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Non Law Firm Articling (Institutions, Companies)

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Does anyone have any input regarding articling at a company or institution, fulfilling specific roles? Though I know most will go for articling at a firm, I am very much interested in the idea of articling at a place with a differentiated workforce and organizational structure, e.g. articling under an in-house or ideally articling at a regulatory or government agency. 

Does anyone also have any tips on looking for these positions? 

 

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Posted (edited)

I have a few friends who articled or are articling in-house or with government agencies. 

Many of the government agencies participate in either the 2L recruit or, more commonly, the articling recruit. Most of the in-house positions were found via regular job postings, either on the school's CDO job board or via other job boards. Other than scouring job postings for these positions and the usual advice about applying, I don't think there's really any secret to looking for these positions. 

I should note that although I'm quite close with several of these individuals, and have discussed their articling searches with them, I have no personal experience. 

Edited by BlockedQuebecois
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Posted (edited)

I've worked at two companies with legal departments that take law students; one of those companies takes an articling student as well.

The positions are advertised in the usual ways but the companies didn't take part in OCIs; I believe hiring was done a bit later than the normal schedule. 

Applications are taken from any student interested in applying, though I have not seen a 2L secure an articling position this way, like they could with a firm; all the articling students are 3Ls, I think. Summer students have been both 1Ls and 2Ls. Hire backs aren't guaranteed. Though students have been hired back into legal department. It really depends on business needs.

The student usually spends several months with each of the business units and gets exposure to various areas of "business law". A law firm the company has a close relationship with will take the student for a few months to round out the experience with some litigation experience. All things considered, I think it's a very good articling experience for the right person. 

Since there is one position, and we get applications from across Canada (and even some from other countries), it is fairly competitive. The applicants that get interviewed have good grades or some experience or education that sets them a part (or all three). Also, being able to construct a compelling narrative about why you want to do in-house articling is important. It's a non-traditional path so we'll probably be interested in knowing why you want to do this non-traditional path. It's fairly easy to pick out the ppl that just didn't get anything else. 

 

Edited by conge

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Posted (edited)

As someone who took this route, think very very carefully before you pursue an unconventional articling role in a non-firm environment as there are some very clear drawbacks.

  1. Limited scope of work compared to a firm where all of your work will relate to the company/institution's business
    • This isn't an automatic drawback and will depend on the organization in question, but in general you will have more limited articles in a company vs. a firm. In most companies most of your work will be solicitor related meaning you get no experience in court and have a limited amount of exposure to court documents.
      • If you know you didn't want to be a litigator you might think this isn't that bad, but you also get limited exposure to clients and most of your work will not be research intensive.
      • To put the limited exposure in perspective, I had no idea what Clio was until a year after I was called and heard about it while at a CBA meeting.
  2. Limited mobility afterwards
    • This flows from the first issue but your ability to move to a firm is basically non-existent after you are called. Most firm do not want to hire an associate who has no experience in a firm. If you ever want to work in a firm, do not article in-house as you, quite frankly, will not be able to move back into a firm afterwards.
    • It is much easier to move from a firm to in-house than vice versa so even if you are primarily interested in in-house work, it makes sense to start off in a firm first which opens further opportunities later.
    • You also have very limited mobility to other in-house roles. There's a reason most in-house jobs are for senior lawyers or are looking for lawyers with experience from a "top tier law firm". Your previous in-house experience will not look favourable compared to the other applicants coming from big law.
      • Most of your experience will be related to your organization's matters which may not all be transferable. A new organization will also have different needs than your current one.

That being said, I still enjoyed articling in-house. It can be a great experience and is wonderful as long as you recognize the above limitations. If you  know you'll be staying at the organization your article at for the long term then it's a great way to break in.

Lastly, my experience is related to private in-house roles. I don't have experience with public sector government articles so the experience there is likely different and may not come with the same limitations.

Edited by Law1026
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Posted (edited)

One last quick thing that I just thought of but couldn't edit in as it passed the edit window.

This path should really only be considered by those in Toronto or Vancouver (maybe Ottawa as that market seems to be building up there recently) as those are the centres with a lot of in-house opportunity. If you article in-house anywhere else in a private organization, you're basically limiting your career to staying at that organization for the next few years at a minimum. The number of in-house opportunities outside of Toronto/Vancouver are extremely limited.

