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RenaissanceMan

From HR Manager to Employment Lawyer

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After graduating with a bachelor of commerce, I ended up focusing on a career in HR as I could not afford to take 3 years away from the workforce while attending law school (had to do my BComm part time as I had to support my family).  I totally enjoy HR and rose to the rank of HR Manager. I have done a lot of work around drafting employment contracts, a lot of due diligence, regulatory compliance - all with an aim of saving my employers huge moneys in severance and avoiding getting sued in the first place. I have found myself spending countless hours reading a lot of employment law cases. I even took my HR career a notch further by setting up a private consultancy where I have advised mainly municipalities. What really gave me my foundation was a third year employment law course which I took. This course was offered to both my university's business students and lawschool as well.

Anyway, my wife and I are now at a different stage in our life in terms of financial security such that I could leave my job and attend school full time. The real big question is if my background as an HR Manager and Consultant will really be a big bonus when trying to transition to a position as an employment lawyer, either with a boutique employment firm along the lines or Roper Greyell or the employment division of a huge national firm? Do firms value the intimate insight I bring in as a person who understands the workplace dynamics that lead to the litigation?

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It's obviously no sort of guarantee, but that type of experience would be highly valued by employment boutiques or big firms with large employment practices.

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You would still need to do relatively well in law school to land a job at one of the top employment boutiques or one of the national firms with a prominent employment practice. I assume you want to work in Vancouver based on your reference of Roper Greyell. The other Vancouver firms that come to mind with strong employment practices are Harris and Fasken. These jobs are very competitive, but your experience would certainly be a significant asset in the application process.

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I practiced a little employment work as an associate. I think your experience will be an asset, particularly for a boutique, in terms of demonstrating a real commitment to the subject area, and would probably grab the attention of some hiring committees. That being said I think your grades would have to be similar to other applicants for such jobs (i.e. the top third, perhaps the top fifth of your class); having never been directly involved in firm hiring, and never having worked in Vancouver, I am not sure how academically selective Vancouver firms are, but I assume similar to Toronto firms. For big firms and prominent boutiques I think they are more likely to stick with academic prowess over a previous professional background, even if it would be helpful, in part because there is some preference for molding associates.

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17 hours ago, RenaissanceMan said:

After graduating with a bachelor of commerce, I ended up focusing on a career in HR as I could not afford to take 3 years away from the workforce while attending law school (had to do my BComm part time as I had to support my family).  I totally enjoy HR and rose to the rank of HR Manager. I have done a lot of work around drafting employment contracts, a lot of due diligence, regulatory compliance - all with an aim of saving my employers huge moneys in severance and avoiding getting sued in the first place. I have found myself spending countless hours reading a lot of employment law cases. I even took my HR career a notch further by setting up a private consultancy where I have advised mainly municipalities. What really gave me my foundation was a third year employment law course which I took. This course was offered to both my university's business students and lawschool as well.

Anyway, my wife and I are now at a different stage in our life in terms of financial security such that I could leave my job and attend school full time. The real big question is if my background as an HR Manager and Consultant will really be a big bonus when trying to transition to a position as an employment lawyer, either with a boutique employment firm along the lines or Roper Greyell or the employment division of a huge national firm? Do firms value the intimate insight I bring in as a person who understands the workplace dynamics that lead to the litigation?

I'm also currently working in HR (albiet, not as a manager). I'd imagine that whatever company you're working at would have some sort of a relationship with an employment lawyer - why don't you reach out to them and ask their opinion? From the conversations I've had with our VP, HR and my manager, we have a large appreciation for our lawyer's understanding of how our organization functions and his ability to see eye-to-eye from a management perspective. I think he's able to offer much more valuable advice to us because of this. If I had to guess, your experience would be very useful if you're able to develop relationships with potential clients with the demonstrated ability to potentially save them loads of money.

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From the feedback you folks are giving me, grades will really matter. If I get A's then my experience will become the differentiating factor. I understand that law school is uber competitive but feel like I can hold my own. Got a B+ average for my Bachelors while working a full time job and caring for young kids. Wish I had more time to hit the books but my day only had 24 hours and though I considered myself part time I was really a full time student as I was taking 9 credits at any given time. Now the kids are a bit older and we are doing alright to a point that I do not have to worry about paying bills or even taking student loans. There is nothing that can stop me from spending 10 to 12 hours per day on law school (already work long hours in the corporate world). Furthermore, I am fortunate to have the resources to even hire a tutor from day one to help me with my school work.

NucksFTW: No, I am not in Vancouver. I used to live in Vancouver and the company I worked for used to engage the services of Roper Greyel - that's why they were the first to come to mind. Was sometime back and I do not have ongoing contacts with the firm. I relocated to Edmonton for an HR position in the Oil & Gas sector.

BobbyFlem: The company I work for has in-house counsel that helps me deal with employment issues that escalate to litigation. Anyway, as a competent HR professional I pride myself on avoiding litigation in the first place through solid employee relation practices, legislative compliance, and rock solid contracts. Once the lawyers have to step in then I know that as HR I have failed.

