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Article in the Toronto Star - "‘Abusive workplaces’ for articling students is becoming a trend that needs attention, report says"

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I'm just a 2L and I absolutely dread the thought of this happening: articling is already talked of like a gruelling rite of passage. No one should feel trapped in an abusive/toxic workplace on top of the ordinary stresses of articling.

That said, I have no idea how useful articling students are to their employers - do most places really view them as cheap labour, or are they still too inexperienced to actually make up for the cost of their services?

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You probably have access through your school or local public library.

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18 hours ago, spicyfoodftw said:

Directed to a paywall. Any other links?

In Private Browsing

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20 hours ago, Demander said:

 

That said, I have no idea how useful articling students are to their employers - do most places really view them as cheap labour, or are they still too inexperienced to actually make up for the cost of their services?

My understanding is that articling students costs for money than they bring in, at least for Bay street firms. The firms do it because they want to pick and choose their associates and future partners and groom them from the start.

This is also why its more uncommon for small firms (like less than 5 lawyers) to hire articling students, because its more cost effective for them to pay an extra $20-30k a year and get an associate who is a 2nd or 3rd year call and actually knows what they are doing, and doesn't require constant supervision. 

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8 hours ago, shawniebear said:

The firms do it because they want to pick and choose their associates and future partners and groom them from the start.

That's what my intuition on this was - though that means it makes even less sense to give students a toxic articling experience! 

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54 minutes ago, epeeist said:

Slaw piece mentioning this article and then arguing that alternative business structures would help. Whether or not one wants ABS, I don't see how it magically improves the articling experience!

http://www.slaw.ca/2019/03/06/why-allowing-alternative-business-structures-could-help-articling-students/

Article reads like it was written by a Russian bot or something...

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10 hours ago, Demander said:

That's what my intuition on this was - though that means it makes even less sense to give students a toxic articling experience! 

I read somewhere that big firms tend want younger, less experienced articling candidates because they tend to be more willing to take abuse on the chin and work those extra-crazy hours (i.e. they are easier to take advantage of). I think, if you don't have  a ton of experience working in environments that are healthier and respectful towards their employees, that a toxic work environment is very easily normalized. And when someone transitions out of articling to a bigger position at the firm, the higher ups are still able to be incredibly demanding and, frankly, abusive because that employee has been groomed to see that toxic environment as standard. They can look back on their articling experience and think "well this isn't that bad". Basically, if you make it through a toxic articling experience and still want to work there, that's an important quality for a firm to select for if they want employees that will, more or less, supplicate themselves to the status quo. 

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32 minutes ago, LoblawLawBlog said:

I read somewhere that big firms tend want younger, less experienced articling candidates because they tend to be more willing to take abuse on the chin and work those extra-crazy hours (i.e. they are easier to take advantage of). I think, if you don't have  a ton of experience working in environments that are healthier and respectful towards their employees, that a toxic work environment is very easily normalized. And when someone transitions out of articling to a bigger position at the firm, the higher ups are still able to be incredibly demanding and, frankly, abusive because that employee has been groomed to see that toxic environment as standard. They can look back on their articling experience and think "well this isn't that bad". Basically, if you make it through a toxic articling experience and still want to work there, that's an important quality for a firm to select for if they want employees that will, more or less, supplicate themselves to the status quo. 

Where did you read that? Whoever wrote it clearly doesn't know what they're talking about.

Look, there are some good articling experiences and some bad ones. Just as there are some good jobs with great co-workers and bosses, and terrible jobs with a toxic work environment. Overall, the reason articling involves stress and long hours is because that is exactly what the practice of law entails. This is not because a "toxic work environment" has been normalized in the profession. It's a simple reality that most lawyers are expected to be on call 24/7, have to work longer than 9-5 out of sheer necessity, and deal with stressful situations purely by the fact that the entire job is about dealing with conflict. 

If I had an articling experience where I was working 9-5 with only moderate pressure (all of which would have to be artificially enforced) I would have completely crumbled as an associate when I could not work 9-5 and would have the entire weight of a file on me.

This is not to say that there aren't genuinely abusive articling positions out there. There are. But this view that the entire profession has a disposition towards exploitation is just silly. Insofar as people are complaining to the law society because they think their working hours are "unreasonable" or they are too stressed out, I'd suggest they quit right now because the practice of law is not for them.

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, epeeist said:

Slaw piece mentioning this article and then arguing that alternative business structures would help. Whether or not one wants ABS, I don't see how it magically improves the articling experience!

http://www.slaw.ca/2019/03/06/why-allowing-alternative-business-structures-could-help-articling-students/

"Sure our articling students are basically repositories of caffeine and organic cold-pressed sadness, but instead of leaving open an eventual partnership track for them, we've decided to admit non-lawyers into our new share-owning management structure! Problem solved!"

