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Articling Help (merges)

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Just a stressful articling student looking for help here. I am into my third-month articling. I work at a small boutique firm, where we only have one lawyer. I feel so stressful because it is very hard to work with the lawyer. He is basically talking down to me every day and often belittles me in different ways. To make things even worse, he doesn't care so much about some of his clients too. I often finish legal drafting early and wait until his review at the last minute before the deadline. 

He also has the tendency to shift the blames on me. It makes me feel so uncomfortable. I am not so sure whether as an articling student, we will be liable for any negligence or not. I have been thinking about quitting the job every day. I have talked with my friends and they told me to suck it up and try to finish this, considering the job market. This is a paid position and the pay is decent for a small firm. However, I feel that I have been so depressed since I started to work here. For so many times, I really want to tell my principal that I want to quit. Can anyone tell me if I can quit on my part? What if my principal does not approve of any assignment? Will my almost three-month articling with him be acknowledged by the LSO? 

Should I quit or I should just suck it up. Please tell me that I am not alone. Thank you. 

Edited by apoorlawstudent

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Check the LSO rules re: terminating articles. In BC articles have to be mutually terminated, I don't know about Ontario.

I'm inclined to also tell you to tough it out and gtfo the moment you complete your articles. If you quit, it could take you months to find a new position, you may lose all 3 months of progress you've made so far, and you might get paid less (or nothing at all).

This might be a "better the devil you know than the devil you don't" situation.

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Copying my comment over from the previous post:

Check the LSO rules re: terminating articles. In BC articles have to be mutually terminated, I don't know about Ontario.

I'm inclined to also tell you to tough it out and gtfo the moment you complete your articles. If you quit, it could take you months to find a new position, you may lose all 3 months of progress you've made so far, and you might get paid less (or nothing at all).

This might be a "better the devil you know than the devil you don't" situation.

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I’m so sorry you’re going through this. If you can bear it, I would also be inclined to encourage you to stay unless it really is unbearable. Only you know what you can tolerate and if your mental health is truly taking a hit and you find yourself getting depressed then leave. No position is worth your health and no one should work in an environment where they are put down on a regular basis. Are you in Ontario? If so you’ll benefit from a shortened articling term as I think this year the requirement has been reduced from 10 months to 8 months. Do your 5 remaining months, get called and then figure it out from there. 

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Thanks healthlaw. On my articleship form, I signed 10 months. It seems that my principal is satisfied with my work. I hope I can just finish in 5 months but I don't know whether he would allow it then. 

Edited by apoorlawstudent

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Hey it can suck. Sometimes the fit isn’t right. If you can, hang  in there. If you can’t, take a deep breath and look into how to end things properly. 

I want you to imagine ten years from now. You are out at dinner with some friends and a new Call anxious to fit in. You tell them you had a tough time but _________ and here you are today. 

This is a brief period of your life. Keep perspective. Keep your eye on the goal: getting Called. 

There are no wrong choices here. If you push through without unacceptable injury to yourself, do it. If that isn’t an option, look into quitting. Be careful, be considerate, and be honest with yourself. 

And good luck. We are here. 

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yes I have. Each time I talked with him, he would be nicer to me for a few days. After that, he would be back to who he is again. I know it's not personal. He treats others in a very harsh way too. He sometimes even talks down to some clients. 

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For whatever it's worth, the one thing I can say for sure right now is that you aren't alone in the experience of having bad and stressful articles, in not getting along with your articling principal, and in wanting to quit. So if it helps to hear that, I can guarantee that much is definitely true. But that's the limit of what I know for sure right now.

Based on what you are writing here, I can't tell if you're dealing with the ordinary stresses of a difficult job or if you actually have a real problem. I mean, I get that any problem is real. But it isn't obvious to me you have a problem here beyond how you feel about your job, your boss, and your work environment.

If you can, I'd encourage you to find someone (ideally another lawyer) outside of your workplace but familiar with your area of law and discuss things with them candidly. You simply can't give enough detail here (and I wouldn't encourage you to - seriously, don't) for me or anyone else here to know for certain what's going on. Based on what I hear so far, it sounds more likely to be an ordinary sort of job you don't like. But there could be deeper problems, too.

