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VitaminD

Was I treated fairly?

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So I am finishing up my articles and will be done in late June.  I have to take my second bar exam, which is coming up shortly.

I've been articling at a firm where the partners work "in association," so they share the rent, some support staff and the firm name, but the partners essentially maintain their own clients and practice. I only work for and I am paid by two partners, not the balance of the firm. Today, however, my two bosses told me they're leaving the firm August 1 and taking their practice to another, more prestigious, firm -- and they can't take me, because there's no room. They allegedly wanted to take me, but simply can't. (Who knows whether this is true or not.) Today was also the day they told the other partners, some clients and their assistant. However, I feel like I'm the one who was dealt the crappiest hand here, because I'm being given 8 weeks to find another position, which isn't even counting the time I have to dedicate to the bar exam.

Prior to today, in February, I'd expressed interest in staying with this practice for at least another year. I was given an evasive answer -- that the two partners would have to talk with one another, but they weren't looking to hire a new articling student (as in someone to replace me). I was told that I would get a salary increase after I was called in September and could bring in my own work. To be clear, he wasn't extending an offer at that time. After this conversation, I didn't want to bring up the topic of staying on again, nor did they broach the topic. And now I know why!!! 

I'm just wondering, when do you guys think they finalized the move? Would you have given me more notice had you been in my bosses' situation? 

 

Edited by VitaminD

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You've asked several questions here which are not the same question, though you may feel they are.

When did they finalize the move? I have no idea. I don't know nearly enough to imagine even having an answer to that, and neither do you.

You I have given you more notice? I can't possibly know that without knowing all of what was going on. So, unknowable.

Were you treated fairly? Yes. They gave you an articling position, and you have completed that position. No one promised you any more than that, and regardless of whatever else is happening, you got everything you were promised.

To the questions you haven't asked, it's May 31 and you imagined that somehow you had a sorta promise to stay employed where you are, even though you explicitly asked about it and no one confirmed anything at all like hireback. If anyone fooled you, you fooled yourself. Based on that description of this practice, I'm sure you were told when you took the job that nothing at all was guaranteed going forward, and they likely could not or would not hire you back. So really, you had ample warning.

Stow away your sense of grievance and move on. It won't help you going forward. Try to stay on good terms with everyone concerned, because that's all you can still control that will do you any good in the future.

Good luck.

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I honestly wish I'd been told, at hiring, that they likely could not or would not hire me back, so today wouldn't have been such a shock to me; I would've started looking for positions months ago. We just never talked about it until I brought it up in February. 

Edited by VitaminD

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Actually, now that I think back, during my first week, one of them literally told me I could stay there "forever" if I were good at my job. 🙄

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So what you're saying is, basically, that two very small entrepreneurs said something vague to you that sounded like a guarantee of lifelong employment, and rather than question your understanding of that unbelievable situation, you chose to leave it alone and believe what you wanted to believe?

It sounds to me that you are working in an environment very similar to my own practice area. So believe me, I'm not disparaging that sort of legal practice. But we're not talking about "big law" here. We're talking about the complete opposite. What was your alternative exactly? Did you pass up a job on Bay street to go work for Smith & Co., General Practitioners? What sort of alternative job in any similar legal practice do you imagine would end up guaranteeing you work?

Look, I don't want to beat you when you are down. But if you want to recover properly, and learn the lessons you need to learn, you need to look in the mirror and realize that you were being hopelessly, impossibly naive about the realities of the legal market. I don't believe anyone was "unfair" to you in any real way. But I know from experience that it's impossible to be "fair" to someone who insists on deceiving themselves. And that's what you were doing. That's really what you're still doing.

Working as a lawyer is entrepreneurial. It isn't a union job where you sign on with one employer and stay there until you retire on your defined benefits pension plan. You should have figured that out years ago. But better late than never. Figure it out now, and move on. Because unless you do have a job waiting for you at a major firm, somewhere (and realistically even then - though in other ways) you'll find that employment in this field comes with many rewards, but stable and long-term guarantees of employment is rarely one of them.