Edited by realpseudonym
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"abusive work places for articling students...."

"...subscribe (pay) the Star today (before we let you read about other people's exploitation)" lmao

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19 hours ago, thegoodlaw said:

Where did you read that? Whoever wrote it clearly doesn't know what they're talking about.

Look, there are some good articling experiences and some bad ones. Just as there are some good jobs with great co-workers and bosses, and terrible jobs with a toxic work environment. Overall, the reason articling involves stress and long hours is because that is exactly what the practice of law entails. This is not because a "toxic work environment" has been normalized in the profession. It's a simple reality that most lawyers are expected to be on call 24/7, have to work longer than 9-5 out of sheer necessity, and deal with stressful situations purely by the fact that the entire job is about dealing with conflict. 

If I had an articling experience where I was working 9-5 with only moderate pressure (all of which would have to be artificially enforced) I would have completely crumbled as an associate when I could not work 9-5 and would have the entire weight of a file on me.

This is not to say that there aren't genuinely abusive articling positions out there. There are. But this view that the entire profession has a disposition towards exploitation is just silly. Insofar as people are complaining to the law society because they think their working hours are "unreasonable" or they are too stressed out, I'd suggest they quit right now because the practice of law is not for them.

I articled working 9-5 and thrived as an associate.  Hell, I still do 45-50 tops, except for trial times.

Though if you really love working that many hours, I'll leave you my card. My separation agreement rates are very reasonable. 

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2 hours ago, artsydork said:

I articled working 9-5 and thrived as an associate.  Hell, I still do 45-50 tops, except for trial times.

Though if you really love working that many hours, I'll leave you my card. My separation agreement rates are very reasonable. 

I think you'd agree that that is an anomaly, especially if you're working in Toronto (or any other big city).

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10 hours ago, law4sho said:

"abusive work places for articling students...."

"...subscribe (pay) the Star today (before we let you read about other people's exploitation)" lmao

Are you suggesting that paying for someone's work product is exploitative?  

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10 hours ago, law4sho said:

"abusive work places for articling students...."

"...subscribe (pay) the Star today (before we let you read about other people's exploitation)" lmao

 

18 minutes ago, Adrian said:

Are you suggesting that paying for someone's work product is exploitative?  

At the most generous interpretation, I think what he's saying is that writing a story about the exploitation of others, and then making money by doing so, is exploitative.

Of course that's also stupid. Much of the work I do (and get paid for, by Legal Aid mainly) is for clients in very bad circumstances. If you adopt the view that getting paid to assist people who are badly off - exploited, in pain, desperate, vulnerable, etc. - then all kinds of stupidity ensues. Doctors treating the hardest patients around are transformed from heroes into bloodsuckers by that logic.

At the front line, this "logic" is deployed more often than you'd imagine. Legal aid is justified routinely by arguing that if lawyers really cared about the work, they wouldn't mind doing it for next to nothing. Often, private clients in bad circumstances seem to expect that their hardship should entitle them to my time regardless of whether they compensate me adequately, or even at all. Even well-off clients, who believe that their problems are the result of ill-fortune, seem to think that it's my job to somehow offset that ill-fortune by giving them a break.

But yeah, that sort of thinking isn't worthy of a legal professional. When I get into a car accident, and I take my car to a mechanic, that mechanic gets paid. It doesn't matter if it was my fault or the other guy's fault. The mechanic doesn't care. He's just a guy doing a job and he needs to earn a living. Which is exactly what I tell my clients who seem to think that it's different, somehow, with lawyers. It also isn't different with journalists.

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13 hours ago, law4sho said:

"abusive work places for articling students...."

"...subscribe (pay) the Star today (before we let you read about other people's exploitation)" lmao

"work places..."

"today..." lmao

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13 hours ago, law4sho said:

"abusive work places for articling students...."

"...subscribe (pay) the Star today (before we let you read about other people's exploitation)" lmao

Not to pick on you in particular, but the first month is 99 cents (+ tax). Yeah, real exploitative. Is there any current or future articling student in Canada who couldn't easily afford 99 cents if they considered reading that story crucial?

Or, assuming someone lives in a place with a library, it's pretty easy even if the story is too old for there to be physical copies of the newspaper at the local branch. If they're in university there may be free copies of various newspapers there anyway. Or without leaving one's desk, in literally under 2 minutes from deciding to reply to your post I was able to find a free, legitimate (the Toronto library system subscribes to various newsfeeds), copy of the full March 4th story online through their system despite never having used that feature before (I mostly get ebooks from the library). It allows me to read, save, email, etc. the full article (and again legitimately, the newsfeed interface specifically includes those options).

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