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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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4 hours ago, celli660 said:

Even if I took everything you said on face value, that's still not the profession.

The original and most damning comment that I replied to was " 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. "

That's not the same as 'biglaw might not be for you' and that shouldn't be the metric that we put everyone to in any event. Law is flexible and demanding at the same time, so that yes people can and will self-select into or out of those kinds of roles or workloads. My point remains that lawyers should not tell people that they should give up on their chosen career because they and their colleagues like to work ridiculous hours every year week in and week out.

 

 

Okay, but I responded to your actual claims. 

If the question is actually just so minimal as to be whether there are any jobs called lawyer that see low working hours and minimal stress - sure. There are some. 

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On 3/8/2019 at 10:40 PM, providence said:

I once saw a criminal practitioner assault their student (punch in the chest and choke) in the courthouse

WTF!! That goes way beyond toxic workplace and well into the realm of potentially criminal assault! I hope the student clocked that principal right back... to demonstrate that they are absorbing that high quality mentorship. 

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11 hours ago, Demander said:

WTF!! That goes way beyond toxic workplace and well into the realm of potentially criminal assault! I hope the student clocked that principal right back... to demonstrate that they are absorbing that high quality mentorship. 

Quoting section 34 of the Code perfectly as they strike back...

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21 hours ago, celli660 said:

Even if I took everything you said on face value, that's still not the profession.

The original and most damning comment that I replied to was " 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. "

That's not the same as 'biglaw might not be for you' and that shouldn't be the metric that we put everyone to in any event. Law is flexible and demanding at the same time, so that yes people can and will self-select into or out of those kinds of roles or workloads. My point remains that lawyers should not tell people that they should give up on their chosen career because they and their colleagues like to work ridiculous hours every year week in and week out.

 

 

It may not be the entire profession, but it is most of the profession, especially for a junior lawyer in Toronto.

I stand by my original comment. If articling students feel so overwhelmed by their work that they feel the need to complain to the Law Society, which I see as an extraordinary step, then they perhaps do need to find another line of work -- short of finding a reasonable, stable, and well paying in-house position as a new call, because of course there are so many of those positions going around.

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22 hours ago, celli660 said:

Even if I took everything you said on face value, that's still not the profession.

The original and most damning comment that I replied to was " 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. "

That's not the same as 'biglaw might not be for you' and that shouldn't be the metric that we put everyone to in any event. Law is flexible and demanding at the same time, so that yes people can and will self-select into or out of those kinds of roles or workloads. My point remains that lawyers should not tell people that they should give up on their chosen career because they and their colleagues like to work ridiculous hours every year week in and week out.

 

 

I left FT practice but still do PT practice in law now (FT another career), in significant part because I liked the profession of law, not the business of law, if that makes sense. Which also means that my direct experience is not recent at all (so caveat re my comments below!).

20 minutes ago, thegoodlaw said:

It may not be the entire profession, but it is most of the profession, especially for a junior lawyer in Toronto.

I stand by my original comment. If articling students feel so overwhelmed by their work that they feel the need to complain to the Law Society, which I see as an extraordinary step, then they perhaps do need to find another line of work -- short of finding a reasonable, stable, and well paying in-house position as a new call, because of course there are so many of those positions going around.

Articling is not a typical job; it's supposed to be mentorship and a learning experience, not just a job. And articling students because of their obligations, expectations, sunk costs, need to complete articles to be called (or LPP), etc., suffer a worse power imbalance relative to their employer than many employees in other fields. Even if not unpaid, there are similarities to some of the situations of where e.g. a work placement requires a student to be graded by their employer, so they're afraid to turn down unsafe work or (legally) excessive hours, etc. That articles are not subject to the ESA may be a reasonable compromise, but in that vacuum, would it be appropriate for the LSO to impose requirements about e.g. except for emergencies schedules should allow articling students to get adequate sleep (and not every day should be an emergency!), etc.? Not the same risks as medical residents with insufficient sleep, but still risks to client interests.

Anecdotally - as a volunteer tutor many of the people I've tutored over the years have, or are, articling - I've heard multiple times about things I thought would have been reasonable to complain about (not necessarily to the LSO as a first step, but I mean, if after addressing with principal and employer no change, then yes; and as noted above the power imbalance can make that hard). I've even heard of things in the past I thought it would be reasonable to report about other volunteer tutors whose behaviour seemed atrocious...

 

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4 minutes ago, epeeist said:

I left FT practice but still do PT practice in law now (FT another career), in significant part because I liked the profession of law, not the business of law, if that makes sense. Which also means that my direct experience is not recent at all (so caveat re my comments below!).

