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lawlskewl

Articling crisis / problems with entry in to the Canadian legal market [split]

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So, yeah. And you seem angry not because you yell and swear and write economic sentences. You seem angry because you keep assuming extreme opinions based on almost any pretext and on very little real information. When you so obviously want to believe that things are terrible, and you so obviously need an explanation that makes you a victim of, well, something ... yeah, you seem like an angry dude. No matter the language that you use.

 

Yeah, this is where I'm at too. I'm the least concise writer in the world, and when I was struggling in my first semester of grad school, I expressed that via exactly the kind of 10,000-word tangent-ridden jeremiads I write here. But my message was the same as your message seems to be: hey, you guys, the emperor has no clothes! He says he has clothes, but he doesn't! The emperor is stupid! Everything sucks! I hoped this program would fix my life, but one of the professors just said "for all intensive purposes" - he's dumb! This program is dumb! It's not as good as I hoped it would be! OH MY GOD WHAT IF IT DOESN'T FIX MY LIFE? It's not the format of your writing or the tone of your writing---it's the stuff you're saying, combined with the way you're saying it. You're familiar with the aphorism "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing"? Someone who comes into a community, says that the thing the people in that community do is overrated and dumb, picks up a factoid, and then says as if they speak from authority that the factoid is proof that the thing is overrated and dumb...well, that's the behaviour of someone who's been doing something for five weeks.

 

I empathize with you. I hope you get the outcomes you seek and that you start to feel better about the process of getting there. Good luck.

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I can't recall your situation; did you have especially poor grades or go to TRU? Or did you get interviews but just always fail to seal the deal?

 

TRU has a 95% articling rate. What are you talking about

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Expanding the TRU class size was a mistake and that was an interesting article.

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“The cost of a lawyer today seems to indicate there’s not enough abundance,” Walker said. 

 

For a former Law Society president, that is some very flawed reasoning. Ya, it is definitely the case that allowing universities to gorge in the riches that comes from increasing law school enrollment, which in turn leads to hordes of students graduating with (like in the OP's situation) high debt loads and no job prospects, is definitely going to lead to the price of lawyers going down  :roll:

 

One problem with this is that increasing law school enrollment does not magically increase the number of articling positions (and later jobs) offered in the legal profession, so the people that form the excess never become lawyers in the first place. People who graduate from law school and then work as lawyers, after being in school for so many years with an often times high debt load resulting from those years in school, generally have a relatively high residual wage. If legal wages go below a certain threshold (we can debate what that threshold is), then a lot of working lawyers will simply conclude that it is not worthwhile to work as lawyers anymore and exit the profession, which would increase legal wages back above that threshold due to decreased supply.The job of a lawyer is also generally demanding, time consuming and high stress, which puts further upward pressure on legal wages.        

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“The cost of a lawyer today seems to indicate there’s not enough abundance,” Walker said. 

 

For a former Law Society president, that is some very flawed reasoning. Ya, it is definitely the case that allowing universities to gorge in the riches that comes from increasing law school enrollment, which in turn leads to hordes of students graduating with (like in the OP's situation) high debt loads and no job prospects, is definitely going to lead to the price of lawyers going down  :roll:

 

One problem with this is that increasing law school enrollment does not magically increase the number of articling positions (and later jobs) offered in the legal profession, so the people that form the excess never become lawyers in the first place. People who graduate from law school and then work as lawyers, after being in school for so many years with an often times high debt load resulting from those years in school, generally have a relatively high residual wage. If legal wages go below a certain threshold (we can debate what that threshold is), then a lot of working lawyers will simply conclude that it is not worthwhile to work as lawyers anymore and exit the profession, which would increase legal wages back above that threshold due to decreased supply.The job of a lawyer is also generally demanding, time consuming and high stress, which puts further upward pressure on legal wages.        

 

This.

 

Law society folks don't even understand their own market.  Yes, in a partial equilibrium analysis as supply goes up, price goes down.  But we don't live in a partial equilibrium world, we live in a general equilibrium world.  Yes, as supply goes up, price goes down, but as price goes down, supply goes down.  You need to work through all those adjustments.  Lawyers fees aren't high because there's a shortage of lawyers (there isn't), they're high because there's a shortage of lawyers willing to work for what Joe and Jill Q public can afford (at least beyond the simplest and most straight-forward matters).   And the reason for that is that, in order to be a lawyer you have to be, what, one of the top 10-20% of your undergrad class, you're typically moderately ambitious, reasonably hard working, involved, yada, yada, yada.  In short, you're the type of person who has other opportunities and a high reservation wage, and so are not too likely to put up with all the bullshit that private practice entails for less than you can make as a civil servant, working 9 to 5 with a pension.  It's that reservation wage that sets the baseline for lawyer fees - below that lawyers drop out of the legal market. 

