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LuckyCommander

Interesting Firm Cultures?

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Instead of studying for my final midterm, I decided to chat with you lot! 

Since starting law school, I have had the chance to not only visit various firms in Toronto, but also speak to lawyers and students who work at many different Toronto firms. One thing that I have noticed is that culture is 100% a thing. For example, one firm I visited felt like a hockey/football locker room with all the banter flying around. Another firm felt like a tech start-up (for lack of a better analogy), with the way everyone was so casual in style and speech. 

What are some interesting firm cultures that you have come across? What are the weirdest? What are some of your favourites? You don't have to name the firms if you don't feel comfortable and they do not have to be Toronto firms. Let's banter!

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there was one seven-sisters firm where it was told to me (so take this with a grain of salt) that many of the (male) associates were sleeping with the (female) summer associates 🤷‍♂️

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15 hours ago, katurian said:

there was one seven-sisters firm where it was told to me (so take this with a grain of salt) that many of the (male) associates were sleeping with the (female) summer associates 🤷‍♂️

You were told this by someone at the firm?  Summer student classes aren’t even that big. And if I didn’t already have doubts that this was true, the fact that you referred to students at a seven sister firm as “summer associates” makes this post really suspect. 

Sure firms have cultures but don’t spread stupid rumours 

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My old firm had an absurdly collegial atmosphere for a mid-size firm.  Weekly associate lunches.  Organized teams in multiple sports.  I went swimming in two separate partner's backyards at firm parties.  

Though none of this would be apparent to outsiders, nor was it my impression when I initially interviewed. 

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My experience was that all firms generally had the same culture: work absurd numbers of hours and make lots of money.

Yes, maybe one firm was more likely to hire ex-athletes, whereas another was slightly more likely to hire based on grades.  But each firm would have such a wide range of characters and personalities within it that the variation between practice groups within a firm was greater than the variation between firms as a whole.

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10 hours ago, healthlaw said:

You were told this by someone at the firm?  Summer student classes aren’t even that big. And if I didn’t already have doubts that this was true, the fact that you referred to students at a seven sister firm as “summer associates” makes this post really suspect. 

Sure firms have cultures but don’t spread stupid rumours 

I've heard the same about another large bay st firm's summer close. Source: people who were in the class

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10 hours ago, healthlaw said:

  Summer student classes aren’t even that big.

There are classes on Bay up to 30 people. But i'm not really sure how class size matters anyways if it is one student.

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I interviewed with 6 large bay st firms during in firm week, 4 of them 'seven sisters'. I could see that some firms hired a certain type of personality, and or had a certain vibe, and you could also tell a lot by the firms interview style. 

I have a suspect for the firm you say had all the banter flying around, but either way, it doesn't make it any less, or any better than other firms. Some students like that culture, some don't. That why it's up to the student to see where they think they fit, and to not go to a firm just based on the name/prestige. 

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My two cents: you don't get a good sense of a firm's actual culture until a few months into articling. 

Anyone who's still in law school and telling you about a firm's culture is basing it on either second hand information or a very limited amount of time at the firm.

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In my experience, cultures differ at the practice group level rather than at the firm level. Our IP group, for instance, has a discernibly different culture than our employment group, which in turn has a different culture than our corporate group (and within our corporate group, there are differences between our sub-groups). Our tax group seems to be from another planet (kidding, sort of).

Edited by Rearden
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10 minutes ago, Rearden said:

In my experience, cultures differ at the practice group level rather than at the firm level. Our IP group, for instance, has a discernibly different culture than our employment group, which in turn has a different culture than our corporate group (and within our corporate group, there are differences between our sub-groups). Our tax group seems to be from another planet (kidding, sort of).

Makes you wonder what the hell firms are thinking when they hire students firm wide, as opposed to into specific practice areas. Law needs to stop trying to be so generalist when the best very much seem to be specialists.

