Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
chchchchill

Articling Student Given No Work/Billing 1 Hr a Day

Recommended Posts

I started my articles at a firm with three other lawyers in May. Sadly, I spend a lot of my days scrolling on my phone or reading the news because I'm barely receiving work. To make things worse, we do have to bill our time and I've been billing about 1-2 hours a day on average.

I've sent emails and knocked on the lawyers' doors every couple days to remind them I'm even here and am willing (and eager) to work on anything, even administrative tasks, but they will usually give me some minor assignment that takes an hour and forget about me again. They're all very nice and have expressed my work is good, so no issue there.

 

Should I just sit back for the year, twiddle my thumbs until I get called, and accept that they're not going to hire me back because there's not enough work to go around? I'm starting to feel like an annoyance to the lawyers when I ask for work so I've dialed it back. This seems like such a strange problem to have.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does your firm have a website with a blog? If so, ask if you can publish something. If not, ask if you can start one.

  • Like 8

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, chchchchill said:

I started my articles at a firm with three other lawyers in May. Sadly, I spend a lot of my days scrolling on my phone or reading the news because I'm barely receiving work. To make things worse, we do have to bill our time and I've been billing about 1-2 hours a day on average.

I've sent emails and knocked on the lawyers' doors every couple days to remind them I'm even here and am willing (and eager) to work on anything, even administrative tasks, but they will usually give me some minor assignment that takes an hour and forget about me again. They're all very nice and have expressed my work is good, so no issue there.

 

Should I just sit back for the year, twiddle my thumbs until I get called, and accept that they're not going to hire me back because there's not enough work to go around? I'm starting to feel like an annoyance to the lawyers when I ask for work so I've dialed it back. This seems like such a strange problem to have.

Are you the only one having this issue? Have you spoken with the others to see if they are equally busy?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, JadedSpade said:

Are you the only one having this issue? Have you spoken with the others to see if they are equally busy?

I'm the only articling student. The lawyers appear to be at least somewhat busy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, setto said:

Does your firm have a website with a blog? If so, ask if you can publish something. If not, ask if you can start one.

Their website is pretty sad and extremely basic. It's only three other lawyers, so they don't do a lot of marketing through their website to begin with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 minutes ago, chchchchill said:

Their website is pretty sad and extremely basic. It's only three other lawyers, so they don't do a lot of marketing through their website to begin with.

Sounds like an opportunity to demonstrate some initiative! 

Set a meeting with one of the lawyers and propose a blog post in their field that could drum up some business. Write the blog, have them review it and co-author it. Post it and share on LinkedIn, Facebook etc. 

Worst case scenario: nobody clicks it. But it is a LOT better for your firm and your practice/professional development, than scrolling through your phone. 

  • Like 7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, chchchchill said:

Their website is pretty sad and extremely basic. It's only three other lawyers, so they don't do a lot of marketing through their website to begin with.

I second what @setto said. I am not a lawyer (just a disclaimer) yet, but I think this is the perfect opportunity to work on the development of your firm website. Maybe even including bios of the lawyers at the firm, as a way to help get to know them and the kind of skills they have. It will keep you busy and show the lawyers that you're pretty entrepreneurial. It's literally better than doing nothing.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a similar experience when I started articling - for the first month or two, I was getting very little work, despite repeatedly asking for things to do. I started in the summer, and a number of the lawyers told me there simply wasn't that much work going around. Still, I was concerned because: 1) I felt like I wasn't getting the experience I needed; and 2) I was expected to hit target billables. Ultimately, the problem fixed itself within a few months, and I ended up getting plenty of work. 

A few things I did in the meantime: enrolled in CPD programming; attended court to watch motions, trials, etc.; reviewed my firm's precedents and prepared some helpful guides for myself; and asked the lawyers to tag along on appearances or sit in on client meetings. Though this didn't solve the "billable" problem, I at least felt like I was being productive and taking advantage of learning opportunities. 

Definitely keep offering to take on work (from any of the lawyers and in any practice area). Keep a record of your offers to do work. That way, if you get comments that your billables aren't up to par, you can show that you've been proactive and your lack of billables isn't due to a lack of effort.  

  • Like 9

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Assuming you’re being paid reasonably, the firm isn’t just going to throw money at you and have you sit there. There may be work you see the lawyers doing, but it may not be something they can hand off to an articling student. 

My (limited) experience seems to suggest that summers can be pretty slow for certain areas of practice and things pick back up in the fall. 

Your principal has an obligation to train you, so assuming they intend to, I’d wait out the (potentially) slow time and engage in some of the proactive things others have suggested in the meantime. I think there’s a decent likelihood that work will pick up in the next couple of months (I make this assumption based on the fact that they hired you in the first place).

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Depending on geographic area, websites aren't really all that useful. Is it a litigation firm? If so, ask to go shadow them in court or whether you can observe some conferences. 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, artsydork said:

Depending on geographic area, websites aren't really all that useful. Is it a litigation firm? If so, ask to go shadow them in court or whether you can observe some conferences. 

 

It's just outside the city so we cater to a more rural (and older) crowd. I just can't see the firm understanding the value of starting a blog.

Yes, we do some litigation and it's a practice area I'm interested in. I should definitely ask to observe more court appearances, even if I'm not getting to participate. I will have to be more proactive about outright asking to come along rather than just waiting for an invite, even if I've already expressed my interest in the past.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You could also look to start a precedent database of commonly used materials in the practice, taking time to read through them as well to get an idea for substance and style.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was articling in a small town in southwestern Ontario, population 55,000, there would occasionally be really slow periods for me when my department did not have a really pressing litigation file on hand. My articling principal would be busy with other work, and there wouldn't be an opportunity for me to ask for more work for a couple of days. During these times I would review forms and precedents, do some general reading to prepare myself for upcoming files, and would ask law clerks whether I could help them with their work. If I still had a few active or recently completed files, I would take extra time to write a more comprehensive memo and chuck it into a database that my department was building for general legal opinions. At first I would really stress out, but eventually you do enough 60-hour weeks that you accept a couple of 25-hour weeks is fine, and a normal part of the business cycle (and helpful for staying sane). This was in the legal department of a municipal corporation, so the structure is a little different than a firm, but I think the point is the same. You might consider trying to bring in your own clients, even just on a casual basis, from social spaces you participate in, which in a small town would likely be a church. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Articling started pretty slow for me and have some dull times but there are things to do:  go to court, read old files, review some fun cases on line, look at other local lawyer profiles to get a sense of who you are working with etc... 

The blog suggestion is pretty on point too.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.



×
×
  • Create New...