I have a friend who articled at a small oil and gas company in Regina who was laid off because of COVID. He has found that he is basically screwed as he doesn't have the skills to move into a firm and there are no other in-house opportunities local to him.

Edited by Law1026
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2 hours ago, Law1026 said:

As someone who took this route, think very very carefully before you pursue an unconventional articling role in a non-firm environment as there are some very clear drawbacks.

  1. Limited scope of work compared to a firm where all of your work will relate to the company/institution's business
    • This isn't an automatic drawback and will depend on the organization in question, but in general you will have more limited articles in a company vs. a firm. In most companies most of your work will be solicitor related meaning you get no experience in court and have a limited amount of exposure to court documents.
      • If you know you didn't want to be a litigator you might think this isn't that bad, but you also get limited exposure to clients and most of your work will not be research intensive.
      • To put the limited exposure in perspective, I had no idea what Clio was until a year after I was called and heard about it while at a CBA meeting.
  2. Limited mobility afterwards
    • This flows from the first issue but your ability to move to a firm is basically non-existent after you are called. Most firm do not want to hire an associate who has no experience in a firm. If you ever want to work in a firm, do not article in-house as you, quite frankly, will not be able to move back into a firm afterwards.
    • It is much easier to move from a firm to in-house than vice versa so even if you are primarily interested in in-house work, it makes sense to start off in a firm first which opens further opportunities later.
    • You also have very limited mobility to other in-house roles. There's a reason most in-house jobs are for senior lawyers or are looking for lawyers with experience from a "top tier law firm". Your previous in-house experience will not look favourable compared to the other applicants coming from big law.
      • Most of your experience will be related to your organization's matters which may not all be transferable. A new organization will also have different needs than your current one.

That being said, I still enjoyed articling in-house. It can be a great experience and is wonderful as long as you recognize the above limitations. If you  know you'll be staying at the organization your article at for the long term then it's a great way to break in.

Lastly, my experience is related to private in-house roles. I don't have experience with public sector government articles so the experience there is likely different and may not come with the same limitations.

Are you practicing at the same company you articled for or another in-house role?

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Posted (edited)

Yes I'm still at the same company I articled at, I'm now in year 3 with them (2 years post-call). While I've enjoyed it I've started to look for other opportunities as the company is relatively small and I've pretty much reached my ceiling here. It's because I've started to look elsewhere that I know how tough it is to move laterally coming from an in-house position as a junior lawyer. Firms won't give me the time of day and I'm competing against 5 year calls with big law experience for even entry level in-house roles.

I'm lucky that I enjoy it here so I don't have a huge amount of pressure to move on but if someone who articles in-house didn't like their articles or wasn't hired back afterwards, they'd be in a real tough position.

Edited by Law1026
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12 hours ago, Law1026 said:

As someone who took this route, think very very carefully before you pursue an unconventional articling role in a non-firm environment as there are some very clear drawbacks.

  1. Limited scope of work compared to a firm where all of your work will relate to the company/institution's business
    • This isn't an automatic drawback and will depend on the organization in question, but in general you will have more limited articles in a company vs. a firm. In most companies most of your work will be solicitor related meaning you get no experience in court and have a limited amount of exposure to court documents.
      • If you know you didn't want to be a litigator you might think this isn't that bad, but you also get limited exposure to clients and most of your work will not be research intensive.
      • To put the limited exposure in perspective, I had no idea what Clio was until a year after I was called and heard about it while at a CBA meeting.
  2. Limited mobility afterwards
    • This flows from the first issue but your ability to move to a firm is basically non-existent after you are called. Most firm do not want to hire an associate who has no experience in a firm. If you ever want to work in a firm, do not article in-house as you, quite frankly, will not be able to move back into a firm afterwards.
    • It is much easier to move from a firm to in-house than vice versa so even if you are primarily interested in in-house work, it makes sense to start off in a firm first which opens further opportunities later.
    • You also have very limited mobility to other in-house roles. There's a reason most in-house jobs are for senior lawyers or are looking for lawyers with experience from a "top tier law firm". Your previous in-house experience will not look favourable compared to the other applicants coming from big law.
      • Most of your experience will be related to your organization's matters which may not all be transferable. A new organization will also have different needs than your current one.

