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Kafkaesquire

Importance of a Driver's License and Owning a Vehicle

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In order to practice as a lawyer, is it necessary to own a vehicle or at least possess a full driver's license? Would it depend on the area you specialize in? Am I naive in hoping that I can simply commute to work by public transit or bicycle without ever having to travel outside of downtown to meet a client? What role does transportation play in your career as a lawyer?

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I had an interview once where the first question was whether I had a driver's license.  You wouldn't necessarily have to have your own car (as the firm would rent one to get you to client things) but depending on your area of practice, a driver's license might be pretty important.

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If you want to work in criminal law, its essentially a prerequisite. Not sure about other areas.

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If you want to do criminal defence, you'd better have both a license and a car.

 

Otherwise you are either useless to your office, or a burden to your office mate who is going to have to drive you everywhere, or you're going to burn your paycheque in cab fees. Transit seldom makes a milk run to the various prisons you'll be visiting, and the cab rides can be $100 plus each way.

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I'm a public sector litigator. My job entails travel around the province, perhaps 3-4 times per month. Not having a driver's license has been a huge source of inconvenience and embarrassment. I'm working on remedying that as quickly as possible.

 

Getting the full license is a significant time (and possibly money) commitment, so I'm not going to urge you to be fully licensed ASAP. But I'd suggest making sure you have the learner's permit (e.g. a G1 in Ontario, 7L in BC) one year before articling. That way, if you do need to move up, you can do so without having to wait for a statute-imposed delay.

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I'm a litigator at a big firm in Toronto.  If you're ever planning on being in a courtroom, you have to be able to drive.  Your clients will sue and be sued all over your province of origin.  You don't necessarily need a car --- I don't have one --- but you have to be able to drive and hope that your firm will pick up the bill for your car rentals.

 

It's possible that you could get by without, perhaps, if you were working at a big Bay Street firm that could just choose to send someone else instead every time a case is out of transit range (and remember you'll be wearing a long, flowing robe so a bike isn't an option), but it would be a severe detriment.  It wouldn't stop you getting the job, but it would be an ongoing annoyance to your superiors.

 

That being said, if you don't want to litigate (i.e., be in a courtroom) and prefer to make deals, or draft wills, or incorporate businesses, or do taxes, etc., then no worries.  Lots of solicitors at my firm (i.e., those lawyers that do not go to a courtroom) cannot drive.  It's only occasionally a problem for them, and in those cases it usually involves attending at a client's office out of town to close a deal or gather documents.

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Get your license, regardless of what type of practice you eventually want. You don't necessarily need a car as a student, although this will be dependent on where you're working as well as the type of work you're doing, but a license, in my opinion, is essential. Of the hundreds of lawyers and law students I know, I can think of only one who lacks a license, and that's due to a health issue.

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This thread seems surprising to me.  I've had a license since my 16th birthday, and could never imagine not having one.

 

But to answer the question: if you're at a big bay street firm you might not need one.  In my time at a firm like that I don't recall ever having to go anywhere in my private vehicle.

 

But any other kind of law or law firm... yes.  You will have to travel.  Whether to obscure rural court points, or to go out and interview witnesses/clients, or to go out and get documents signed and returned.  This is probably an extreme example but when I was at a small rural firm I was putting 50,000 km per year on my car, most of it directly attributable to work.

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Even solicitor's work outside the big city requires a car. You don't have to do rounds like a doctor or anything, but sometimes clients can't make it in to your office.

 

Not having my licence in LS was a huge pain in the ass. Get your learner's permit now and try to get your license in 1L summer if you can.

Edited by kurrika

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One of the first questions I was asked at an interview the other day was if I drove. They seemed to imply it was a requirement. I have a car, but not sure if this was required or if there'd be a company vehicle to drive.

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Past/years-ago experience: not having a license makes you stand out in a bad way. Not having a car, not so much. Even for people with cars, sometimes given the mileage rate and point of departure it saves the client money to rent.

 

TLDR stop here.

 

Assume you're hired and don't have a license. As an articling student (or an associate), you may miss out on some very interesting work if you can't drive there. It also does not leave the best impression every time you have to decline work in favour of someone else in the office because you don't have a license. When I articled, if I didn't have a license I wouldn't have done a small claims court trial, driven a lawyer to a remote location for a very interesting discovery, etc. (he had me drive so that he could spend the travel time working = saving the client money, and since I was the articling student working with him on the file he could also discuss what he was reading with me, so it was to the client's advantage). Not to mention some travel was much more cost-effective with driving or shared driving.

