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Gigi27

Finding articling despite very bad odds?

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I am hoping to find some people here on the forum that went through a similar experience as I did, or at least to get some advice.

I am currently a 3L with a terrible GPA in law school. In 1L, I began law school full of ambition while gloating over my 3.9 GPA from my undergrad. I had every intention to secure a Bay Street job in the first summer after 1L (which rarely happens to begin with, I know that now), and wasn't going to settle for anything less. 
Needless to say,  things did not go as I planned. I had to move away from home for law school, and during that year I was dealing with a multitude of personal issues that affected my performance (health issues of a family member that required me to travel back and forth few times a week, accompanying financial issue, and resulting pressure on my overall mental health). In other words... I was a wreck. 
I ended up with a solid C average (ranging between Cs and B, but more heavily weighted on the Cs). 
Some of these issues were resolved by my second year, and I did better (B average), until the pandemic began and I ended up with pass grades for my second term (which did not work to my advantage, as it left my GPA right where it was). 
Naturally, I did not get a single interview during the OCIs or the recent Toronto articling recruitment. Despite my best efforts, I don't expect this to change, as employers tend to look at 1L for the obvious reason that these are foundational courses (even if I have an A in securities, it's hard to overlook a C in contracts, I understand that). The rest of my application is pretty strong (law school involvement, internships, great reference letters etc..), but that does not seem enough for employers to disregard my previous grades. I have tried pretty much everything at this point, including approaching the school and asking if I can re-do 1L - yes, I would be willing to do that all over again as my circumstances are completely different now, but apparently it is not an option like it was in undergrad. 

I am also having difficulties speaking with my peers about that, as most have successfully found articling positions. I don't have any connections to people who work at more senior positions at firms, and networking opportunities are somewhat limited this year. I am open to start my own practice eventually, but I am not looking to do that straight out of law school, as I don't think it will be beneficial. 

I am sure that there are other people on this forum who have had a similar experience. I was hoping that someone could advise on how they still managed to get an articling position, and later, a job in law that they like, despite the odds being against them? 

I love the law and everything about it, and don't want to give it up as I can't imagine doing anything else. But I am also extremely stressed about the prospect of wasting the next 2-3 years of my life frantically looking for a job. 
My worst nightmare is to end up at a banking job and keep telling everyone for the rest of my life that I actually have a law degree. 😕

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.



 

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The first thing you need to figure out is what you want to do, there are plenty of firms that care little about grades, but you need to care about something other than "law".

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Agree entirely with Mal, and let me add this further context.

I have no idea why you imagined you wanted a job on Bay Street, other than that it's the most competitive thing and the thing you're supposed to want. I'm about to throw an unassailable truism at you, and it's going to be a gut punch but it's impossible to argue with this. It's a mistake for all students to go after what's most competitive only because it's what's most competitive. That leads many students down paths that they later regret. But it's especially defeating when you are not, objectively, a competitive applicant. The silver lining in this may be that unlike an actually competitive applicant, you're forced to confront the problem now rather than later.

Try defining everything you actually like about legal practice and what you hope and want to do with a law degree. And for fuck's sake, divorce this from what you think other people want, what you think looks most impressive on a CV, etc. What do you actually want to do with your career?

People will have more intelligent advice after you do that.

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Keep applying and don’t give up hope. Plenty of (perfectly good, sometimes top notch boutique) firms hire students after the formal articling recruits and some have lawyers who look beyond a students’ grades to other aspects of their application. Highlight your strengths in you cover letter, what makes you unique, what you can bring to the firm. And if you’re in your final year - sounds like you are - work your butt off to ace the rest of your classes. And, do internships if possible (my school had internships where the school found us lawyers and organisations to work with for course credit) and get great references. References are key in that they can vouch for your potential even if you don’t have good grades on paper - seeing as they have worked with you and know your work ethic.

 If you did bad the first year, let it go - you can’t get it back. Focus on what you can do from here on out. There are firms that are understanding and would look past the first year if you prove you can work hard and pull up your grades later. If they ask what happened, you can explain how you had a rough first year but managed to overcome it and not let it define you. That shows your resilience. Keep applying to all the other firms that are still hiring as well as cold email firms that aren’t formally hiring / network with lawyers. You will be fine - just don’t drop the ball and keep working at it.

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1 hour ago, Gigi27 said:


My worst nightmare is to end up at a banking job and keep telling everyone for the rest of my life that I actually have a law degree. 😕

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.



 

If that’s your worst nightmare then it’s still really pleasant. I would kill to have a banking job. 
 

If you take a step back, you’d realize that life isn’t as bad as you think it is. Once you start working no one cares about your grades. It will be difficult to find a job, but we all face this one time or another 

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Were you involved in any clinics or volunteer organizations where you’ve formed a connection with a supervisor? I know people with below average grades who’ve gotten articling that way. That said, they were quite dedicated to their work and had demonstrable interest in those practice areas.

Edited by Psychometronic
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Another sometimes surprisingly great resource is your professors. One of my law professors introduced me to senior practitioners in my field when I was in law school without hesitation. So, if you have a solid relationship with a professor (whether through class, a clinic, a moot etc.), you could start there! 

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You might have to hustle to get an articling job. Try small firms. Keep your expectations low for articling pay. Get your license. Once you get your license find a firm that pays on a percentage and after a couple years you'll be earning better than downtown with far, far better working conditions.

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Find a practice area that you are interested in, through demonstration of ECs/course selection, and approach small/boutique firms. I find that they are less focused on grades when reviewing applicants.

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Perhaps consider looking outside of the major cities, if you have not already considered that.

Best of luck.

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I was in the same situation in law school. Your grades are not the end of the world, but I would agree with other comments that you have to bring something else to the table to offset the bad grades. I would emphasize on things like how you can to bring in clients for the firm. Certain boutique firms also tend to care less about the marks you got in 1L (I got my articles at a PI firm because I did ok in tort and above average in Remedies). Start networking hard and get people to meet with you virtually. 

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