff is. We've always achieved the "best" stuff. But we're about to enter the real world, where you realize that people stop caring about your accomplishments and the only person left to satisfy is yourself, and your family. You don't need to look far. There are a few posts a year on these boards from high school students trying to plot out their career trajectory. @Diplock usually sorts them out. There is a bit of a disconnect going on. Some people are quoting my posts from the other thread too, and none of them came over --- so for reference: This comes up sometimes in costs arguments, where we try to argue Suncor to the effect that where both parties retain Bay Street law firms, they expect legal fees to be astronomical and so the usual modest scale of costs should not apply. No matter what courtroom I'm in, I usually define Bay Street as anyplace where the articling students are charging more than $250 an hour. That gets the good kind of chuckle. We should actually take the initiative to set up a Superthread somewhere trying to deflate the emphasis on Bay Street and describing options. I might get that started. A thread of really short bios, maybe with a word count limit of 500 or something, describing where you thought you'd wind up, what your experience getting a job was, where you are now, and why you made that decision. Can anyone think of any other "interview questions" that we should put in that uberthread?
  7. I don't. It's insane how much pressure some of these kids are under. A lot of it is self-driven --- which is why I try to make the case to them directly in this forum not to restrict your own definitions of success, both globally and within Bay Street specifically ---- but there are also (apparently) a lot of families out there that insist their kids are going to "make it" and come to sites like this to figure out what the "best" firms are so that they have a measurement for failure. I've had several candidates come by expressing that they've got uncles and aunts, grandparents at dinner all asking if they got an interview at Blakes, or if they will interview with their old classmate at Goodmans. Sometimes it's pressure from a family of successful lawyers; other times it's pressure from a family that's never had someone go to university before and are looking for the highest goalposts they can set. If they learn from this website that their kid has to go to one of these seven firms or else be a failure, then we've failed in our capacity as informal advisors.
  8. Again, not a fair assumption. I don't know why the average student should be assumed to think that seven means more than seven. But I mean, even if you're right, there's still a sizable minority that I'm trying to reach, and I can tell you they exist because I meet them frequently. And if my exasperation comes off as berating from time to time, I apologize. You're right that the tone can be counterproductive, but I try to substantiate my comments as much as I can. Anyway, Providence raises a good point --- this has probably had more than enough airtime for a while. Hopefully someone raises a broader "Bay Street or not" question somewhere that I can contribute to productively.
  9. I couldn't agree with you more. I'm discussing this topic here because it's the way this conversation has evolved. I have been, and continue to be, more than eager to address those issues when they're under discussion. Thanks for the input. Not sure how many times I can say that this hasn't been my experience, and that I have had to bring Kleenex to coffee meetings with students because tears are not infrequent about this artificial distinction. I'm really glad that you don't hyper-focus on the term, but I occasionally do because students do, and I find myself picking up the pieces. If I estimate liberally that fully one out of every ten Canadian students that take the artificial distinction seriously go so far as to come speak with me personally, then it's worth my time to try to talk to the dozens of other students out there that don't reach out. Sorry if it bugs those that aren't having a crisis.
  10. I guess I should take a pause here. If the posters here saying that 'Seven Sisters' is now being used in law schools as a generic term for Bay Street generally, they're closer to that action than I am, and it would be more than a welcome development. I haven't seen evidence of that yet from the students I meet and/or mentor, but I certainly hope that's the case.
  11. The moniker has a number in it. Say what you will about law students, they can generally count. And if you've been around a while, you've seen that I'm often deflating concepts about downtown Toronto practice and reminding people that for virtually everyone it's just a temporary stay and not a career. I can do both. I don't have to be "more concerned" with helping students find alternatives to Bay Street to the extent that I no longer help students navigate the massively stressful OCI process. People who get hired by them. Because they're proud of their accomplishment. And they should be - the nominal 'Sisters' are fabulous firms and difficult to get into. But since it's a handy hierarchy and they're at the top of it, the prestige-seeking masses can hardly restrain themselves from trolling their classmates about the number of 'Sister' interviews they landed. That's why we say this is mostly a problem for law students, at that stage in their careers when they have these decisions to make. Once you know what you're talking about, you don't care about the overall ranking of a firm. You know that Jon Levin is maybe the best M&A lawyer in Canada, and John Torrey is maybe the best banking/finance guy in the country. Both are at Faskens. In my line of work, Glenn Zakaib is at BLG and might be low-key the best class action defence counsel in Canada. We know the brand names are irrelevant, and that all of these firms are roughly equally worthy platforms for individual success; students don't. So while Candidate A has nine interviews with Bay Street firms and nine opportunities to establish a career in that sector of the legal industry, Candidate B with three interviews including Davies and Goodmans is objectively worse off. But Candidate B is going to be rubbing that in for weeks, and Candidate A is going to PM me for a coffee to discuss what they did wrong in their applications, and whether they're going to be a mediocre lawyer for life. I wish I was exaggerating. Law students are an anxious, achievement-driven bunch. I mean it when I say I wouldn't bother with this dumb term if I didn't come face to face with the harm it does on a regular basis.