Articling is not a typical job; it's supposed to be mentorship and a learning experience, not just a job. And articling students because of their obligations, expectations, sunk costs, need to complete articles to be called (or LPP), etc., suffer a worse power imbalance relative to their employer than many employees in other fields. Even if not unpaid, there are similarities to some of the situations of where e.g. a work placement requires a student to be graded by their employer, so they're afraid to turn down unsafe work or (legally) excessive hours, etc. That articles are not subject to the ESA may be a reasonable compromise, but in that vacuum, would it be appropriate for the LSO to impose requirements about e.g. except for emergencies schedules should allow articling students to get adequate sleep (and not every day should be an emergency!), etc.? Not the same risks as medical residents with insufficient sleep, but still risks to client interests.

Anecdotally - as a volunteer tutor many of the people I've tutored over the years have, or are, articling - I've heard multiple times about things I thought would have been reasonable to complain about (not necessarily to the LSO as a first step, but I mean, if after addressing with principal and employer no change, then yes; and as noted above the power imbalance can make that hard). I've even heard of things in the past I thought it would be reasonable to report about other volunteer tutors whose behaviour seemed atrocious...

 

If there are risks to client interests from insufficient sleep, then most lawyers are risking their clients’ interests. Articling is a short period of time. What is the point on coddling students this much for a few months and then throwing them into practice where it can be hard to sleep and there are constant emergencies? Aren’t the sunk costs worse if you get Called and then realize it is not for you rather than realizing this early into your articling term? 

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1 hour ago, providence said:

If there are risks to client interests from insufficient sleep, then most lawyers are risking their clients’ interests. Articling is a short period of time. What is the point on coddling students this much for a few months and then throwing them into practice where it can be hard to sleep and there are constant emergencies? Aren’t the sunk costs worse if you get Called and then realize it is not for you rather than realizing this early into your articling term? 

[emphasis added]

Here's a brief US item though focusing more on acute sleep deprivation, rather than chronic:

"...Several studies have assessed performance after sleep deprivation through comparisons with different levels of alcohol intake. After 17–19 hours awake, human performance is equivalent to that of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.05 percent and after longer sleep deprivation, the level of performance reaches levels equivalent to a BAC of 0.1 percent. An alcohol level of 0.08 percent is the threshold for a DUI in most states...." [emphasis added]

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/young_lawyers/publications/tyl/topics/work-life/sleep-and-your-health/

Well then, most lawyers are risking their clients' interests. Or, if can be accurate, being tired = working more slowly, and billing on the billable hour, then are they overcharging? I made the comparison to medical residencies, from what I've read, the attitude has changed from, learn to work the crazy hours, to, okay some crazy hours but has to be more manageable and take into account health of residents (working hours and schedule) and patients (risk of mistakes).

And, not you personally, but this sort of attitude is unhelpful to parents and others (I don't think only parents should have options!). Here's an example from a quick search of an article from 13 years ago, discussing all sorts of 80% load, lower billable hours, etc. models (for associates, not articling students). Are the options presented still available to most/some/none as associates? Let's say someone has a medical condition and can only work 50 hours per week, are you saying that such a person could fairly be rejected as an articling student and couldn't be a good lawyer because they can't handle the hours?

https://www.cba.org/Publications-Resources/CBA-Practice-Link/Partnership-Toolkit/Is-this-for-me/Mind-the-gap

I'm quite happy to accept/assume that in most criminal defence work there are constant emergencies. But that isn't the only area of practice. Maybe the hypothetical can only work 50 hours (or 40, or whatever) per week person couldn't do criminal defence, doesn't mean they couldn't practice law in another area (or, it shouldn't). And, huge difference between genuine emergencies (e.g. someone arrested at midnight, in civil litigation emergency injunctions, etc.) and emergencies or time drains created by systemic or other pressures. For instance, can't comment on criminal, but I've seen multiple times in civil matters when someone has to wait around all day, to not be heard, because their non-urgent motion not on consent was low on the list, others underestimated time required, etc. That's not the lawyers' fault, it's not something they have control over, but it is something that's emblematic of wasted time that as a profession we should want to work to change and improve over time.

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10 hours ago, thegoodlaw said:

It may not be the entire profession, but it is most of the profession, especially for a junior lawyer in Toronto.

I stand by my original comment. If articling students feel so overwhelmed by their work that they feel the need to complain to the Law Society, which I see as an extraordinary step, then they perhaps do need to find another line of work -- short of finding a reasonable, stable, and well paying in-house position as a new call, because of course there are so many of those positions going around.

So an articling student should never complain about their work, ever? Even where that workplace is abusive or patently unreasonable (>100 hours/week)? Top-flight logic.

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