 

There are, no doubt, lawyers who are quite happy to do the long, hard, work that the practice of law entails for $50K a year (in some case because they're independently wealthy, in others they derive value from more than material goods), but such people are in short supply.  Outside of them, you're right, lawyers can find other jobs.  If the law societies were serious about reducing the cost of legal services, they would increase the pool of people who could supply them to include people with lower reservation wage (for example, by expanding the type of work that can be done by paralegals).   Jacking up the supply of indebted new grads with a high reservation wage just means more frustrated new grads/calls.  

 

And there is a case to made for more funding for legal aid.  I had a buddy who made $20K a year - in Toronto no less - who apparently made too much money to qualify for legal aid.  Shocking.   If you make $20K a year in Toronto, there is no lawyer, anywhere, who charges an hourly rate that you can actually afford to pay for anything beyond the most basic legal services. 

Edited by maximumbob
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Look. I'll try to say this without creating a further argument, but on several occasions you've called for the creation of a "Canadian JD Underground" and if you're learning about the legal market there you need serious help. Quite apart from the fact that this is an anonymous site run by anonymous people and so there's absolutely nothing stopping anyone from making one save, perhaps, the fact that there are simply less angry people in Canada (which is, by itself, information) that site isn't even pretending to offer anything like objective analysis. I honestly don't mean to be excessively smug here, but any time I hear someone lament that Canada needs a version of this or that (angry, bitter, uninformed online community of law students or would-be law students) which exists in the U.S., I always wonder ... where's the American LS.ca? I mean, sure, there's a place for TLS.com. I don't mind that it exists. But in terms of a community that's actually run by practicing lawyers (of increasing seniority - we have 5-10+ calls hanging out here now) and which attracts lawyers who just hang around and give advice and information ... where else are you going to find that?!? Hell, I'm amazed it exists at all.

 

So, bottom line. If you're looking for The TRUTH and if you don't want to believe your school's own offices (which are, admittedly, biased) and if you don't have access to lawyers in your own circles who can tell you stuff you didn't previously know (I'm assuming not, since you showed up here - no offence - pretty ignorant) then where exactly are you getting your information? Again, I don't want to be too smug or absolutist about this. But right here, on this site - I genuinely believe we're just about the best there is. And so instead of listening to people here and learning a few things, you've ... what, descended into the depths of JD-Underground and presumed to bring information back here like you've returned to educated us? I'm sorry, but it's a little like Moses decided not to climb a mountain because it was too much bother, and instead asked the shady guy on the nearest street corner what rules he thought the Tribe of Israel should live by. I mean, everyone's got an opinion. That doesn't mean they're all created equal.

 

So, yeah. And you seem angry not because you yell and swear and write economic sentences. You seem angry because you keep assuming extreme opinions based on almost any pretext and on very little real information. When you so obviously want to believe that things are terrible, and you so obviously need an explanation that makes you a victim of, well, something ... yeah, you seem like an angry dude. No matter the language that you use.

 

Do you know what exactly bothers you about my posts? Because it's not clear to me. Yea, I'll admit that I don't have intimate knowledge of the employment landscape but I'm just using common sense! Wouldn't you say there's an articling crisis in Ontario right now? That's what I hear all the time. Sure, it's probably not as bad as the US but a "crisis" is usually a bad thing. Maybe you're imagining some threshold unemployment percentage that warrants a JD Underground forum and you think we haven't reached it. Pray tell, what is this precise threshold? 

 

Btw I'm not literally calling for the creation of a Candian JD Underground. It's a rhetorical device meant to signal how things aren't so rosy in Canada anymore. I'm pretty sure you agree with that.

Edited by lawlskewl

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Yeah, this is where I'm at too. I'm the least concise writer in the world,

...

 

[remainder of post omitted, emphasis added]

 

Really?  :roll:

 

More seriously, I thought this Slaw post though discussing law school tuition and financing was relevant to this discussion, and rather than starting a new thread I'm posting here.