  12. And those "better chances" are, from my uneducated perspective, dramatically better chances.
  13. I see your point, and I agree to some extent, but it's much easier to decide whether or not you want to work at a Bay Street firm at all than it is to decide between those firms. There is a ton of information available about what practice on Bay Street is like, and most candidates have a general view of what that practice entails. Deciding whether or not someone wants to practice in a large national firm is a decision they can generally make even without scads of research, let alone research into information that's difficult to come by. On the other hand, deciding between the 14 or 15 Bay Street firms is a challenging exercise. Information about what a firm's practice strengths are, what its organizational structure and ten-year business strategy are like, the way professional development is managed, etc. is opaque --- especially to those that aren't yet familiar with the legal industry. In many cases, these students have only had a few months to try to familiarize themselves with the business side of the law. We should embrace terminology that describes a complete industry sector, including all participants that offer similar work, business model, compensation and standards; and then left further disambiguation between the participants in that sector up to personal research or the evaluation of personal priorities. That seems to me preferable to the tacit endorsement of artificial and inaccurate prestige categories that cause students to evaluate positions at two practically identical workplaces as a great success or an embarrassing failure on no substantive basis.
  14. My beef isn't that my firm is equally strong as the best in Canada; it's not. We have a few very competitive or market-leading groups, but we have no objective claim to being among the most elite in the country overall --- particularly if M&A is still the metric of success. My beef is that through my extensive experience dealing with law students over the last 10+ years, law students have shown themselves to completely abdicate their own career research to that arbitrary list. I completely disagree that "people are gonna research practice area strengths anyway". They absolutely do not do that. They PM me in a panic mid-OCIs, saying they hate Firm X and love Firm Y but Firm X is a Sister, so they're making the correct choice picking that one, right? I can't tell you how many students I come across that have declined BJ or Norton Rose because they had an offer from a Sister that they felt was a worse fit. That's the only reason I'm one of the eggshell guys bernard refers to below. The designation is doing actual harm to people that are making adverse career choices based on bad information. I'm there to see them take the job they dislike, and I'm now tenured enough to have seen them quit Bay Street altogether in frustration after 2-3 years. I wouldn't be on a crusade if it was a harmless ego-stroking exercise. It's a hard question to answer because there's such a gap between average, median and 90th percentile income. There are people on Bay Street surpassing $3 million. There are scads of junior partners making under $400,000, and a significant number of senior partners pulling in $800-900k. I find that most people that ask me what the "average partner makes" are still operating from the perspective of a student or an employee. They don't fully grasp that as a partner you're basically a business operator. It's like asking what the average tech entrepreneur makes. How is an average going to be helpful to anyone? I can say that the average Bay Street partner makes about $750k, maybe a bit more. I think that's accurate, from everything I've seen and heard about the market. But I don't see how that actually helps anyone, since you will probably never actually make that exact figure. You might be a mediocre partner that bombs around $550k for life, or you might be a rainmaker bringing the average up by pulling in $1.2 million a year or more starting at age 48. And it certainly doesn't help anyone assess whether or not they will be more successful in New York or Toronto. When you make partner, your network in a given market is going to be a bigger driver of your income than the market itself. It's not shorthand. People take the term literally and base career decisions on the enumeration it represents. This is evidenced by the fact that the phrase is almost exclusively used to distinguish certain firms from other Bay Street firms, and not from firms in other markets or in the Toronto mid-market. If we could just start using the generic terms more commonly used by established counsel: "national firms", "downtown Toronto firms", "Bay Street firms" etc., I could shut up about the whole issue forever.
