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newlawcraze

Government Legal Positions

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My experience has been mostly in family law, civil litigation and criminal law. I am a barrister at heart. I am willing to relocate anywhere

How hard is it move to the government after articling in private practice?

From job application to start date, how much time do different levels of government take? 

 

Edited by newlawcraze

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Don't really have experience with gov positions, but from just a general career perspective, don't feel pressured that the type of practise you articled in now dictates the rest of your 40+ year career. Lawyers jump around all the time. It's a numbers game. Apply broadly, and work your network. Ultimately these gov positions are highly covitted so you're going to want to beef up your resume as much as possible but it may come down to who you know. Apply apply apply and hit the networking pavement.  

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My experience is limited to Ontario (and not criminal law), but I would say that it is quite difficult to move into government early in your career, if you articled in the private sector. Government employers have a steady stream of onboarded junior-level lawyers from their articling recruitment, so when they're recruiting it's usually for mid- or late-career lawyers.

So basically, you'll want to spend several years developing expertise in an area of law that is relevant to government, and wait/hope for an opening in that area. By then, of course, it may be less appealing. For instance, a candidate well-described by this posting is probably making close to $1M in the private sector; but the salary range for this position is a maximum of ~$200K.

Typical application to start date is a couple of months. Lots of applications to sort through, then interviews have to be scheduled around the availability of the interviewing panel.

Public sector recruitment/hiring is highly standardized with considerable effort to avoid (some) biases, nepotism, etc. I would imagine it's the least "who you know" part of the legal profession.

ETA: You can gain an advantage by talking to people who are in the government legal office where you want to work, and getting a sense of what they do. I guess that's a kind of "who you know", but it's also open to anybody - it's not difficult to track down who does X law for the government of Y, and if you reach out to them the chances of a positive response are high.

Edited by whereverjustice
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On 2/2/2019 at 8:35 PM, newlawcraze said:

My experience has been mostly in family law, civil litigation and criminal law. I am a barrister at heart. I am willing to relocate anywhere

How hard is it move to the government after articling in private practice?

From job application to start date, how much time do different levels of government take? 

 

I am sure you will get some great advice on this forum. What Wherever Justice said is pretty bang on. 

I was told by a colleague who works at Justice that there are always DoJ positions available in BC. Apparently the province pays better and they keep losing people to them.  

Edited by OWH
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10 minutes ago, OWH said:

Apparently the province pays better and they keep losing people to them.  

Yes, my impression is that generally for government lawyer salaries, municipal > provincial > federal.

(Though before you look at a map and get excited about the number of municipalities, bear in mind that it is typical for small municipalities to retain law firms rather than employing in-house counsel.)

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Try the territories. Good salaries and benefits and they are often looking for lawyers. 

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It's highly competitive for federal government positions, but municipal and provincial is doable. You have to apply to specific divisions that your experience can cater to, such as the MAG Family Responsibility Office or Civil. It can be a lengthy and grueling process, as the process is very standardized and not like in private practice where you can walk in through connections. 

Where do you want to work? I can't comment on other provinces, but government jobs in Toronto are the most difficult to land in the country. You may be better off looking into Ottawa, small municipalities, and out of province. 

Edited by Deadpool

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Most, but not all, provincial government counsel positions for juniors are in criminal law. If you're willing to relocate, I think that helps your chances a lot. Keep an eye on the MAG website, keep applying, and networking. 

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On 2/4/2019 at 6:55 AM, whereverjustice said:

Yes, my impression is that generally for government lawyer salaries, municipal > provincial > federal.

(Though before you look at a map and get excited about the number of municipalities, bear in mind that it is typical for small municipalities to retain law firms rather than employing in-house counsel.)

My experience has been that which level pays more simply varies over time.

Right now in Alberta we're losing lots of provincial prosecutors to the Feds.  It has to do with the fact that our wages our frozen, so beginning prosecutors do not get the various step up adjustments that they're supposed to.

However I've been around long enough.  Hell I used to work with the Feds.  When I came back from the Feds to the province I actually got a nice increase (though that wasn't the purpose of the move).

It all just changes over time.

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On 2/2/2019 at 6:35 PM, newlawcraze said:

My experience has been mostly in family law, civil litigation and criminal law. I am a barrister at heart. I am willing to relocate anywhere

How hard is it move to the government after articling in private practice?

From job application to start date, how much time do different levels of government take? 

 

I've said this before - in my experience most government lawyers did NOT article with government.  It is definitely possible to go from private practice to the public service.  Most of us followed just such a path.

That being said, trying to do so right after articling is incredibly hard.  Government hires more articling students than we have open 1st year positions.  So trying to apply as a 1st year associate means competing with all of the articling students we had (and very few of our students are bad, generally we'd like to keep almost all of them).

