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adVenture last won the day on July 18 2019

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  1. There is such a wide range of what constitutes practicing law that it is hard to give you a straight answer. For example, the kind of work that a corporate lawyer does compared to a criminal lawyer is night and day. But, in general, I think the common misconception of activist-type students is that they seem to think that by becoming a lawyer they can make a positive change just by virtue of their future position. While that may be true for some lawyers that has not been true for me -- at the end of the day I take instructions from a client, and its the client who will ultimately decide whether or not the work I do for him or her will help others and make the world a better place. To me being a lawyer will always just be another job. I'm only concerned about helping a client with doing what he or she thinks will improve his or her life within my narrow role, and whether that will create any positive impact for the rest of society is irrelevant to me. I think your question is based on the false premise that being a lawyer is somehow different than other careers in the professional services, i.e., accountant, engineer, architect, doctor, and etc, when really it is just another profession in its own bubble. Besides the above, I enjoy what I do more than not. Some weeks are good while others are bad. I know I would not be able to make a comparable income with my skill set doing something else. Not having to worry about money in the same way as less fortunate people gives me a substantial amount of peace of mind. Although I work long hours I still have time to occasionally volunteer and do other public interest work, although COVID-19 has taken that away from me for the time being. My advice would be to contact someone in your family or social group to shadow lawyers from different practices to get an idea of what being a lawyer is actually like.
  2. There's no need to get offended on my behalf. I'm not endorsing any particular approach and no where did I state that I somehow approved of what is a crappy situation, i.e, high stress work with no tangible reward. The original poster asked for advice. My advice was to worry about things you can control. Agree or disagree that's a reasonable position. As an aside, while I'm not offended, the phrase "drinking the kool aid" is a racist slur you should try to avoid in polite conversation.
  3. I think you are overthinking things. I would worry about things that you have control of rather than things you do not -- like how your firm bills out your work. I'm also a junior in a mid-size firm with a lot of institutional clients who recently has had a significant chunk of my hours written off after working an obscene amount. It happens. A lawyer might not want to bill off your work to a file for a multitude of reasons and there is no point in stressing yourself out. If you miss target and get a small bonus, well that sucks but a lot of people are in the same boat. The best advice about this I've received from more senior associates is that even if you are doing work that isn't getting billed out, if it wasn't you doing that work it just wouldn't get done, so that is valuable in and of itself. The hours you work also aren't linear from month to month, so even if you aren't getting enough hours now -- in the middle of an unprecedented recession -- I wouldn't worry. Either you will be able to make up the time later or you won't, in which case you will always be about to point to the present shit storm as a reason for not hitting target. While you might not be able to get the bonus you wanted, well everyone is hurting right now. I've had to rework my personal budget and goals because I have not been able to hit the targets I've wanted or bring in the work I though I could due to present circumstances. With all due respect I think some of the other posters in this thread are engaging in a weird kind of syllogism that is divorced from practical reality.
  4. I would interview and then decide your next steps rather than the reverse. Ultimately it is your career and your decision to make, not your employer's.
  5. Just one example is that lot of law school exams and essays were too academic as opposed to practical and rewarded the wrong type of skills. I've discussed how I do municipal and planning law here before. A lot of my matters involve going through the legal process of acquiring approvals to convert raw land to serviced land to greenfield or mid-rise/high-rise infill through a series of very expensive ($500,000+ in legal fees) and time (at least 5-years+) processes for subdivisions/condominiums that once developed, are usually worth more than 75-million and some in the billions. If there is no approval, or if there is a bad approval, the developer/municipality is not going to be happy; for the developer the development could be economically unfeasible and for the municipality it could not match their long-term plans. So when those are the stakes, the legal answer has to be as close to perfect as possible. And getting to that kind of answer is not about rushing for 3-hours during an exam by reading off a summary and quickly plugging cases based on your interpretation of what certain legal "rules" or "principles" are into different fact patterns. It is about taking the time to grind through the details and finding the case with the facts and law that you need, or as close as possible, and then making submissions/agreements to execute upon the foregoing. And much of this legal work is integrated into your collaboration with a broad range of non-legal consultants because you need them to help you understand (teach) you the facts: engineers, architects, planners, ecologists, hydrologists, geologists, heritage experts, and etc. So, unlike law school, where I was marked based on being a person who could work independently while rushing through exam questions, my legal practice is about being detail-orientated, working slow and long, and being a team player -- something I've had to learn the hard way as a junior lawyer.