  15. If you're among those of us unfamiliar with the workings of the downtown Toronto business community from your pre-law school days, I'd recommend firm tours as a way to get over the intimidation factor and the lack of familiarity you might feel with how to find your way around. Also you can make all your wardrobe and personal mistakes early in an environment where they don't really count. Go to your least favourite firms' tours and see if you feel like you embarrassed yourself in any way, then touch that up before you get into the real deal in October. You can learn a lot about a firm's culture from a firm tour if you meet enough people. If you can't stand your tour guide and the recruiter seems smarmy and disingenuous, and the partners you meet are dismissive and rude, then it's a good thing you went on the tour! If, on the other hand, you run into lots of people genuinely laughing and enjoying each other's company, you might have a good work environment on your hands.
  16. Hearing now that some firms have done both a merit/hours-based bonus and a broad-based associates' bonus this summer, greater than or equal to $5k each. Good year to be busy if you're in the right place...
  17. As a lawyer and not an HR person, it's hard to say what qualifications are strictly necessary to get hired. But I would have to imagine that ongoing CLE (continuing legal education) certificates and the like to show that you're serious about your career --- or even specializing in an area! --- would be received very well. In many cases, I think we tend to grab clerks that have great academic credentials, a record of advancing their skills with certifications and fresh training, and (usually) a record of working steadily for another respected law firm without too much moving around. (When we lose an associate, it's an unfortunate business reality. When we lose a clerk it's like losing a limb. We need to avoid that wherever possible.) Despite the hiring process, the things that make a law clerk indispensible are mostly character attributes more than certifications or skills. We've got three clerks in our department and they should basically be in charge of the department and the firm and most likely our personal lives and/or the Commonwealth generally. The things that really stand out and save our bacon: Intellectual curiosity. They don't just process charts. They get to know the case, they get to know the witnesses, and when they come across something weird they ask us about the weird thing -- even if it's outside the scope of their job. One of our youngest clerks almost won us an unwinnable $1 billion case by noticing an e-mail coming from someone that should not have known a certain thing at a certain time if they were telling the truth under oath. Creative solution-finding. Clerks can often suffer from being the last link in a chain or, if it's not too obscure, the last rank in a pre-Napoleonic column. If a whole army isn't walking in sync, the people at the end of the column are constantly having to sprint to catch up as every minor misstep works its way back to them in the form of delay. Because instructions come from a client, through a busy partner, through a busy associate, to a busy clerk, it can often be the case that the clerk is handed an assignment to handle in an unreasonable amount of time because an extra day or two of delay was added every step of the way. A clever clerk that can cut corners and take shortcuts to get something done on time is always a hero. Organization. Lawyers are neither selected nor trained for organizational skills. A clerk that can answer, "hey, where is that e-mail where..." or "didn't someone once write..." by checking an index no one asked him to write is worth his weight in silver. Like, I think probably you could get two good clerks for a clerk's worth of gold, but I think silver is trading pretty reasonably these days. Technical expertise. Whether it's knowing the Sedona Canada principles for e-Discovery in a kind of detail we will never get our heads around, or being able to read a real estate PIN at a level of detail that will allow a lawyer to get a mental image of the land at issue, clerks are frequently responsible for translating complicated technical data into simple, manageable concepts for a lawyer that is either too junior to have picked that expertise up by osmosis, or too senior to (care/be able) to operate the necessary technology. Clerks that can not only perform those tasks but apply superior communication skills to transmit their expertise into usable concepts and reports are quite literally worth more than I am. I might get paid more, but I'm much, much easier to replace.
  18. It's a new practice, not uniform yet. You'll find a couple more 'yes' and a couple more 'no'. I'm not familiar with anyone doing it on a percentage basis, so I'm not sure if that intel is sharp, but mine could be off as well. I'm personally against these policies unless the payout is subtracted from your annual bonus; otherwise it just disproportionately benefits people that have a busy first half and a slack second half, rather than vice versa. I mean, it's not like they're going to take that out of your December paycheque if you take your foot off the gas and bill 1500 on the year, are they? What if you write a book or go on parental leave in the first half of the year then catch up to 1800 by the end, whereas your colleague in the next office over bills an even 900/900 in each half? Why should she get paid more? Seems to invite some gamesmanship that could rock your Q3/Q4 financial projections, but what do I know.
