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Truornothing

Life in Kamloops - the honest truth!

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This post began as a reply to another thread (Questions 2012) but it evolved into something else. In it I got a few things off my chest that I felt I should share with others since there are a bunch of folks out there trying to make an educated decision about TRU and moving to Kamloops. Here it is:

 

When we moved to Kamloops from Calgary, I thought for sure that I would miss the hustle and bustle of the big city, along with its zany politics and daily happenings. We lived in Hillhust (inner city) and took advantage of Calgary's many festivals, farmers' markets, restaurants and night life. While I was sure I would make friends and that law school would provide more than enough entertainment, I expected Kamloops life to be otherwise pretty boring. Probably a fairly natural big city perspective. Those coming from Vancouver had much the same expectation I think. Obviously some folks in our class came from smaller venues and to them Kamloops is the big smoke...

 

We quickly found that Kamloops had everything to offer that a big city does just in smaller doses. It didn't take long for us to find the yoga studios and the farmers' market (which is awesome!), the fine dinning (which you can honestly count on both hands) and the night clubs (I think there's three :).) I was relieved to learn that there was politics here too. In short, all the things that I was finally starting to find cool about Calgary were also happening here. All of this is a round about way of saying that I think Kamloops does have a fairly strong sense of Community in and of itself. The University Community on the other hand has quite a ways to go in building a real campus community. That's a whole other post. But it goes without saying that a very strong community exists around TRU Law, faculty and student body are very collegial. I could say more about all this but it would be difficult to paint an accurate picture.

 

While I am here though I do want to touch on two separate but related thoughts.The first relates to the concept of TRU Law being dedicated to preparing young lawyers to service the Interior of the Province. At first I sort of assumed that this was mere propaganda to try to get provincial funding, and that at most the school would accept a handful of students from the Interior in order to partially fulfil this mandate. To an extent this was true. Apart from the 6 or 7 students accepted to the program from Kamloops I can think of about another half dozen or so that are from elsewhere in the Province NOT counting the Lower Mainland or Victoria (where nearly half hail from). I imagine that the expectation is that many of those students will return to their communities to set up shop. What I didn't anticipate, and what most didn't anticipate is that so many of us would start to think about actually moving here after finishing school. I would certainly include myself in this category. An internal poll conducted by a committee of the TRU Society of Law Students revealed that a plurality of students listed Kamloops and area as their FIRST choice to article and eventually establish a practice. While I can only offer my perspective, I can suggesta few reasons why this might be so:

 

First, as already alluded to the weather is pretty easy to deal with. It was 35 degrees today on May 12th so you can imagine what the summer is like. We moved here in July last year and got the best of summer. Winter is grey and overcast, like most of BC, but coming from Calgary it was nice to not have to contend with -35 every other day. Winter is definitely milder in Kamloops. Even though it gets to minus 30 here, it doesn't last long. I think it mostly hovers around -5 throughout the winter. May want to consult Wiki on this one, rather than rely on my amateur meteorology.

 

Housing market. The cost of purchasing a home in Kamloops is substantially more affordable than in major markets. I don't know much about this because to be honest I am so far from being a home owner that I don't even bother to look. But this is a known fact. A fair number of folks in our class (who are older or who managed money better than I) bought homes here when they moved! For others you could see the wheels in their heads starting to spin shortly after arriving. I know of one classmate who convinced a family member to buy a property here merely on spec. Housing starts are up up up and the city is on the move. I read a post by the Chamber of Commerce that more houses were sold in the month of February 2012 than in any other month in the past 15 years. Yes, there are a lot of smiles these days in Kamloops and for a variety of reasons (new businesses opening, new employment sectors opening up). Maybe call the Chamber of Commerce if you need more boosterism facts. To be fair and balanced I'll admit here and now that things aren't all peaches and cream. Unemployment is still higher here than it is elsewhere in the province (despite recent figures that indicate that BC job stats are starting to rebound) and there continues to be social and infrastructural deficits in the city and region (particularly in the City's North Shore neighbourhoods). Although most of the time it feels like the kind of place where you can leave your door unlocked, it ranks as the 11th most dangerous place in Canada by Maclean's Magazine (which I suppose is great news for criminal lawyers in Kamloops ;)

 

And that brings me to another reason, and a particularly compelling one at that. There is work here for lawyers. Lots and lots of work! It doesn't matter what kind of law you might be interested in (except for maybe Maritime Law) it's being practised here in Kamloops. Kamloops is now and has historically been a legal hub. Being the seat of Yale County, a courthouse has been in operation here since the late 1800s. People travel in for hundreds of miles to seek legal advice and lawyers in Kamloops service a vast area that stretches from Merritt to the West, to Williams Lake in the North and all the way to Kootneys in the East. In Kamloops proper it is estimated that there are somewhere in the vicinity of 200 to 250 lawyers. Add to that 75 and now another 75-90 law students and I think its pretty safe to say that Kamloops has solidified itself as a true legal hub. These lawyers are extremely excited about the development of TRU Law. They have demonstrated their support in a myriad of ways. Some firms have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the school, others have seconded their associates to serve as mentors to law students. They purchase tickets to our fund raisers, invite students to CBABC and Kamloops Bar Association events and do all those things which help build a school and a culture within a legal community. They are also looking for prospective articling students and eventual hires. It's also an ageing bar. Many of the bigger firms are staffed by senior partners who are in fact seniors. I get the sense that many firms are about to undergo a serious process of renewal. The same could be said for the bench and crown office. As judges begin to retire, their roles will likely be filled by senior crowns. Those crown positions will open up and it is possible (despite what some say) that positions will begin to hire again at the Crown office. Either way, what I'm trying to get across is that there are jobs here, and there will be jobs here for lawyers. Resource law, corporate commercial, wills and estates, conveyancing, family law, employment law, criminal law... in a City of 100,000 (give or take) plus a surrounding market of another couple hundred thousand people, they're going to need lawyers.