  6. I'd prefer a system where some kind of entry level "law school" replaces the usual undergraduate degree and then further specializations would be available similar to how its done for medical school, with everything being much more practical and results orientated. Although doing my undergraduate degree was a necessary prerequisite to law school and entered into it under the assumption I would go to law school, it was in retrospect not the best use of my time. And now I'm back, after doing 3-years of school and early on in my career as a lawyer, having to still fine tune soft skills related to public speaking, practice building, and client management while learning concepts at the same time. If I had to guess, even 75% of what I did in law school was not useful to me outside of slightly improving my writing and building a foundation of general knowledge. Not only did law school not fully prepare me to be a lawyer, I even have to unlearn certain processes that helped me through law school but have hindered my practice as a lawyer. I recognize that some people are more academically minded and that is how they interface with the world, but if I wanted to be a scholar I would have stuck with my undergraduate degree. I'm much more interested in participating in public life and providing people with better information to assist them with their project than learning or refining legal concepts. This isn't to all say that I didn't enjoy the people I met and the relationships that have come from law school; only to say it could be organized much better.
  7. Every semester of law school I did one or two part-time internships or volunteer positions. A part-time internship that I did in 2L turned into a part-time job in 3L. It did become really hectic maintaining those commitments during exams, but I managed and it ended up improving my job prospects. Just make sure that you keep your grades up unless you have already secured an articling position.
  8. Well for my first position after articling I did an email that was like a brief cover letter to the partner that usually took career-related inquiries, or whoever was the contact person on the firm's website, and in that email I would say if they were interested in more I could provide a full application. If I didn't see a contact person I would usually just email an administrative assistant. For my second position I emailed a recruiter about one position I did not have the experience for, but asked if there was any other opportunity she knew of that might be a better fit. There was, so I gave her my application, I interviewed with that firm the next week, and was hired the day after (where I am still working). I'm only a 2019 call so this is just the approach I took and I'm not saying its representative, only that it worked for me, and from other people I've talked to they agreed cold calls/emails at this point are better than just applying on Indeed, etc.
  9. Well I've talked a lot here about my (pre-pandemic) switch as a junior lawyer from a good medium sized firm in SW ON to a better firm in Toronto. I found that applying to advertised positions was always the worst way to search because a lot of the positions were basically what you described above, in that all the risk of your position is supposed to be borne by you, i.e., if you don't somehow find clients and make your own billables, then you aren't paid very much at all and you are SOL. What I did was email recruiters or firms directly and try from there. I found it was much less competitive and ultimately it only took me much less time to find something where (a) I got along with the senior lawyers and (b) was paid a stable salary to work. What I've also seen people do is apply and take temporary positions with firms to avoid having experience gaps while continuing to apply for government positions, which take longer to interview for than private sector positions.
  10. I recently switched firms after I worked at my first position as a first year associate lawyer for 6-months. I switched to work in Toronto at a firm in the same practice area because I thought it would be better for my long term career and for my social life. I do mainly municipal and planning law and dabble in overlapping areas of public law: energy, environmental, tax, privacy, ethics, and expropriation. I would worry more about yourself and what you want to do than an employer who (let's face it) will do just fine with or without you because juniors are replaceable. Although felt bad initially, but I wouldn't have done anything different. You can always pay it forward.
  11. I've gotten unsolicited messages from two recruiters in April. If any junior lawyers (2-5 years experience) are looking for work in the condominium and land development space PM me and I will connect you.
  12. The easiest answer is "competitive with other firms of a comparable size" and follow up with an average from Robert Half or the other salary guide. I would also be honest and say at this point you care more about securing a good position with people you are compatible with then a salary that will naturally increase over the years. There is nothing wrong with being honest, in my opinion, law firms tend to go into interviews with set compensation and look for students based on that, so you aren't leaving money on the table for them to spend on a new expresso machine or something (although I have more experience interviewing at government or large/medium sized Toronto firms).
  13. At this point all of the associates I know who are taking pay cuts are just happy they still have a job, even if its to do more work for lower pay. The market is not very good and being laid off to do nothing doesn't make paying rent or a mortgage any easier. I know of 50% salary cuts and lay offs for smaller firms, so 15-30% is at least reasonable enough for most people -- as far as I know -- to still be able to live pay cheque to pay cheque without going into debt. Edit: Further* debt
  14. The Ontario Bar is a joke. Almost everyone passes it, something like 90%. You don't need to study for 1.5 months. A week or two for each is fine. You just need to create an index to know where to look rather than learning the concepts. You'll do fine.
  15. The mid-sized (regionally ranked) firm I work at cut associates salaries by 15% and staff by 10%. More than a dozen staff were laid off. Depending on whether billables stay up, and probably because currently we're busier than pre-COVID, the difference in salary may be returned as backpay (although I am not counting on it).
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