In all events, good luck.

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Their practice areas are completely different from yours, fyi.

No, I didn't consider that conversation a guarantee of eternal employment, but it certainly contradicted any notion that they hired me for the purpose of short-term or temporary employment. In fact, I interviewed for two articling positions where they were upfront with me about the transiency of the positions: one position was to temporarily replace a lawyer on maternity leave, and another employer flat out told me, "There is no chance of hireback." Your initial post, especially, seems to operate on the assumption that I was told such facts upfront for my current position? That's very far from true. 

In any case, I guess my main grievance is really that had I known about their move (or intended move) earlier, I could've started looking for new positions months ago. I spent this entire winter worried about what would be next for me, and wondering if I should look for associate positions in case they didn't want to hire me back. 

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1 hour ago, VitaminD said:

So I am finishing up my articles and will be done in late June.  I have to take my second bar exam, which is coming up shortly.

I've been articling at a firm where the partners work "in association," so they share the rent, some support staff and the firm name, but the partners essentially maintain their own clients and practice. I only work for and I am paid by two partners, not the balance of the firm. Today, however, my two bosses told me they're leaving the firm August 1 and taking their practice to another, more prestigious, firm -- and they can't take me, because there's no room. They allegedly wanted to take me, but simply can't. (Who knows whether this is true or not.) Today was also the day they told the other partners, some clients and their assistant. However, I feel like I'm the one who was dealt the crappiest hand here, because I'm being given 8 weeks to find another position, which isn't even counting the time I have to dedicate to the bar exam.

Prior to today, in February, I'd expressed interest in staying with this practice for at least another year. I was given an evasive answer -- that the two partners would have to talk with one another, but they weren't looking to hire a new articling student (as in someone to replace me). I was told that I would get a salary increase after I was called in September and could bring in my own work. To be clear, he wasn't extending an offer at that time. After this conversation, I didn't want to bring up the topic of staying on again, nor did they broach the topic. And now I know why!!! 

I'm just wondering, when do you guys think they finalized the move? Would you have given me more notice had you been in my bosses' situation? 

 

Listen I understand it can be frustrating, but with all due respect - grow up. Welcome to the real world. Life isn’t “fair.” 

Firms have a business to run and that’s their bottom line. Articling students are at the very bottom of the rung unfortunately. Nobody cares about you at all because other than cheap labour, you don’t bring anything to the table. Your concerns are not really there’s, and there’s absolutely no guarantee of hire back at all. Hell there’s no guarantee of even getting an articling position even after spending all this time and money and effort going through law school. 

 

Time to wake up, be an adult and move on. Start applying broadly and I’m sure you’ll land on your feet but you have to have a good attitude. Complaining about why you were wronged won’t get you anywhere. 

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Absolutely, I need to move on and make the best of the situation. I need to stay on good terms with them. I'm taking tonight to whine and complain, because I think I deserve some cathartic self-pity. 

Another grievance I have, albeit a more constructive one, is that I didn't really learn all I wanted to learn. I want to learn how to close a real estate transaction, yet I work with a VERY stubborn and controlling assistant who doesn't like teaching me. How do I convince them to teach me real estate before my time is up?

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I think you were treated fairly. Most people don’t know they’re hired back until maybe a month and a bit before the end of their term. If anything, they’re generous to tell you now. It will give you enough time to find an associate’s job or at least prepare for that eventuality. 

Articling is never, ever a guarantee to hireback. The default expectation that it would be guaranteed, absent notification otherwise, is incorrect in all cases.

Sorry to hear that you didn’t end up managing your expectations at the start but at least you have time now. 

Edited by Ryn
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1 minute ago, VitaminD said:

How do I convince them to teach me real estate before my time is up?

Ask the partners to do it yourself with input from the assistant and with the lawyers reviewing your work. That way it’s your file. 

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Just now, Ryn said:

Ask the partners to do it yourself with input from the assistant and with the lawyers reviewing your work. That way it’s your file. 