 

http://www.slaw.ca/2016/10/14/student-load-debt-a-crisis-for-law-students-young-lawyers-and-far-too-many-underserviced-communities/comment-page-1/#comment-948106

 

I really think that the piece misses the obvious point that if law school tuitions are high, maybe it's because of what many law schools charge students...they're not exactly forced to charge as much as they do, they choose to because it brings in money (and if e.g. it costs more to hire a Ph.D. or S.J.D., well that's also a choice, it used to be more LL.M. than doctorate for faculty...). Which makes all the other suggestions about grants etc., whether independently good ideas or not (I lean not, I prefer income-contingent repayment loans) somewhat beside the point.

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This.

 

Law society folks don't even understand their own market. Yes, in a partial equilibrium analysis as supply goes up, price goes down. But we don't live in a partial equilibrium world, we live in a general equilibrium world. Yes, as supply goes up, price goes down, but as price goes down, supply goes down. You need to work through all those adjustments. Lawyers fees aren't high because there's a shortage of lawyers (there isn't), they're high because there's a shortage of lawyers willing to work for what Joe and Jill Q public can afford (at least beyond the simplest and most straight-forward matters). And the reason for that is that, in order to be a lawyer you have to be, what, one of the top 10-20% of your undergrad class, you're typically moderately ambitious, reasonably hard working, involved, yada, yada, yada. In short, you're the type of person who has other opportunities and a high reservation wage, and so are not too likely to put up with all the bullshit that private practice entails for less than you can make as a civil servant, working 9 to 5 with a pension. It's that reservation wage that sets the baseline for lawyer fees - below that lawyers drop out of the legal market.

 

There are, no doubt, lawyers who are quite happy to do the long, hard, work that the practice of law entails for $50K a year (in some case because they're independently wealthy, in others they derive value from more than material goods), but such people are in short supply. Outside of them, you're right, lawyers can find other jobs. If the law societies were serious about reducing the cost of legal services, they would increase the pool of people who could supply them to include people with lower reservation wage (for example, by expanding the type of work that can be done by paralegals). Jacking up the supply of indebted new grads with a high reservation wage just means more frustrated new grads/calls.

 

And there is a case to made for more funding for legal aid. I had a buddy who made $20K a year - in Toronto no less - who apparently made too much money to qualify for legal aid. Shocking. If you make $20K a year in Toronto, there is no lawyer, anywhere, who charges an hourly rate that you can actually afford to pay for anything beyond the most basic legal services.

I don't like to double-post, but the link to this Slaw post: http://www.slaw.ca/2016/10/14/student-load-debt-a-crisis-for-law-students-young-lawyers-and-far-too-many-underserviced-communities/comment-page-1/#comment-948106

 

might have better gone in this thread than here:

 

http://lawstudents.ca/forums/topic/46030-articling-crisis-problems-with-entry-in-to-the-canadian-legal-market-split/#entry620585

 

I tend to agree with your post as far as it goes, but (as I think we've discussed before in a past thread) I think there's also a significant factor in that, even with limited scope representation, what lawyers are required to do to comply with ethical requirements and avoid the risk of malpractice makes it essentially impossible to offer bargain legal services except in certain areas (where forms, precedents, etc. are either generally similar or can be customized easily and still provide appropriate services, I'm thinking some articles about e.g. the law firm in Walmarts as being innovative). But that's only in certain areas, which does not generally include civil litigation. I don't get to not bother looking at the rules or cases or whatever and just draft a so-so pleading in half an hour based on what someone tells me in a half-hour interview, total time one hour, they have to fill in all the other stuff, even if it's better than what they might prepare acting alone, because even with limited scope that's not good enough. But why shouldn't it be? You don't generally have people operating on themselves or filling their own cavities, you don't want to allow cut-rate dentistry or medicine (though with provincial self-regulating professions like naturopathy or Chinese medicine... :roll: ), but you do have many people acting for themselves, and something would be better than nothing, if people were allowed to (and lawyers didn't face risks or ethical problems with) agree to have lawyers e.g. do the best job they could with only 2 hours work even if they don't have time to double-check the current law, I think many lawyers would feel more comfortable doing even more limited scope representation.

 

See e.g. LSUC, limited scope is not all that limited, you have to be worried whether what you're doing is so limited that if things go wrong it would be deemed not competent? If e.g. you tell the client that they alone are responsible for time limits but they miss something and sue you, might not a court side with them?