 

And lastly, I want to do my best to try to dispel the myth (although maybe I shouldn't for my own sake) that if you chose to go to work in a market like Kamloops (or somewhere even more 'remote') that you should expect to make considerably less than you would in Vancouver or Calgary. I accepted this as the gospel truth for quite a while but at this point, I quite frankly just don't think there's much to it. I've met too many millionaire lawyers here to believe it. I am one of the folks who landed a summer job at a small firm here and without betraying too much privileged information, I can tell you that my bosses do all right. They own boats and houses (plural) and seem to have it pretty well going on. The best is that they basically work 4 day weeks. My understanding is that that sort of life for lawyers is far more rare in bigger city markets. Obviously if you're a big wheel at an important firm, then you'll have all the trimmings no matter where you go. My point is that I see people on this site throwing numbers around like: "if you work in Van you can make $120k a year but if you live in Kamloops sure the pace will be different but you can only expect to make $70-80k a year." That's a load of BS and I'm just not sure what it's based on. I've met young lawyers here who are making $120k a year. I've met some that make $250k a year, so don't buy into the myth of reduced wage expectation. If you work hard and you're in it to make money, then you will make money in the legal profession.

 

I should probably wrap it up here. But I'll finish by saying that when I think about all of this and I put it in perspective, I try to imagine two different scenarios. The first I see myself cramped in a little office in downtown Calgary (hopefully one with a window) trying desperately to fulfil my 2000 billable hour target for the year so I can hopefully impress my principle and all the other partners so that I can make Associate so that I can buy a tiny house on the outskirts of Calgary so that I can get stuck in traffic in -30 weather on my way to my corporate bee hive in order to do the legal bidding of Oil & Gas conglomerates. And then I imagine myself working in a small firm in Kamloops or Salmon Arm or Vernon, with a peach tree just outside of my office, five minutes from where I live, where my kids play in a pool in our backyard (that's actually in use six months of the year) where I maybe serve as a part-time city councilor adding my own brand of zany politics to the laid back mix of BC life. I paint this rosy picture because I honestly believe it to be a possibility.

 

The honest truth - I may never leave.

Edited by Truornothing
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Truornothing, thanks for that post. It's interesting to read about Tru and Kamloops. Sounds like you're happy there, which is good to hear. I have an actor friend who is just finishing up six weeks there doing a show, and she and her family loved their stay. One thing that strikes me in your post, though, is the number of lawyers there. A city of 100,000 with 250 lawyers? That seems like a lot to me.

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Thanks for the link almostnot!

 

I was probably aiming fairly high when I said 200-250. That was based on what a member of the Kamloops Bar Association told me. They have aproximately 120 - 150 members any given year. Obviously they make assumptions about the amount of lawyers in the area that may chose not to be active in the KBA for various reasons. Alas shouldn't take any of my numbers too seriously. I have a penchant for hyperbole...

 

Although Kamloops does have a disproportionate number of lawyers for the population because like I said it services such a large area. Illustrative of this is the map on page 13 in the Law Society informational attached by almostnot. The map is a bit misleading but Kamloops is actually situated at the intersection of the three regions Cariboo, Kamloops and Westminster. The best word I can think of to describe it is a 'hub'. Kamloops is a legal-judicial hub. So yes, there are lots of lawyers (it's a bit of an inside joke around town), but the good news for those of us on the forum - a lot of them have grey/white hair.

Edited by Truornothing

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So they're planning to add 75-90 students a year to a market which currently only sustains about 200? Good luck with that.

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No. Not all (or even most) of any given class are going to stay in Kamloops and/or the surrounding area. Many, in fact probably most will return to the big city they came from. To assume that all 75 students graduating in 2014 will be added to the 200 already working in the legal profession in Kamloops is ludicrous. Does UofO assume that all 300 grads in any given year will find employment in Ottawa proper? No. No school expects that. But also, people retire and populations increase, and overtime more lawyers get added to an area. I would suggest that your comment speaks not so much to TRU and Kamloops (although it sounds like you have your doubts about us - however unfounded they may be) but rather to a general problem in the legal profession - where are we going to put all the law students coming out of law school?

Edited by Truornothing

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where are we going to put all the law students coming out of law school?

 

I believe TRU's response would be "another law school". :wink:

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I believe TRU's response would be "another law school". :wink:

 

your condescending attitude is exactly why most lawyers are stereotyped as being douchebags and why some students rather go to TRU then any place you would go.

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your condescending attitude is exactly why most lawyers are stereotyped as being douchebags and why some students rather go to TRU then any place you would go.

 

This comment says more about you than it does about him.

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It's ok everyone. On this site most of us sound like condescending douche bags. In reality I am sure that most of us are compassionate individuals with a strong desire to do something meaningful with our lives, or go to law school (jokes ;)

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