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Hi folks, this is obviously a throwaway account for a few reasons, which I have cleared with Hegdis prior to posting. 

I'm looking for some advice in terms of the next steps I should take in my career, and am hoping those of you with experience can chime in. This is a bit of a long story, so hold on to your hats here.

Since I was a kid, I had always wanted to go to law school, and frankly, always wanted to do criminal law. As I approached law school, and even entered 1L, I heard the refrain time and time again to keep an open mind and that often what you enter wanting to practice isn't what you may enjoy. In 1L I actually really did enjoy my Criminal Law course, and I participated in a moot on a criminal issue and felt really good about it (I did well in it too).

But somewhere I went wrong. In the process of "keeping an open mind" I frankly think I let others sway me away from what I was actually interested in. It may have been constantly hearing about the money you could make in corporate, or how hard criminal law is, or really even just worrying myself about what others would think of my decision to forego the corporate recruit, but I decided to move towards the path of being a corporate lawyer. 

 And frankly, some of the corporate stuff I learned I really enjoyed, and it definitely made me want to at least try it out in practice. Despite a B+ average, including a smattering of A's in various courses, I was unable to get a job in 1L or 2L I struck out in the recruit. I ended up securing an articling job in March of 3L, doing 90% corporate commercial work, with some other stuff mixed in. Pretty much zero litigation (I drafted some documents for an ADR matter and did some research related to a dispute, no court/tribunal time). I figured it would be a good experience. I had gotten some idea of what litigation would look like in law school (took some courses, mooted, etc.) and wanted some transacational experience. It was also March and I was frankly desperate to secure articles. You may be able to see where this is going.  

I hate it. 

Like, really hate it. 

Really, it comes down to three things that I don't like. The job isn't personal. The job isn't complex. And the work I'm doing doesn't feel meaningful. I can definitely expand on those headings if I need to, but that's really what it comes down to. 

I feel like I'd be a lot happier in a litigation role, where I could feel like I'm using my brain, put my public speaking skills to use, and actually have something to fight over with a result that means something significant to a client. Specifically, I'm thinking a move to Criminal/PI/Union/Employee side Labour and Employment litigation would check some of the boxes that seem to be missing from my current job (I'm really interested in criminal, if I'm being honest). 

So here's the question, what would you do in my situation? How would you sell yourself? Are there firms out there that will let you "pay the bills" with your corp/comm experience while you gain litigation experience? If I gain civil lit experience can I make a move to criminal? Should I hang my own defence shingle when I get called, look for some mentors, and grind? Is there a path for me, or should I just work as a solicitor for 4 years, pay off my loans, and leave the profession? Am I overthinking this completely?

I'm aware I'm fighting an uphill battle, and if I could go back and do it again I would. But I'm looking for a way forward now, and am hoping someone here can provide some guidance to a person who has definitely gone down a path and realized (thankfully at the beginning of their career) that it isn't what they want. 

Happy to provide additional info, if it'll make a difference. 

Thanks. 
 

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I may be biased, given that I’ve worked in 3 very different areas of law since graduating law school 8 years ago, but I think that the difficulty from transitioning from one area to another is overblown. Apply to jobs in different areas and see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised. I haven’t done the switch between solicitor work and litigation — I have always been a litigator — and that may be more difficult, but brand new calls still have an absolute ton to learn and no employer will think otherwise.

I would not recommend going out on your own as a new call in criminal defence, unless you have some solid support/mentorship, AND the personal circumstances that would allow you to make under 30K per year for the first 3 years. I get it. I summered and articled in criminal defence work, and it was what I wanted to do throughout law school. I gave that up fast. I continued working in criminal law for a few years post-articling and decided that it wasn’t worth it for me. No regrets. Going out on your own is a difficult path — some do it with success, but I’d explore every other option first. If you think you could be happy in PI or Labour and Employment, then I’d look there first. I don’t know where you are, but in B.C. (at least pre-COVID) PI and Insurance Defence firms are desperate to hire. The bottom is falling out of that market in the next few years due to legislative changes, but you’d get a few years of solid experience in before that happens and employers are not in a position to be too picky. 

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Can I ask what got you out of criminal? It’s not a story we hear often and would be a good balance. 
 

Only if you want to share of course. 

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I think you need to learn to trust yourself more. A few things you mentioned in your post, about decisions you have made, tells me that you let external forces and sometimes negative emotions guide you.  Law is a service profession and your career is what you make of it. It really is all in your hands now. We have posters like Malicious Prosecutor here who started his career as a corporate securities lawyer before making the switch to criminal law. It can be done but you need to believe you can do it, you need to want to do it, and you need to hustle. 

 If you want to do criminal law, find work in this area of law - ANYWHERE - even if it is in a small town. Nothing in life is certain. No one knows where your career will take you. No one can offer you any guarantees. But give yourself a shot and see where this path takes you. You have not even started your career yet to quit now. Make your childhood dream a reality. Don't quit. Do you want to quit on your aspirations now, then look back on your life years down the road and be filled with regrets? 

I know this isn't the advice you're looking for, and others can guide you better on making the switch from corporate to criminal/litigation careers, but I thought I'd share this pep talk with you because I think you could benefit from it. Trust yourself more to make the right decisions for YOU, because then if you fail or decide this is not what you want, you will know that you at least tried. The uphill battle you are fighting is only with yourself. Stop that NOW. Start networking with the criminal bar in your region and look for any experiences you can gain. Good luck. You'll be fine. 

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14 hours ago, Lola O. said:

I may be biased, given that I’ve worked in 3 very different areas of law since graduating law school 8 years ago, but I think that the difficulty from transitioning from one area to another is overblown. Apply to jobs in different areas and see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised. I haven’t done the switch between solicitor work and litigation — I have always been a litigator — and that may be more difficult, but brand new calls still have an absolute ton to learn and no employer will think otherwise.

I appreciate the response. Thanks. 

 

13 hours ago, Deadpool said:

I think you need to learn to trust yourself more. A few things you mentioned in your post, about decisions you have made, tells me that you let external forces and sometimes negative emotions guide you...

I know this isn't the advice you're looking for, and others can guide you better on making the switch from corporate to criminal/litigation careers, but I thought I'd share this pep talk with you because I think you could benefit from it. Trust yourself more to make the right decisions for YOU, because then if you fail or decide this is not what you want, you will know that you at least tried. The uphill battle you are fighting is only with yourself. Stop that NOW. Start networking with the criminal bar in your region and look for any experiences you can gain. Good luck. You'll be fine. 

I certainly think the first part of your post is correct. I wish I had shut out more of the noise throughout law school, but alas here I am. It's actually advice that I was atleast partially looking forward, and it's a bit of a comfort to know I'm not yet doomed. So thanks. 

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