 

As an associate in IP I very rarely had to drive, but I did sometimes need to rent a car especially to visit a client facility.

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I had 7 articling interviews and was not asked once if I had a driver's license.

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My experience would be that not having a license would be a significant problem in practice... not having a car is manageable.

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I've always found it quite strange that anyone wouldn't at least have a driver's license.  It seems like even if it's not an essential part of practice, it is an essential part of being an adult.

Edited by sonandera
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^^ and not being asked, it may be assumed that "everyone" has a license. Only when they want to send you to someplace that requires driving and you can't, and they have to get someone else who hasn't worked on the file, causing inconvenience and some degree of resentment, will they become aware. Fostering a negative perception.

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If your current location is in fact Calgary, how have you not had a license? Calgary is very unfriendly to those without vehicle access. Having a license is all that is needed with Car2go available now.

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Case study:  Last week I got a 9:00 PM call from a senior partner on a file telling me that he was not going to get back to Toronto in time for a scheduled pre-trial.  As I was the only other person with knowledge of the case, I was going to have to attend in his place.  The court was two hours away from Toronto and the pre-trial was scheduled for 9:30 AM.

 

If I didn't have a license, we would have had to have frantically tried to find someone --- anyone --- that could have left for the office at 9:00 PM, gotten here at 10:00, learned an entirely new case in just one hour, driven home, grabbed six hours' sleep, and competently conducted a pre-trial the very next morning.  It would have been an impossible nightmare.  It did not occur to that partner that I might not have a license, and I can only imagine his outrage and frustration if that had turned out to be the case.  It was hard enough that I had one, but had to take a taxi all the way downtown to pick up a rental car at 7 AM the next morning.

 

And for what it's worth, I do work at a Bay Street firm so I can negative the idea that you can be a litigator here without a driver's license.

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I know a lot of lawyers who use the Car2Go and Zip Cars and MobileMe or whatever. I own a vehicle, but had these been as popular ten years ago when I bought it, I might've reconsidered.

 

Any city-dwellers want to comment on the pros/cons of those things?

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This is disheartening to me, as electing not to drive or cab has been what I think of as my most important green contribution. I was surprised to read that sonandera and btulls were both immediately asked about their driving status in interviews, but it makes sense (certainly, a lot more sense than declaring that a license is a prerequisite for adulthood. But let’s leave that argument on the backseat). It is nice to know that a litigator in Toronto, like Uriel, doesn’t need to own a car, though the cab trip to get a rental car definitely sounds like an inconvenience. The message about needing a license, especially to avoid embarrassment in front of your peers, comes across pretty clearly from everyone. Thanks to those who replied.

 

In response to Denny_Crane, I do in fact live in Calgary with a probationary license that goes entirely unused. The city is not all that friendly for non-drivers, but it is certainly better than some of the cities I’ve lived in that lack anything resembling public transit (Some cities in the Okanagan come to mind). You would be surprised to know how many Calgarians choose not to drive. It’s a bit of a polarized city. You’ve got a pretty dominant truck culture, but also a thriving counter-culture and cycling demographic.

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This is disheartening to me, as electing not to drive or cab has been what I think of as my most important green contribution. I was surprised to read that sonandera and btulls were both immediately asked about their driving status in interviews, but it makes sense (certainly, a lot more sense than declaring that a license is a prerequisite for adulthood. But let’s leave that argument on the backseat). It is nice to know that a litigator in Toronto, like Uriel, doesn’t need to own a car, though the cab trip to get a rental car definitely sounds like an inconvenience. The message about needing a license, especially to avoid embarrassment in front of your peers, comes across pretty clearly from everyone. Thanks to those who replied.

 

In response to Denny_Crane, I do in fact live in Calgary with a probationary license that goes entirely unused. The city is not all that friendly for non-drivers, but it is certainly better than some of the cities I’ve lived in that lack anything resembling public transit (Some cities in the Okanagan come to mind). You would be surprised to know how many Calgarians choose not to drive. It’s a bit of a polarized city. You’ve got a pretty dominant truck culture, but also a thriving counter-culture and cycling demographic.

 

I would point out, that when you are in the professional world, you may occasionally have to do things that run afoul of your personal desires, because the reality of business is what it is. Professionals are expected to be able to get around.

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