But why would they put in the effort of helping me at this point when they know the relationship's almost over? Especially when it's going to disrupt their practice. 

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2 minutes ago, VitaminD said:

But why would they put in the effort of helping me at this point when they know the relationship's almost over? Especially when it's going to disrupt their practice. 

For the same reason that you're not going to be a douche about the situation and throw a tantrum in the office. Because in this profession, we often do things simply because we're professionals, and there's a right and a wrong way to go about it. Over time, being one of the professionals that goes it right will pay off, and will even become habit-forming. For now, at least, you're still an articling student and they are presumably invested in teaching you properly - not because you'll be their employee for life, but simply because they agreed to do so. Take advantage of it while you can.

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1 minute ago, VitaminD said:

But why would they put in the effort of helping me at this point when they know the relationship's almost over? Especially when it's going to disrupt their practice. 

Because they agreed to train you as an articling student. And most (residential) real estate transactions aren’t so complex that you couldn’t figure it out without a lot of instruction. It’s not much of a burden in my opinion. And in any event the lawyers will need to review it anyway so it’s not like they’re doing so much extra work. 

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9 hours ago, VitaminD said:

Absolutely, I need to move on and make the best of the situation. I need to stay on good terms with them. I'm taking tonight to whine and complain, because I think I deserve some cathartic self-pity. 

Another grievance I have, albeit a more constructive one, is that I didn't really learn all I wanted to learn. I want to learn how to close a real estate transaction, yet I work with a VERY stubborn and controlling assistant who doesn't like teaching me. How do I convince them to teach me real estate before my time is up?

And apologies if I was being harsh or mean that wasn’t my intention. 

I had the same complaint regarding my articling experience. You still have a couple months left I would approach your articling principal and just ask. Hi I’ve done xyz so far but I’m missing this one experience. If there’s an opportunity I’d really love to get involved and help out. I’m sure they’d say yes. 

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14 hours ago, VitaminD said:

In any case, I guess my main grievance is really that had I known about their move (or intended move) earlier, I could've started looking for new positions months ago. I spent this entire winter worried about what would be next for me, and wondering if I should look for associate positions in case they didn't want to hire me back. 

Maybe it's because I assume most articling students haven't ever had a real career, but in the future, whenever you take a job that has a discrete ending date, you should start looking for new opportunities about 2-3 months before the end of that date. Even if you think there's a 100% chance you will get renewed or 'hired back' you should still interview in the wide world to see what opportunities there are.

I can't stress this enough but your career is YOUR career and nobody is going to hand you everything on a platter and let you dig in whilst rewarding you hundreds of thousands of dollars. Either you get in the mindset early on that you and your employer or partners or whomever are each benefiting from the arrangement and you're each balancing your interests, or you learn to accept whatever comes your way and not to bitch about it (ie: you get what you get and you don't get upset).

If you decide to start approaching your career as a potential asset to others that has a cost, you are more likely see your cost and your work in a positive light. You will also understand decisions and circumstances, like the one you find yourself in, have nothing to do with you personally. I can almost guarantee that nothing about what happened at your firm had anything to do with you, and had a shitload more to do with partner trying to shield the other partners from the fact that s/he is leaving.

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My employer did not inform the articling students of hirebacks (and no hirebacks) until a few days before the articling period ended. This was also a structured environment where they had the resources to inform students early on and hireback as many as they wanted.

Nope, I do not think you were treated unfairly whatsoever. 

Have you ever been employed before? Unless you get something in writing and sign the papers, or at least a firm oral promise from someone reliable extending you an offer, you should never presume that your contract has been extended or you have been hired back. Welcome to the real world. 

Edited by Deadpool
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30 minutes ago, celli660 said:

Maybe it's because I assume most articling students haven't ever had a real career, but in the future, whenever you take a job that has a discrete ending date, you should start looking for new opportunities about 2-3 months before the end of that date. Even if you think there's a 100% chance you will get renewed or 'hired back' you should still interview in the wide world to see what opportunities there are.