  19. This all varies by firm - in many places income partner is a "holding tank" for senior associates that could use the title for marketing purposes but who haven't been voted in by the partnership yet. Sometimes you can stay there for years. In other firms, "income partner" is a category people stay in, often by choice. It most often applies to people: (a) with specialized practices that rely on other people's clients to be fruitful; (b) with no client development skills (or inclination to do client development) who are excellent lawyers that will always be reliant on other partners for their income; or (c) who like their jobs and want to keep them just the way they are. I know this sounds crazy, but being a partner is a lot of work. You're responsible not only for running your own files at the highest possible level, managing a legal team and hustling for clients, but also for a share of running a massive, multimillion-dollar business. It's a lot of stress! It's like working two full white-collar jobs. And on top of that, to constantly be competing for more units and worrying about collections and new client development and having your compensation veer wildly based on other people's work... not everyone wants that kind of life, even if it pays a lot more. My articling principal was a sure thing for partnership, but she just didn't want to bill 20-bajillion hours a year. She's an awesome mom as well as being a kick-ass lawyer, and she has her own clients and everything, but she wanted to work 9 to 5. The firm would rather suffer a building fire than lose her to someone else, so they were happy to agree. A very high fixed income and low-ish hours, all the while getting to do headline-grabbing Bay Street work... it's not unreasonable that some people would prefer that arrangement. In many cases, they've more than earned the title of "partner" - they just don't want to participate in running the business. That is the exception, though. I'd venture that most "income partners" are just very senior associates in waiting to make equity. I have heard, though, that the more millennials start coming up for partner, the more interest there is in taking an income-partner arrangement. That's another factor; firms don't necessarily want too many of those kicking around. They want partnership to mean something, and they want people to be motivated to bill like mad and run the company well. Losing too many partners to permanent second-tier status can starve the partnership of the talent it needs to be competitive.
  20. To be clear, you won't need to make that out of your own book. I'll probably ring in about $100k on my own clients this year, but I'll earn the firm about $900,000 total; and I'll be a (very unlikely) candidate for the partnership this year. Plenty of people with small or non-existent books make partner due to current earnings and future potential.
  21. Especially if I just invested a half-million-bucks-plus into the place.
  22. Yep! I gave New York some serious thought, but ultimately I decided to stay based on some foolish feeling of national loyalty (I could never have afforded law school if I went to the US) and more practically, I thought my odds of making partner here were much, much better. I've also always said that if I ever give this practice up, I'd want to do the complete opposite. I either want to work on the big, complex, headline-grabbing cases and give my brain a workout every day; or I want to be a small-town solicitor with a big dopey border collie in the front office. So far, though, I'm a lot happier here than I ever thought I would be so I'm sticking with this for the foreseeable future. Even this is too general a statement of compensation across firms. This only describes about 3 of maybe 5 bases for getting a compensation boost at my firm (and maybe most firms), and describes what is probably a globally inaccurate 'floor'. I'd run screaming from any firm that would purport to pay a partner less than an senior associate because they had a down year for billings. They might be asked to leave, but I'd be shocked to find a firm paying an equity partner less than $250k. They still own a stake in the firm's profits, after all. OK, that makes more sense. And "early" associates would be the key term here. If we're talking about lockstep in 1-3 years of call, they might well be right. I haven't checked in after the last round of raises, though.
  23. That's not the line I was drawing. I think it would be fair to think that two partners with similar books of business at two different firms on Bay Street would still be roughly evenly compensated --- maybe withing 100k or so. Which, as others have observed, after taxes, is still a ludicrious amount of extra money but doesn't really nudge the needle on lifestyle that much. If I'm making 650k at Goodmans but 780k at McCarthys (totally random selection of firms, read nothing into this), is my day-to-day life really all that different? Maybe when I'm 85 and drawing on an annuity. She brought in a blue-chip client with a steady stream of work. If you bring in that many dollars from clients that size, any firm would be crazy not to compensate you enough to keep you happy.
  24. Speaking for myself only, that's because I can think of some questions to get you talking about your clinic work. Your HH in contracts seems like a less fruitful subject for revealing conversation. It doesn't mean I value the latter less than the former. I just don't want to talk about Tercon because it's not going to tell me anything about you. Your experience with the refugee family, maybe.
  • Create New...