 

"[7A] When a lawyer considers whether to provide legal services under a limited scope retainer, he or she must carefully assess in each case whether, under the circumstances, it is possible to render those services in a competent manner. An agreement to provide such services does not exempt a lawyer from the duty to provide competent representation. As in any retainer, the lawyer should consider the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation. The lawyer should ensure that the client is fully informed of the nature of the arrangement and clearly understands the scope and limitation of the services. See also rules 3.2-1A to 3.2-1A.2."

 

EDIT: fixing links

 

 

Mod Edit: This post was originally in the other thread.

Edited by Ryn

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Do you know what exactly bothers you about my posts? Because it's not clear to me. Yea, I'll admit that I don't have intimate knowledge of the employment landscape but I'm just using common sense! Wouldn't you say there's an articling crisis in Ontario right now? That's what I hear all the time. Sure, it's probably not as bad as the US but a "crisis" is usually a bad thing. Maybe you're imagining some threshold unemployment percentage that warrants a JD Underground forum and you think we haven't reached it. Pray tell, what is this precise threshold? 

 

Btw I'm not literally calling for the creation of a Candian JD Underground. It's a rhetorical device meant to signal how things aren't so rosy in Canada anymore. I'm pretty sure you agree with that.

 

I'm going to give you a more honest answer than I've given almost anyone here. What bothers me about your posts? (Or more accurately, the tone and content of your approach to this legal community you've just taken the first few steps towards joining...)? It reminds me too much of myself. It reminds me of extremes that I was prone to in the past, and habits I've tried hard to overcome, and which I still fall into sometimes. But that answer is also the same answer to a better question. Why, despite the fact that you kinda piss me off, do I still bother to offer constructive replies? Same reason. Because I believe that thoughtful, engaged people who form ignorant, off-the-cuff opinions and who leap to extreme conclusions based on limited information can become thoughtful and engaged people who don't do all the rest of that crap. If you'll forgive me, I consider myself proof of the fact that it's possible. And I only got there after listening - resentfully, but listening - to people tell me off sometimes. I needed to hear it. So ... yeah.

 

I don't agree there's an articling crisis in Canada. I agree you can hear a lot of people say that there is. Depending on where you choose to listen, you can hear many people say that. But you can also find places where mens' rights activists agree that all women are man-hating bitches who only want to use men for their money and their sperm. There are corners of the Internet where that, too, is the consensus position. All you need are enough people who feel screwed over to find a pattern of people saying that "X" is all messed up. And yes, there is a sufficient core (much more than a sufficient core) of people who haven't found the career they were hoping for through law school that you'll hear people say that there's a problem. Doesn't make it true.

 

Now, there IS room for an intelligent discussion on the topic. There are smart people on this very site who'd say there's ... well, if not a crisis (though some might agree, "crisis") there's at least a problem. I'm still not sure I agree. I think there's a problem in the sense that the whole pipeline to legal practice isn't well regulated and due to NCA rules and mobility agreements etc. it isn't clear exactly when and how the system should slam the door on people who want to become lawyers but who can't. So to that extent, I agree there's a problem, and a big one. But usually when people say "articling crisis" what they mean is that there aren't enough articling jobs so that everyone who graduates from law school has a 100% chance (or near 100% chance) to become licensed to practice law and to represent clients. And yeah, I tend to push back on that. My full answer would span a lot of paragraphs. But the short version is that the employment marketplace is not regulated by anyone - it's a free market that decides who to employ and who to not employ. And a lot of people blame articling for their unemployment because after all you need to complete articles to become a lawyer. But I've never believed that people who can't find articles would be well-employed as associates if only they could be called. There's no logic to imagine that's true. People who can't find jobs to article also can't find work as associates. And the only difference between being unemployed in law but called to the bar and not is that you can theoretically set up shop as a sole. Do you want to do that?

 

Look. It's a complex topic. And I'm actually glad you're paying attention. As compared to some weeks ago, when you weren't aware it was even possible to fail to secure articles, you're learning what the legal world is actually like. And it's honestly a bit late. But better late than even later. Just try to resist the urge to swing continually to extremes. You should really take the time to learn more.

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Yea, I'll admit that I don't have intimate knowledge of the employment landscape but I'm just using common sense!

"Common sense" and reality frequently diverge and therefore said sense can be counter-intuitive.

 

I'd prefer actual stats to hearing people say there's a crisis or "hey look, it's common sense that there's a crisis, I mean just look at this anecdotal / loosely correlated evidence!"

 

I'm not saying I have actual studies or statistics; but I'd be more comfortable concluding on that basis than just conceding there is a crisis because several people on this board believe so and a few newspapers wrote about the issue.

