My understanding is that "research lawyer" means very different things at different places--I heard that research lawyers at one large firm, for example, can't become partner. In another bay street firm, they work is more like librarian work than lawyer work. In another firm, they seem to be well paid, have great work-life balance (relatively speaking), and do really interesting work (think: doing research into weird equity issues, drafting facta, researching lesser known commercial law things, etc.--they're separate from the knowledge management group mentioned above, which is less legal work and more managing precedents and things). I think (although I may be wrong) that one common thread is that there's very little client interaction unless you're a partner in the group. Also you never have to do doc review, which is a huge plus.
As you can imagine, the job qualifications at the second firm is probably a lot different at the last firm listed. And this is just among the big firms/big name boutiques that I'm familiar with--I'm sure there are a million more permutations for what "research lawyer" means. If you PM, I can give you more details about the firms I described.
Yes and no. 8:30 a.m. in Newfoundland is technically before 8:30 a.m. in BC. Even though they tell you not to discuss I bet it'd be possible, for instance, to find out online which section is experimental (for the regular in-person LSAT, where the experimental section exists) for those living in an Eastern province. But of course writing the same test on a different day is a whole different situation.
I can also confirm first hand that this happens. I was a first year call working off Bay (outside of ON in fact) when, with the help of recruiter, I was hired at a large Bay St firm. Although not municipal law, like @hearsayheresy I was hired into a rather specialized practice group. So it definitely happens, but you do need a fair dose of luck and good timing on your side.
Happy to discuss my experience if you'd like @whoknows
Hey! I have a similar cgpa, so I made the decision to do a 5th year to boost both both my cgpa and l2. I didn't want to take an extra year at first, but now that I'm doing it I couldn't be happier. Maybe consider taking fewer classes and spending more time volunteering/working so that your last year isn't just focused on completing a program you don't really love. In regards to your LSAT score, i think it might be worth it to look into tutoring if you're still at only a 150ish after an lsat course. I know it can be expensive but if you REALLY want to avoid studying during the year, it might be worth it to go all out for the august test date. That has been my mindset when studying for the august date- I just won't have the time during the year so I'd really like to get it out of the way before then. Hope that is somewhat helpful:) Best of luck!