Again, just for perspective, at least most of what you are citing here falls within the ordinary sorts of things that happen in legal work all the time. Finishing things right before a deadline and no sooner? I can barely remember the last thing I finished significantly before a deadline. That's life in this sort of work. I mean, if you figure out that your boss is completely screwing up files and damaging clients' interests, now that is a problem. But that isn't what I'm hearing right now.

Anyway, get some perspective from someone you can be more candid with. That's the best advice I've got for you.

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I agree with all the posters above, but none of them directly addressed your mental health. You said you have been so depressed since you started there, and I don't know if you meant depressed depressed. Either way, your post reads like that may be an issue at play.

Depression and/or anxiety can make it really hard to take the above advice to heart and just put your head down and get through it with the end in sight. Extended periods of feeling the way you described at work can make it harder and harder to brush off your boss being harsh. It can also make it hard to think objectively and depersonalize how you see his actions.

Anyway, I don't think you should quit, or suck it up. I think you need a middle strategy.

Check out the Law Society Member Assistance Program. I'm not sure what exactly they offer, but I know they have free counselling among other things. 

Do some self-assessment - is your mental health suffering because of this, and is there anything you can do other than quitting to improve it? Not to say that his treatment of you is okay, but you can't control his behaviour, and aside from your mental health, quitting is likely not the best outcome for you. If you've struggled with mental health issues before, are you doing everything that has worked for you? If not, get back into/onto those things, and either way look into what works for other people. 

Mindfulness exercises, cognitive behaviour therapy, journaling, counselling/therapy, talking to your doctor about medication/medication changes, plus the classic: sleep, enriching leisure activities, exercise, good nutrition, time with loved ones, avoiding substances, reducing social media scrolling. 

Without more information, if it were me or someone I care about, I'd suggest imagining a time period that seems doable for the job now - it sounds like you're looking ahead at 7 more months, and that seems like too long, but how about 2 months? Decide you'll reassess in 8-10 weeks, and during that time focus on trying every strategy to improve your mental health and life outside of work. Make it a fun side project (or pick up another fun side project, for that matter). 

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The job market is really bad right now, I am sitting on a hiring committee for a government job and we got three times the number of applicants we normally get. We screened out new call lawyers with solid backgrounds for not having enough experience for an entry level position.

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On 9/22/2020 at 9:30 PM, apoorlawstudent said:

Just a stressful articling student looking for help here. I am into my third-month articling. I work at a small boutique firm, where we only have one lawyer. I feel so stressful because it is very hard to work with the lawyer. He is basically talking down to me every day and often belittles me in different ways. To make things even worse, he doesn't care so much about some of his clients too. I often finish legal drafting early and wait until his review at the last minute before the deadline. 

He also has the tendency to shift the blames on me. It makes me feel so uncomfortable. I am not so sure whether as an articling student, we will be liable for any negligence or not. I have been thinking about quitting the job every day. I have talked with my friends and they told me to suck it up and try to finish this, considering the job market. This is a paid position and the pay is decent for a small firm. However, I feel that I have been so depressed since I started to work here. For so many times, I really want to tell my principal that I want to quit. Can anyone tell me if I can quit on my part? What if my principal does not approve of any assignment? Will my almost three-month articling with him be acknowledged by the LSO? 

Should I quit or I should just suck it up. Please tell me that I am not alone. Thank you. 

I just want to provide an opinion on the first of these sentences and some perspective on the second.

First: there is no requirement for a lawyer to care about their clients. I have had clients where I would not care whatsoever if they walked out of my office and directly into an open manhole. There are requirements to act with integrity, provide competent services, avoid conflicts of interest, etc.

Second: it's very common for a lawyer to review work completed by other employees very close to a deadline. I am often reviewing files staff have put together while my clients are sitting in the waiting room. It's just the nature of some types of practice. It's true that this does not work well with a teaching model. 

And generally, harsh but valuable criticism can sometimes feel like belittlement or blame shifting. Maybe your boss is terrible, maybe not, but keep in mind that in a matter of months you will be a lawyer and the blame will have nowhere to go but squarely on your shoulders.

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22 hours ago, BringBackCrunchBerries said:

I have had clients where I would not care whatsoever if they walked out of my office and directly into an open manhole.

I would care about this. I'm always looking for things to chuckle at over lunch.

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