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You are pretty unlikely to get that many A's in law school, literally no one in my law school class had above a 3.7 gpa. A solid B average (top40%ish) at most schools with your experience will likely land you a job that you want.

TBH though it is a huge opportunity cost for not that big a change. I wouldn't do it.

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Posted (edited)

Not much more to contribute than what others have said other than that I am not so sure top 40% would do it from most schools for a high end labour and employment law boutique, or any high end boutique, generally. Lots of students want to litigate for a Palaire Rolland,  or end up at a top crim shop, or a top labour shop, etc. And unlike big law, with its many full-service law firms available all hiring 20+ students, there are way less high-end boutique firms out there. And they have way less positions available. I'd wager firms like Hicks Morley take a higher caliber student than your run-of-the-mill full service Bay Street firm. Do well and you should be very competitive, your experience to date seems solid for your goals!

Edited by happydude

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2 hours ago, RenaissanceMan said:

From the feedback you folks are giving me, grades will really matter. If I get A's then my experience will become the differentiating factor. I understand that law school is uber competitive but feel like I can hold my own. Got a B+ average for my Bachelors while working a full time job and caring for young kids. Wish I had more time to hit the books but my day only had 24 hours and though I considered myself part time I was really a full time student as I was taking 9 credits at any given time. Now the kids are a bit older and we are doing alright to a point that I do not have to worry about paying bills or even taking student loans. There is nothing that can stop me from spending 10 to 12 hours per day on law school (already work long hours in the corporate world). Furthermore, I am fortunate to have the resources to even hire a tutor from day one to help me with my school work.

My experience is in Toronto. Here most of the firms kind of have a floor for grades. You probably won't get an OCI if you don't have those grades, even if you have good work experience. 

Then you have the OCI, where your job is to sell yourself and be social. For any experienced HR professional, this should be a cakewalk.

Once you get past that stage, your experience would be highly valued by the employment boutiques and firms with strong labour/employment practices.

As for opportunity cost, as an in-house employment lawyer, after 5 years at a firm and 5 years in house, my earnings are way higher than any HR manager or business partner could make. Short of VP level, you are never going to be making the kind of money in HR as you do as in house counsel.

There is no reason to spend 10-12 hours per day on law school work.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Mal said:

You are pretty unlikely to get that many A's in law school, literally no one in my law school class had above a 3.7 gpa. A solid B average (top40%ish) at most schools with your experience will likely land you a job that you want.

TBH though it is a huge opportunity cost for not that big a change. I wouldn't do it.

I understand that the financial opportunity cost is there. However, without going into much detail about my life - the decision to go to law school has nothing to do with wanting a higher pay cheque, as my household has other sources of income. I could walk away from my job today and still do alright. I enjoy employment law and want to passionately pursue it and be the best at it.

Going for the A's is part of the motivation. I aim for perfection.

Edited by RenaissanceMan

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Management side labour law is a pretty good job that pays well for relatively decent stress levels, but if I could pursue any passion I wanted, I'd probably pick something a little more charitable.

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3 hours ago, RenaissanceMan said:

From the feedback you folks are giving me, grades will really matter. If I get A's then my experience will become the differentiating factor. I understand that law school is uber competitive but feel like I can hold my own. Got a B+ average for my Bachelors while working a full time job and caring for young kids. Wish I had more time to hit the books but my day only had 24 hours and though I considered myself part time I was really a full time student as I was taking 9 credits at any given time. Now the kids are a bit older and we are doing alright to a point that I do not have to worry about paying bills or even taking student loans. There is nothing that can stop me from spending 10 to 12 hours per day on law school (already work long hours in the corporate world). Furthermore, I am fortunate to have the resources to even hire a tutor from day one to help me with my school work.

 

That's great, but there will probably be people in law school who got As and A+s in undergrad doing those things or similar, and that is why law school is so competitive. And it is a lot harder to get As in law school than in most undergrad programs.

You don't need to spend 10-12 hours a day or hire a tutor!

 

2 hours ago, Mal said:

You are pretty unlikely to get that many A's in law school, literally no one in my law school class had above a 3.7 gpa. A solid B average (top40%ish) at most schools with your experience will likely land you a job that you want.

TBH though it is a huge opportunity cost for not that big a change. I wouldn't do it.

I agree straight As in law school are rare but there were definitely GPAs above 3.7 in my class.

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Depends on the school @providence. It's a function of how many As are available. U of T gets Like, 15 percent "HH"? McGill by contrast has something like 5 percent get an A, and sometimes less. Sometimes the prof doesn't even give out As. It really depends on the school. That's why I think GPAs in law school can be so misleading. Since it's a curve, class rank makes much more sense. 

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, providence said:

That's great, but there will probably be people in law school who got As and A+s in undergrad doing those things or similar, and that is why law school is so competitive. And it is a lot harder to get As in law school than in most undergrad programs.

You don't need to spend 10-12 hours a day or hire a tutor!

 

I agree straight As in law school are rare but there were definitely GPAs above 3.7 in my class.

Depends on the school. 3.4-3.5 generally puts a McGilligan in the top 10%

Edited by artsydork
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