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30 minutes ago, pzabbythesecond said:

Makes you wonder what the hell firms are thinking when they hire students firm wide, as opposed to into specific practice areas. Law needs to stop trying to be so generalist when the best very much seem to be specialists.

The issue is that many (I would say most) students don’t know what area they want to practice in (or at least aren’t willing to commit to a practice area during interviews), which is totally understandable.

If a candidate expresses an interest in an area, that’s great. If you’re an engineering undergrad and a self-professed IP diehard, we’ll do our best to put you in front of IP lawyers during the interview process (and accommodate that interest, to the extent possible, during your summer and articling experiences).

But the reality is that most people aren’t diehard IP people. Some are wavering between litigation and corporate. Some are really interested in corporate but half way through articling figure out that employment is the better fit. And even if you’re diehard corporate, you might not know (again, understandable, since you’re  most likely a greenhorn) whether you’re interested in insolvency vs. competition vs. securities vs. early stage company work.

Bottom line is that most candidates don’t know what area they want to practice in and that firms, try as they might, aren’t omniscient. All of that boils down to the reality that firms have to use summer and articling programs to filter people into practice groups.

 

Edited by Rearden
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3 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

Makes you wonder what the hell firms are thinking when they hire students firm wide, as opposed to into specific practice areas. Law needs to stop trying to be so generalist when the best very much seem to be specialists.

Huh? Law students don't know fuck all. The reason they hire them is to find out where they fit in, at which point they're forced to...specialize. In fact, big firms seem to do exactly what you suggest, more than any small firm would.

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My firm is full of hipsters and nerds. But I don’t mean that in a bad way. They’re exactly my sort of people. Bro culture, which, to an extent, I find annoying, is not really a thing. (Some) people walk around in flannel. We’re generally not competitive amongst ourselves. It’s quite lovely. I’ve worked at other firms, and did not particularly enjoy their ways of life. 

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On 12/18/2019 at 9:02 AM, healthlaw said:

You were told this by someone at the firm?  Summer student classes aren’t even that big. And if I didn’t already have doubts that this was true, the fact that you referred to students at a seven sister firm as “summer associates” makes this post really suspect. 

Sure firms have cultures but don’t spread stupid rumours 

is it really that hard to believe that adults have sex? grow up. 

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16 minutes ago, katurian said:

is it really that hard to believe that adults have sex? grow up. 

The issue is power imbalance; summer students with employees who depending upon the firm, might be able to prevent someone from being hired later for articling or otherwise affect a potential future career. And I assume @healthlaw point was that, lawyers knowing of concerns regarding such relationships involving power imbalances, it was unlikely both that it would happen extensively and that if it did happen that someone at the firm would tell someone interviewing there about it. Hence the reasonable assumption that it was rumormongering.

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6 minutes ago, epeeist said:

The issue is power imbalance; summer students with employees who depending upon the firm, might be able to prevent someone from being hired later for articling or otherwise affect a potential future career. And I assume @healthlaw point was that, lawyers knowing of concerns regarding such relationships involving power imbalances, it was unlikely both that it would happen extensively and that if it did happen that someone at the firm would tell someone interviewing there about it. Hence the reasonable assumption that it was rumormongering.

Ah, yes, well, that is a better point than what I understood their point to be. 

Edited by katurian

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On 12/17/2019 at 4:42 PM, ForensicAnthropology said:

out of curiosity, if you're comfortable telling me, what firm felt like a hockey/football locker room with all the banter flying around?

I’ll answer this privately. 

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On 12/18/2019 at 10:36 PM, Rearden said:

In my experience, cultures differ at the practice group level rather than at the firm level. Our IP group, for instance, has a discernibly different culture than our employment group, which in turn has a different culture than our corporate group (and within our corporate group, there are differences between our sub-groups). Our tax group seems to be from another planet (kidding, sort of).

That’s something that I haven’t considered. I’ve only really networked deeply with boutique firms. This is good to know for full-service firms. Thanks for this!

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