Applying after a couple years of experience is much more likely.

And gosh, this is something government is terrible at.  Our hiring process can take months and months.   Which obviously is not very helpful for someone who is currently employed.  And I don't know that timeline varies much from the differing levels of government.

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On 2/4/2019 at 3:23 PM, Deadpool said:

It's highly competitive for federal government positions, but municipal and provincial is doable. You have to apply to specific divisions that your experience can cater to, such as the MAG Family Responsibility Office or Civil. It can be a lengthy and grueling process, as the process is very standardized and not like in private practice where you can walk in through connections. 

Where do you want to work? I can't comment on other provinces, but government jobs in Toronto are the most difficult to land in the country. You may be better off looking into Ottawa, small municipalities, and out of province. 

I would think that municipal is definitely the most difficult, seems like there's only 1 artciling position available for those and probably not very many lawyer positions. From what I've seen, provincial hires a decent amount and more than federal in some locations 

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7 hours ago, maybemaybe said:

I would think that municipal is definitely the most difficult, seems like there's only 1 artciling position available for those and probably not very many lawyer positions. From what I've seen, provincial hires a decent amount and more than federal in some locations 

There are a lot of municipalities in Canada. City of Toronto hires a few articling students (most of their lawyers are former articling students and they rarely hire from outside though), along with Region of Peel, York Region, and some others I've seen. For federal government, there is only really the DOJ Legal Excellence Program.

The municipalities also hire junior lawyers and I've seen quite a few postings in York Region and the surrounding areas. The process is a lot faster than the federal government which can take over a year from the time you apply. The federal government rarely hires junior lawyers outside of its articling students and federal court clerks. And you often see mid-level lawyers applying for LP-01 positions with the federal government and going through a written exam and interview processes just to end up in a waiting pool. I know people who applied in 2019 for the most recent DOJ LP-01 recruitment process and were put into a waiting pool which is scheduled to expire soon, after which point you have to apply all over again. So getting your foot in the door is a lot harder than it is for municipal and provincial. Certainly, getting into provincial is easier than municipal as there are a lot more legal positions available as well. 

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14 hours ago, Deadpool said:

There are a lot of municipalities in Canada. City of Toronto hires a few articling students (most of their lawyers are former articling students and they rarely hire from outside though), along with Region of Peel, York Region, and some others I've seen. For federal government, there is only really the DOJ Legal Excellence Program.

The municipalities also hire junior lawyers and I've seen quite a few postings in York Region and the surrounding areas. The process is a lot faster than the federal government which can take over a year from the time you apply. The federal government rarely hires junior lawyers outside of its articling students and federal court clerks. And you often see mid-level lawyers applying for LP-01 positions with the federal government and going through a written exam and interview processes just to end up in a waiting pool. I know people who applied in 2019 for the most recent DOJ LP-01 recruitment process and were put into a waiting pool which is scheduled to expire soon, after which point you have to apply all over again. So getting your foot in the door is a lot harder than it is for municipal and provincial. Certainly, getting into provincial is easier than municipal as there are a lot more legal positions available as well. 

Maybe its just my location. I saw some articling position posts for municipalities and they were only hiring one person which I'm sure would be very difficult to land. Also I think in Alberta the federal government only hires about 7-11 students per year here in Alberta and about 60 across Canada at least according to these stats (https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cp-pm/eval/rep-rap/10/lep-pea/p4a.html) which are very outdated. Provincial seems to be the best opportunity wise

 

I've applied for jobs with the federal, provincial, and municipal government and overall federal was definitely the worst application process. I applied for a job around end of August or beginning of September, did an interview 2-3 months later and then a month later they sent me a form to sign. I sent back the form and a couple months later they said I was hired on some kind of casual position and they would contact me if they needed me. Haven't heard back since. 

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On 2/4/2019 at 8:55 AM, whereverjustice said:

Yes, my impression is that generally for government lawyer salaries, municipal > provincial > federal.

(Though before you look at a map and get excited about the number of municipalities, bear in mind that it is typical for small municipalities to retain law firms rather than employing in-house counsel.)

I noticed this a few years ago, e.g. City of Toronto seems to pay more than even MAG (which itself seems high for government, comparatively speaking.) To what extent do municipalities tend to have the sort of pension Ontario MAG lawyers have?

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12 hours ago, baklava said:

I noticed this a few years ago, e.g. City of Toronto seems to pay more than even MAG (which itself seems high for government, comparatively speaking.) To what extent do municipalities tend to have the sort of pension Ontario MAG lawyers have?

They usually have similar pension plans but of course look into the municipality. Toronto's municipal pension plans merged with others. 

In BC it seems more standardized and the municipal pension plan is available at more than just municipalities, and also transfers between other public sector pension plans. So you can hop around from pensionable employer to pensionable employer. 

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