I can't stress this enough but your career is YOUR career and nobody is going to hand you everything on a platter and let you dig in whilst rewarding you hundreds of thousands of dollars. Either you get in the mindset early on that you and your employer or partners or whomever are each benefiting from the arrangement and you're each balancing your interests, or you learn to accept whatever comes your way and not to bitch about it (ie: you get what you get and you don't get upset).

If you decide to start approaching your career as a potential asset to others that has a cost, you are more likely see your cost and your work in a positive light. You will also understand decisions and circumstances, like the one you find yourself in, have nothing to do with you personally. I can almost guarantee that nothing about what happened at your firm had anything to do with you, and had a shitload more to do with partner trying to shield the other partners from the fact that s/he is leaving.

I had and have been casually browsing job postings online. What held me back from pursing anything was, first, the logistics of taking time off to interview. You would have to make up an excuse for some "appointment" (on top of the legitimate appointments I had), and if the opportunity were outside my community, I'd have to take an entire day off probably. As an articlingi student, you're walking around carefully as it is, so taking a too much time off seemed a terrible idea. What held me back, secondly, was a sense of obligation to my employers, because they, their assistant, the other assistants and other partners had invested a decent amount of time in me. I was just beginning to feel sort of good at my job. As such, leaving right after my articling term lapsed seemed to me like I'd be screwing them over, and I'd be leaving at a time when the prospects of hiring a decent articling student were rapidly diminishing. Plus it would look better on paper the longer I stayed. But in the end, they made the decision for me 😁

Edited by VitaminD
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32 minutes ago, VitaminD said:

I had and have been casually browsing job postings online. What held me back from pursing anything was, first, the logistics of taking time off to interview. You would have to make up an excuse for some "appointment" (on top of the legitimate appointments I had), and if the opportunity were outside my community, I'd have to take an entire day off probably. As an articlingi student, you're walking around carefully as it is, so taking a too much time off seemed a terrible idea. What held me back, secondly, was a sense of obligation to my employers, because they, their assistant, the other assistants and other partners had invested a decent amount of time in me. I was just beginning to feel sort of good at my job. As such, leaving right after my articling term lapsed seemed to me like I'd be screwing them over, and I'd be leaving at a time when the prospects of hiring a decent articling student were rapidly diminishing. Plus it would look better on paper the longer I stayed. But in the end, they made the decision for me 😁

Not really. I was almost assured of a hireback early on in my articles, but they were still not sure and I did not get anything in writing, so I told my employers that I had Associate interviews with other firms and asked if I would be able to take 1 hour off here and there to do the interview. They welcomed my transparency and knew that as articling students, this was a standard process and we needed the job to pay off our student loans, and encouraged me to attend as many interviews as I could. Sounds to me like your entire approach to this was all wrong and you just made excuses for yourself at every turn. 

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27 minutes ago, Deadpool said:

Not really. I was almost assured of a hireback early on in my articles, but they were still not sure and I did not get anything in writing, so I told my employers that I had Associate interviews with other firms and asked if I would be able to take 1 hour off here and there to do the interview. They welcomed my transparency and knew that as articling students, this was a standard process and we needed the job to pay off our student loans, and encouraged me to attend as many interviews as I could. Sounds to me like your entire approach to this was all wrong and you just made excuses for yourself at every turn. 

That's an interesting perspective, and I do wonder what would have happened had I been transparent about my anxieties re: employment. On one hand, I think maybe they would've been upfront with me about their prospective deal and encouraged me to look, but I also think that had the deal not happened, they would've wanted me to stay. I mean, it makes zero sense to hire a new student if new student is going to do the same things I'm doing now, when I'm just getting efficient at my work, and I can probably bring in some work of my own. Or maybe if they thought I really wanted to stay with them, they would've pushed harder for me to join them at the new firm. 

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Some lawyers have no idea how tenuous their employment situation can be. I've heard of a firm with 15-20 lawyers running a continuous negative balance in their general account for over a year.

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