That being said, I still enjoyed articling in-house. It can be a great experience and is wonderful as long as you recognize the above limitations. If you  know you'll be staying at the organization your article at for the long term then it's a great way to break in.

Lastly, my experience is related to private in-house roles. I don't have experience with public sector government articles so the experience there is likely different and may not come with the same limitations.

Just wanted to comment that this is not going to be the experience of those in every in-house situation. As with firms, not every in-house position is going to provide the same type of experience or opportunities.  The scope of work is not always limited in-house and it is not always unlimited and varied if you article at a firm. You will not always get an opportunity to experience litigation at a firm either. 

As for mobility after the articling year, this may be an issue for any articling student who is not hired back, regardless of what type of employer they had. To say that your ability to move to a firm is basically non-existent is just plain wrong. I know several lawyers who articled in-house, some of whom stayed on as an associate for a period of time afterwards, and who later found work within a firm. To speak in such absolutes as to say that you will not be able to move back to a firm after an in-house experience is not helpful, and it isn't accurate for all.

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On 7/5/2020 at 8:27 PM, Law1026 said:

As someone who took this route, think very very carefully before you pursue an unconventional articling role in a non-firm environment as there are some very clear drawbacks.

  1. Limited scope of work compared to a firm where all of your work will relate to the company/institution's business
    • This isn't an automatic drawback and will depend on the organization in question, but in general you will have more limited articles in a company vs. a firm. In most companies most of your work will be solicitor related meaning you get no experience in court and have a limited amount of exposure to court documents.
      • If you know you didn't want to be a litigator you might think this isn't that bad, but you also get limited exposure to clients and most of your work will not be research intensive.
      • To put the limited exposure in perspective, I had no idea what Clio was until a year after I was called and heard about it while at a CBA meeting.
  2. Limited mobility afterwards
    • This flows from the first issue but your ability to move to a firm is basically non-existent after you are called. Most firm do not want to hire an associate who has no experience in a firm. If you ever want to work in a firm, do not article in-house as you, quite frankly, will not be able to move back into a firm afterwards.
    • It is much easier to move from a firm to in-house than vice versa so even if you are primarily interested in in-house work, it makes sense to start off in a firm first which opens further opportunities later.
    • You also have very limited mobility to other in-house roles. There's a reason most in-house jobs are for senior lawyers or are looking for lawyers with experience from a "top tier law firm". Your previous in-house experience will not look favourable compared to the other applicants coming from big law.
      • Most of your experience will be related to your organization's matters which may not all be transferable. A new organization will also have different needs than your current one.

That being said, I still enjoyed articling in-house. It can be a great experience and is wonderful as long as you recognize the above limitations. If you  know you'll be staying at the organization your article at for the long term then it's a great way to break in.

Lastly, my experience is related to private in-house roles. I don't have experience with public sector government articles so the experience there is likely different and may not come with the same limitations.

A lot of this ring true for me. But it's worth mentioning that (1) not all in-house jobs are created equal, and some of things you said do not hold true for positions at large corporations, IMHO and (2) I would discourage ppl from thinking that you can only get good in-house jobs in TO and Van - there are more good jobs in TO/Van, but there are many large, publicly traded (and private) companies in regional areas that can present great opportunities. 

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I articled in-house at a municipal government and now work at a private firm doing comparable work. I've never had a disparaging comment about my articles and for many public law or administrative law related practice areas, specialized in-house experience is generally how many people get started. My articles were probably an advantage because I didn't have to waste time doing rotations in other practice areas which I had no interest and which have become irrelevant to what I actually do now. 

I have heard from colleagues that it is different when you work in-house for a corporation, when the in-house legal department has a more limited mandate, so there might be some stigma there. But all in-house positions are different, and in insurance defence, for example, working in-house for an insurer has never seemed to be an issue for colleagues I know. 

You just apply for government positions like any other. I've seen very rare examples however where people at the summer student level approached municipalities for positions and were later hired back without a more formal recruit

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