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Skweemish

Questions about the Department of Justice

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Hey all,

 

So I've started thinking about the kinds of environments I may be best suited to, and the kind of experience I want out of my (eventual) law career. This has led to me deeply considering the DOJ as a career choice. I've spoken with past and current lawyers briefly about the particulars, but I was curious if I could get a more candid answer about the work environment and the pros and cons of the DOJ versus private practice?

 

Some of the pros I've been told are

 - the ability to handle files from birth to death right from the get-go

 - government employment stability

 - (relatively) more time off

 

Some cons are

 - lower compensation rates (not a deal breaker)

 - fewer layers of insulation (which, whether or not it matters comes down to how you feel about the first pro I guess)

 

 

Any input would be appreciated!

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Federales or provincial? Solicitor or barrister?

Edited by kurrika

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Federales or provincial? Solicitor or barrister?

DOJ is usually used for the Feds.

 

Skweemish, it is difficult to generalize what working with DOJ is like. I was technically a DOJ lawyer at one point - until we were split off to become the PPSC. But my experience out west was probably quite different from what current DOJ lawyers do.

 

Other than saying "DOJ" - what kind of law or work would you like to do with the Feds?

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DOJ is usually used for the Feds.

 

Skweemish, it is difficult to generalize what working with DOJ is like. I was technically a DOJ lawyer at one point - until we were split off to become the PPSC. But my experience out west was probably quite different from what current DOJ lawyers do.

 

Other than saying "DOJ" - what kind of law or work would you like to do with the Feds?

At the moment? And this is obviously not a serious commitment since I am only a first year, but I would like to be a tax litigator. I met with one out of the Halifax office and his work sounded fascinating. I don't know if I'd be any good at it, or if I'd even like it, but the material itself seems exceptionally interesting from my limited exposure.

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At the moment? And this is obviously not a serious commitment since I am only a first year, but I would like to be a tax litigator. I met with one out of the Halifax office and his work sounded fascinating. I don't know if I'd be any good at it, or if I'd even like it, but the material itself seems exceptionally interesting from my limited exposure.

 

I've only heard exceptionally positive things about the tax bar out there and the tax lit program for articling students / juniors in general.  I can't speak to hiring two or three years in the future, but for the last few years it hasn't been good.   Tax court clerks have been going to the CRA en masse rather than justice, which was their usual route.   If you are an articling student YMMV. 

 

 

Anecdotally, the maritimes were getting work from toronto because toronto was understaffed and the maritimes had excess capacity. 

Edited by kurrika

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I have a relatively large presentation on the crown's role in a tax court appeal. I'll scan it for you if I have time.

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I've only heard exceptionally positive things about the tax bar out there and the tax lit program for articling students / juniors in general.  I can't speak to hiring two or three years in the future, but for the last few years it hasn't been good.   Tax court clerks have been going to the CRA en masse rather than justice, which was their usual route.   If you are an articling student YMMV. 

 

 

Anecdotally, the maritimes were getting work from toronto because toronto was understaffed and the maritimes had excess capacity. 

It recent years the DOJ hasn't been hiring.  If you're interested in litigation, DOJ (and Crown roles more generally) are good as you'll likely get into court with good files sooner (certainly compared to Biglaw).  A young DOJ lawyer can cut their teeth on all sorts of garbage tax cases that are too small for private practice lawyers to take on.  So you can develop good experience.  

 

The downside, at least according to my friends (formerly) there: (i) low moral, (ii) lousy advancement opportunities, (iii) limited (and largely inept, and least relative to biglaw standards) support ("Oh, you need someone to input those changes in a document for something that needs to be filed before 5:00?  Well, it's 3:30, so my shift is over, but I can do it in the morning.").  

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I have a relatively large presentation on the crown's role in a tax court appeal. I'll scan it for you if I have time.

Yes. That one. Please. That would be amazing!

 

To Bob:

Yeah that sounds like the government work I've done before re: support. It isn't something completely outside of what I expect. Still, valuable! Thank you

 

Edit: Kurrika, if you wouldn't mind expanding on the reputation of the Tax bar here that would be greatly appreciated. Mostly because I love hearing how lawyers think about other lawyers, but also because value.

Edited by Skweemish
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It recent years the DOJ hasn't been hiring.  If you're interested in litigation, DOJ (and Crown roles more generally) are good as you'll likely get into court with good files sooner (certainly compared to Biglaw).  A young DOJ lawyer can cut their teeth on all sorts of garbage tax cases that are too small for private practice lawyers to take on.  So you can develop good experience.  

 

The downside, at least according to my friends (formerly) there: (i) low moral, (ii) lousy advancement opportunities, (iii) limited (and largely inept, and least relative to biglaw standards) support ("Oh, you need someone to input those changes in a document for something that needs to be filed before 5:00?  Well, it's 3:30, so my shift is over, but I can do it in the morning.").  

 

 

Tons and tons and tons of informal procedure work, you can practice your cross examination skills / other trial skills to your heart's content in a pretty low risk setting.

 

 

As bob says though, you get other issues with high volume / low support.

Edited by kurrika

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I interviewed with the Toronto DOJ for OCIs, explicitly told them that I was interested in tax litigation and didn't get an offer. Just know that the DOJ can be a tough nut to crack. 

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I interviewed with the Toronto DOJ for OCIs, explicitly told them that I was interested in tax litigation and didn't get an offer. Just know that the DOJ can be a tough nut to crack.