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This is a horrible situation. OP you have my sympathy. Unfortunately, I can't help you.

 

I'm just waiting for a Canadian version of JD Underground to pop up, considering how many horror stories one reads on this site. Yet, some would like to pretend everything is fine and dandy. Some will even call you entitled because you expect a job after wasting 3 years of your life and thousands of dollars.

 

Mod edit: For context, this post was originally in this thread: http://lawstudents.ca/forums/topic/46026-6-months-since-graduating-and-still-no-articles/

 

There's something really weird about how 2 weeks after getting into law school people start decrying how misled they were into thinking law school was a good financial deal. It hasn't been my experience that they learn some new numbers in those first two weeks that change their minds - it's never a matter of people being let into a secret club 2 weeks into 1L where they're given the formula that secretly determines their job outcomes. So what changed? What made them totally "unaware" of how bad a deal it was before they walked in and what made them now totally woke to the horrible crashing reality of their quagmire? What cabal did they learn of that now manipulates their lives into a terrible deal?

 

Two guesses. One is that they didn't bother to really learn what was publicly available about the market before they signed up, and instead of feeling regret for not doing their homework, have now decided to blame the world. Two is that they get to law school, talk to some competent classmates, and get the creeping feeling that it won't be straight-As like undergrad, suddenly needing to adjust their assumptions about how high in their class they will finish.

 

Anyway, I digress. What was the point of this thread?

 

 

Then stop misleading prospective students by feeding them bs about how rankings don't matter in Canada. We have the same shit as the Americans now.

 

This is what we have right now in Canada:

 

Unpaid articles

Minimum wage articles

Schools that don't provide employment stats

Difficulty in finding any kind of articles

Low/stagnant salaries

Ballooning tuition

Tiered schools

 

Get real. A Canadian JD Underground forum is long overdue. 

 

Oh yeah.

 

I would supporting requiring schools to publish employment data. That's not because I think it will actually affect anyone's decision - any person who felt the chances they wouldn't be a top student in law school were high enough that they should do a cost-benefit analysis in spreadsheet before signing up to law school has already done that. Everyone else has been operating on the theory that they're going to be a good to great student and will get a job. I'd just like the schools to publish employment data so that no 1L ever walks around talking about how sneaky a deal law school offered them. 

 

I haven't heard much of unpaid articles. And minimum wage? Really? How many? What practices? Where?

 

That lawyers salaries aren't low has been explained to you. It's likely you just come from the assumption that $50k/year is a low starting salary. Which is bananas.

Edited by theycancallyouhoju
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Two guesses. One is that they didn't bother to really learn what was publicly available about the market before they signed up, and instead of feeling regret for not doing their homework, have now decided to blame the world. Two is that they get to law school, talk to some competent classmates, and get the creeping feeling that it won't be straight-As like undergrad, suddenly needing to adjust their assumptions about how high in their class they will finish.

 

That is a new thought for me. Thank you for that. I feel as thought I'm likely to steal it and that it may enter into the zeitgeist as part of what constitutes common consensus around here. Your first idea may apply to some situations and may explain part of what's happening. But I've always felt it's insufficient. It's the second idea that gets me. Let me rephrase in my own words.

 

In any sort of competition, there are winners and there are losers. The job market is competitive. Now I don't want to contribute to the view that there's one single path and that we're all heading in the same direction. Between any two individuals there may not be much direct competition at all, simply because they have different goals. But overall, whether you're looking for a job with a large firm on Bay Street or whether you're trying to practice international human rights-related law (whatever the hell that means) there are going to be many other students who want what you want. And that competition is daunting.

 

As I just suggested to lawskewl, I think we all remember what it felt like to "win" at earlier stages of education with little or no effort. Maybe at times we had to buckle down and actually do the work, but there was never a time when the outcome was really in doubt. We got high grades, won awards, scholarships, etc. We all did that. I don't believe there's anyone in law school who can be ignorant of the basic dynamic in life that there are winners and losers. We saw other students who didn't do well - who got low grades, maybe even dropped out, who didn't get the jobs they wanted - and so it would be ridiculous to imagine that any of us still believes we can all get what we want without sometimes getting it at the expense of other people who don't get what they want. All that's changed in law school is that quite a lot of people who are used to winning look around at the competition and suddenly face, for the first time, the possibility that they might lose out against their classmates and not get what they want.

 

The good news is, even law students and lawyers who "lose" at chasing their dream jobs and goals can end up with great careers. I mean, come on. There are far more lawyers who'd like to end up as judges than who do, end up as judges. That doesn't mean the people who "failed" are losers and don't like their lives. That's just one example of many, many possible ones. So don't feel like you need to beat out 90% of your class to come out well at this. The bad news is ... yeah, you're really unlikely to beat out 90% of your classmates. So you're somehow going to have to get to be okay with not winning all the time at everything.

 

Great thought. Am totally going to steal it. In relation to this topic, I totally agree how it explains things. Students head into law school knowing there will be losers, but totally unconcerned about what that means because it's inconceivable they could be among them. Once they show up, it's suddenly real. Note also, this is one of the reasons the whole thing is so inherently irksome. It's human nature to not particularly care about illness, poverty, social problems, etc. etc. etc. until you are personally affected somehow. But it's not a nice part of human nature. I've said it before. Life does have winners and losers - particularly in the free market. I am very interested in talking about how we can mitigate the losses and try to make sure everyone has enough. But I find it very hard to talk with people who are fine with competition as long as they are winning, and only have a problem with it once they perceive they might lose. Those people piss me off.

Edited by Diplock
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I think that's basically right and am all too happy to have ideas stolen.

 

Law school presents a sort of identity crisis beginning with 1L and ending with the completion of OCIs/articling recruit. A lot of us go in identifying as some variation of the following: the kid who doesn't work hard and gets As; the kid who works very hard and gets As; the kid whose proper place in society is making dollars and driving boats at the cottage; the kid whose place in society is helping those most disadvantaged and being respected and at least well-enough paid for the trouble; the kid who is above caring about outcomes.

 

For all but the last of these, the first months of 1L can be jarring to that identity. You don't know if you'll still get As, but your classmates seem both more motivated and more capable on average than the ones in undergrad did. You may have gone into your undergrad program with some background knowledge - maybe you were a literature nerd in high school and 40% of your classmates in undergrad only chose English cause why not - but that won't help in law; you're all basically new to this subject. Maybe you got B+s/A-s, but your background has always ensured you would get decent internships that look cool on a resume and you took Italian in Rome for a summer and why wouldn't you be able to afford a cottage like your parents? Like you said, most of us didn't consider the outcome in doubt before law.

 

Two important realizations come early in 1L. One is that, whether you were the worker bee in undergrad or not, you're just less likely to be the A student in law school. By definition only 20-30 kids will graduate feeling like they're at the top of the class, and since all of these folk seem more capable than your competition in undergrad, you're less likely to be one of those 20-30. Two is that for the first time in life (if you came straight from college), there's a very meaningful chance that you will not get what you want the most and someone else will. Probably you did fine in high school and went to the undergrad you wanted. Probably undergrad was easy and you never seriously doubted getting into a law school. If you're at U of T/Osgoode/McGill/UBC/Dal/Alberta, etc. you probably got into the law school you wanted to go to, or your second choice at worst. Point is, life has never confronted you with the reality that you're going to want something as badly as you know how to and still not get it. That's where the last one kicks in - the kid who always feigned not caring about the outcomes. For those of us who liked to pretend we were above the fray, it's suddenly become very expensive to continue with that image. Now, it will have real world outcomes. They will last. That's scary.

 

So people go through a mini-identity crisis. We know we're not the kid who strolls through life and gets whatever they want - within a very expansive definition of reason - anymore, but we still don't know who we actually are becoming. I really think that helps to explain why we see so many students come mid-1L talking about how horrible the "bay street pipeline" is while proudly declaring how perfect their fit with XX & X, LLP is come November of 2L, and why so many who say "what pipeline? I'm excited to be a corporate lawyer" start talking about how rigged and unfair the system was when November 2L isn't a happy time for them. (Note: That's not to say anyone who decries the "pipeline" is being facetious - lots of folk take that view from the start and hold it all the way to 3L and beyond.) I think it also explains a large part of people exclaiming "these exams are bad metrics for my awesome lawyer skills!" and "everyone gets Ps anyway haha so why worry?" and "the problem of law school feeling competitive is a cultural one - none of us are really competing, you're all just making this worse by talking about how it's competitive and if you all stopped talking like jerks we would magically all get the outcomes we want".  The one thing I never heard anyone in law school say was that they didn't do well and it's because their classmates are more capable or worked harder - either the system is rigged against the speaker, the metrics used are irrational, or the metrics are rational but testing for something that's dumb anyway. (All those can be true and you may still have more capable/harder working classmates!)