I have heard this.. I guess in Halifax they only had two student positions this year, one of which was IB&M which is not a group I belong to so one position.

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The other challenge with DOJ is that they hire according to their budget/internal process but ignore the marketplace.

Our cohort of Tax Court clerks had multiple people interested in DOJ. They couldn't make any kind of a decision, until after we were all done clerking. So everyone took other jobs. Still, a good sign they hired.

 

I can't add much to what's already been said, I think it's all true. I'll also add many top tax litigators *start* at the DOJ, and move into private practice. If you want to be a tax litigator, there's probably no better place to be in your first 5 years of practice, than DOJ (in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver) regardless of where you want to end up. 

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Current DOJ articling student
 

So, besides the plusses already outlined I'll add my two cents.

Litigation experience really can't be paralleled. You get your own cases. If you don't do a good job the government is out money. Real money. This is in contrast to what I hear from other colleagues from law school that are stuck doing uncontested motions. You cannot beat that rush of being the point-person for a file- it's probably better than drugs.

Other plusses

  • it's a unique mix of big and medium firm. DOJ has tonnes of resources like a large firm but your rotations will be in specific units where you'll be working in a smaller office such as the Departmental Legal Unit of Transport or Treasury board. So, it's still chummy
  • they hold your hand all the way through. Whether its signing up for benefits, helping you look for post-articling employment, or just explaining the ropes people here don't ever set you up to fail.
  • It's meaningful work because even if you're working on some boring evidence problem it's always part of something larger that is (generally) helping out Canadians. It's hard to beat that sort of job satisfaction where you are helping shape the sort of country everyone else lives in
  • diversity of subject matter: in the federal government there's a lot of lateral transfers and in articling you can jump from immigration to bankruptcy and then to war-crimes. There is no firm at all that'll be giving you that opportunity. EVER.
  • unique ethical and moral concerns when working with DOJ.

Can't recommend DOJ enough.

 

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So I was about to post in this thread and say 'man I have questions about the DOJ too' and then realised that I was the person who started it and I'm a moron.

 

One year down, still interested. Just got grades back, so I'm trying to find some idea of what people going for positions at the DOJ (or the PPSC because it turns out that Crim is awesome) tend to have. Obviously higher = better, but I'm doing that same dumb thing every student does except I don't really care about Toronto because I'm from New Brunswick and actually kinda like it in the Maritimes..

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So I was about to post in this thread and say 'man I have questions about the DOJ too' and then realised that I was the person who started it and I'm a moron.

 

One year down, still interested. Just got grades back, so I'm trying to find some idea of what people going for positions at the DOJ (or the PPSC because it turns out that Crim is awesome) tend to have. Obviously higher = better, but I'm doing that same dumb thing every student does except I don't really care about Toronto because I'm from New Brunswick and actually kinda like it in the Maritimes..

 

Keep in mind what others have said; DOJ doesn't have many articling spots, so it's competitive. Obviously grades are a factor, but you have to find a way to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Whether it's extracurricular stuff, clinic work or moots, find something not everyone else does and try to show why it would benefit DOJ.

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are any of the fine folks on this thread able to give tips/advice about interviewing for DOJ positions through the OCI process? i'm interviewing for a summer student position at the ORO in a few weeks at Toronto OCIs. any/all help is much appreciated. 

 

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Are there many summer job postings for the DOJ (civil)?

I can't seem to find much information re: summer positions with the DOJ. I've perused this page (http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/abt-apd/recru/article-stage.html). However, it seemingly only discusses the Department's Legal Excellence Program (i.e. articling), FWSEP, and co-op. Are there not more organized summer postings à la Ontario's MAG (https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/artcl/job_posting.php)?

Or should I just keep an eye on the DOJ section of jobs.gc.ca?

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5 hours ago, PerisoreusCanadensis said:

Are there many summer job postings for the DOJ (civil)?

I can't seem to find much information re: summer positions with the DOJ. I've perused this page (http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/abt-apd/recru/article-stage.html). However, it seemingly only discusses the Department's Legal Excellence Program (i.e. articling), FWSEP, and co-op. Are there not more organized summer postings à la Ontario's MAG (https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/artcl/job_posting.php)?

Or should I just keep an eye on the DOJ section of jobs.gc.ca?

I had this question last summer so I phoned the DOJ people and asked. DOJ for Toronto hires in the formal recruit. All DOJ jobs in Ottawa are through FSWEP though. I spent a good part of the winter phoning up or emailing division leaders asking for a job and no one was hiring. I was in government at the time too so the move would have been super easy. Still no dice. 

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22 hours ago, PerisoreusCanadensis said:

Are there many summer job postings for the DOJ (civil)?

I can't seem to find much information re: summer positions with the DOJ. I've perused this page (http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/abt-apd/recru/article-stage.html). However, it seemingly only discusses the Department's Legal Excellence Program (i.e. articling), FWSEP, and co-op. Are there not more organized summer postings à la Ontario's MAG (https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/artcl/job_posting.php)?

Or should I just keep an eye on the DOJ section of jobs.gc.ca?

If you're doing Toronto, the job posting will just be up on vilaw. I'm fairly sure DOJ vancouver and halifax also hire during the formal recruit, so you'd presumably just apply however you would to firms in those cities (vilaw portal?)

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