Then the wave function collapses for x% of the students at the end of OCIs and for most of the rest at the end of articling recruit. The liminal state is done and now a new stable identity can take form, maybe with some retroactive re-imagining. "I am a mid-market insurance lawyer, much as I always wished to be: I neither work too hard nor make too little for my contentment"; "I am a bay street lawyer, but it's just because I need to pay off debt"; "I'm still an A student, I was confident all along, and you're all still suckers and I win!"; "I got a gig helping a disadvantaged class, I will do good for the world and I'm happy and law school was awesome". (Added bonus for Diplock: "I'm a criminal lawyer and I'm the only one of you people who actually does old-timey lawyering...what the hell did you people sign up for?")
 

 

Great thought. Am totally going to steal it. In relation to this topic, I totally agree how it explains things. Students head into law school knowing there will be losers, but totally unconcerned about what that means because it's inconceivable they could be among them. Once they show up, it's suddenly real. Note also, this is one of the reasons the whole thing is so inherently irksome. It's human nature to not particularly care about illness, poverty, social problems, etc. etc. etc. until you are personally affected somehow. But it's not a nice part of human nature. I've said it before. Life does have winners and losers - particularly in the free market. I am very interested in talking about how we can mitigate the losses and try to make sure everyone has enough. But I find it very hard to talk with people who are fine with competition as long as they are winning, and only have a problem with it once they perceive they might lose. Those people piss me off.

 

Not sure if what I detailed above is what you were thinking, but yes, all this. I don't remember any of the kids who lashed out in law school complaining that end of term exams for history classes were a totally unfair metric for how brilliant they were when they were getting As. No one ever said "my law school grades are not great but those are worthless and unfairly distributed anyway, and mind you so were undergrad grades where I did fantastic so it all evens out".

 

And as you said, the good news is that the great bulk of law students are going to find a well enough paying job that they more or less like - no small feat in the world. Two-three years out, many who were very happy with their OCI outcomes will have left their first employer, and as you move out of the small circle of being a student to the big wide world of being a professional, the value of identity will start to be trumped by more basic life things: money, contentment, challenge, potential career path, fulfillment, etc. While we're in law school we can't really take actions to adjust all those real values, so the weight of identity feels much heavier. And an unstable identity is an uncomfortable thing. As a matter of structure we're all in-betweeners until we at least get a job, so we can't stabilize our identities until then. This clearly doesn't describe everyone - older students tend to have stable identities already, I think, and even some law students don't invest much of their identity in their academics/career - but it may help explain a bunch.

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Wow, that was a long one. Apparently I've been sitting on this. Also it's been a very long three weeks at work. All of which were fulfilling, and this is exactly what I pictured when I started law school, and I am not in any sense retroactively re-imagining what I thought I wanted five years ago. Thanks.

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It's the old Volvo vs. Chevy distinction, the former may be safer than the latter, but for people who can't afford Volvo's, a Chevy may be preferable to walking.

 

With respect to the Slaw post, I think the focus on student debt vis-a-vis accesibility is misplaced and flows from something of a logical fallacy.  Consider this quote:

 

 

 

Faced with the realities of $1500 plus in monthly repayments, students are driven to the income potential of large firm, corporate work. New lawyers are increasingly unable to consider work at affordable rates, or streams of practice that directly serve middle or lower-class clients. Those clients face a justice system increasingly unaffordable and out of reach.”

 

No doubt this is true at an individual student level.  A good student with a hefty student loan may well say "I want to be a criminal lawyer, but I've got $150K in student loans, so I'm going to work at Davies".  But, and this should be obvious, that isn't true in aggregate.  There's only a finite number of biglaw job openings. Whether tuition is $10K or tuition is $30K, biglaw's only going to hire 400 odd students.  There are 2000-odd people who enter the licensing process in Ontario each year, regardless of what tuition fees are, there are 1600-odd law school graduates who are going to be starting in something other than biglaw.

 

The same logic applies to the reservation wage argument.  By the time you've graduated from law school, the $150K in debt you've incurred is a sunk cost, it's not, generally, what drives the bottom of pricing in the legal market, it's the outside reservation wage.  Whether your debt is $30K or $150K you're not likely to work for $50k a year as a criminal lawyer, if you could make $60K a year doing something else.  I mean, how seriously can you take the claim "Oh, I really wanted to work for peanuts doing community legal work, but I was compelled  to take this $100K a year job with biglaw".  Riiight, and you're telling me that if your students loans were $0, you'd forego the biglaw lifestyle and be doing poverty law.  I'm also interested in buying that bridge you're selling.    

 

Now, I say "not likely" because I do recognize that there are some people who really, really, want to be criminal lawyers, and would work for less money in that field, provided they make enough to satisfy some minimal living standards.  But I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that they are a distinct minority among law students/lawyers (and that's not a knock on the rest of us, just an acknowledgment that we're human) or that they're not so representative of the legal market to be driving policy (among other things, that's a problem which would be most efficiently addressed not by keeping down tuition of all law school graduates, but by providing debt forgiveness to that tiny minority of lawyers who work in certain areas charging low rates).  

 

Finally, it is truly sickening to listen to the council of Canadian Law Deans blabbering on about "what is to be done about tuition".   The principal effect of high  tuition is not to materially change the supply of lawyers, but to transfer wealth from law students to law faculty (including, ahem, the law deans) who account for the lion's share of the cost of law school (and whose salaries, not coincidentally, have gone up with tuition/enrollment).  This was a conscious decision made by the aforementioned law deans, principally in response to demands for higher salaries from faculty who threatened to flee to the US (funny, now that the US legal market has imploded, no one is arguing that maybe we roll back those salaries).   So it's truly shameless to now be prattling on about "what is to be done".  I mean, I'd suggest an across the board 20% pay cut for the faculty (including the law deans)  to fund the aforementioned debt forgiveness, but I suspect that's not what the law deans have in mind.  

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Also from the Slaw post:

 

 

 

In her paper, “Mephistopheles’ Bargain: A look at the real cost of increasing law school tuition”, Stephanie Head (TRU JD 2016) concluded that a law graduate from University of Toronto would face a law debt around $120,000.00.  She further theorized that such a law graduate would have to make $162,000.00 a year in order to pay back the loan within a 10-year term at 7% interest.

 

Am I alone in spotting the rather glaring factual error with this analysis?  Sure, if you assume an interest rate that's more than twice what most students are paying (or have paid at any time since 2008?) ....

 

Sure, you need to make a $162K a year to pay off a $120k student loan in 10 years, if you accept as a baseline that you NEED a before-tax income of $130K  (e.g., the equivalent income after factoring the before tax income you need to pa $16k a year to service a $120K debt at real interest rates) a year (e.g., almost twice the average family income in this country to live, and more than 95% of Canadians make) to have a decent lifestyle in this country.  Now, am I alone in thinking that that proposition is so obviously false that it's embarrassing that a TRU grad (I presume) would make it, or that the dean of TRU would cite it as a credible argument.    

 

At the risk of being an asshole, someone needs to check their privilege, people live happy, comfortable, fulfilling lives making well shy of $130K a year.  

Edited by maximumbob
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I too find that weird, as estimated take home at $162k in BC is $103k and the interest and principal payments on a 130 loan at 7% are about 22K per year at the top end and lower as you go down. So fictitious lawyer would be taking home 80k per year. I don't see why those numbers could all be pushed down by about 60%. At half that salary, the lawyer is taking home 63 k with 22 going to loans. We're still talking $3500 per month of spending and living money, which is completely reasonable if you're buying a 300k house and own one car.

 

As to the rate, I think that's pretty close to the real rate that governmental student loans charge (pretty sure Alta was prime plus 2 and Canada was prime plus 2.5 or so for floating, but prime plus 5% for fixed rates). So really, 7% is actually lower than most people pay on fixed rate.

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Now, am I alone in thinking that that proposition is so obviously false that it's embarrassing that a TRU grad (I presume) would make it

 

While I agree with the general point, I think it's a bit unfair to Ms. Head that Dean Bradford is citing her unpublished paper. We're having to make assumptions about her reasoning based only on a 'bottom line' - and even that is communicated second-hand. It's a pretty important part of his argument, and IMHO too important to just leave at 'one of our JD students said this at a conference therefore it is true'.

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While I agree with the general point, I think it's a bit unfair to Ms. Head that Dean Bradford is citing her unpublished paper. We're having to make assumptions about her reasoning based only on a 'bottom line' - and even that is communicated second-hand. It's a pretty important part of his argument, and IMHO too important to just leave at 'one of our JD students said this at a conference therefore it is true'.

Fair enough, and you're right it reflects worse on the dean.  

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