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elpolitomijo

Big Law vs. Regulatory Careers for Someone Interested in Finance Law

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I’m a 0L and in true type-A, insecure-overachiever form, I’m already thinking about my future career path (you can tell I already have the lawyer personality down).

Call me a quixotic fool, but I’m a mature student and decided to quit my cushy, well-paying job to attend law school in order to chase this vague notion of “making a difference in the world.”

I did my undergrad in business and genuinely find finance/ economics interesting. I already read securities filings on my spare time and enjoy building models in Excel. I would love to practice law in a field that deals with these types of concepts. The thing is, I don’t want to sell my soul to big law and work for the “bad guys.” I already know a bunch miserable corporate lawyers and I get the sense that I would not enjoy the lifestyle.

My dream job would be working at something like the SEC or the Antitrust division of the DOJ (Alas, I cannot work at these places because I’m a Canadian citizen).

That said, it seems like the Canadian equivalents of these organizations are watered-down and neutered. I’ve been doing some research, and it just seems like Canada seems to go very easy on white collar criminals. I was reading the OSC’s recent news releases and all I see are posts extolling how they “are removing the regulatory burdens for corporations and making it easier for companies to do business here!”

I was also reading an interview with the ex-chief of the Canada Competition Bureau and he claims that the Canadian government tends to encourage the formation of corporate monopolies [0]. When was the last time the DOJ launched a major antitrust case against a company here in Canada?

Finally, it seems like our government seems to promote our terribly opaque banking laws. I read somewhere that Canada is considered one of the world’s eminent money-laundering hubs, which makes sense given the proliferation of numbered corporations and lax disclosure laws (who do you think is buying up all those condos in downtown Toronto/ Vancouver?) It also seems like white collar crime isn’t prosecuted by DA/ Crown attorney offices to the same degree as it is in certain jurisdictions in the US (like the SDNY).

All in all, this is to say that I don’t think a legal career at the OSC or the Competition Bureau would satisfy my yearning to “make a difference in the world.”

My question: would any of the already-lawyers on this forum agree with my characterization? Am I completely wrong (I hope so)? Are there any good legal career options that deal extensively with economics/ finance AND are on the side of the “good guys” here in Canada? Is a soul crushing career in big law the only way to get exposure to the intersection of law and finance?

[0] https://thetyee.ca/News/2019/03/19/Monopoly-Friendly-Canada-Competition-Policy/

 

Edited by elpolitomijo
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I don’t find anything soul-crushing about swatting away specious secondary market civil liability claims. Quite the opposite, actually. 

You could always go plaintiff-side and make those claims. Obviously, some are legit.

Edited by easttowest
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Let's not have this devolve into a "big law is evil or not" thing.

4 minutes ago, easttowest said:

I don’t find anything soul-crushing about swatting away specious secondary market civil liability claims. Quite the opposite, actually. 

 

1 minute ago, Deadpool said:

You think you're making a difference in the world in Big law? 

 

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1 minute ago, pzabbythesecond said:

Let's not have this devolve into a "big law is evil or not" thing.

 

My post was in response to these statements:

All in all, this is to say that I don’t think a legal career at the OSC or the Competition Bureau would satisfy my yearning to “make a difference in the world.”

I’m a mature student and decided to quit my cushy, well-paying job to attend law school in order to chase this vague notion of “making a difference in the world.”

I don't know how OP defines "making a difference in the world" so perhaps they should clarify this. 

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5 minutes ago, Deadpool said:

You think you're making a difference in the world in Big law? 

Writ large? Certainly not. 

Within the confines of Part 23.1 of the OSA? Maybe. The cause of action is still relatively new and certainly has not been heavily considered by the courts. I consider myself fortunate to get to deal with it. It’s not something that comes up in every practice.

 

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18 minutes ago, elpolitomijo said:

 

Finally, it seems like our government seems to promote our terribly opaque banking laws. I read somewhere that Canada is considered one of the world’s eminent money-laundering hubs, which makes sense given the proliferation of numbered corporations and lax disclosure laws (who do you think is buying up all those condos in downtown Toronto/ Vancouver?) It also seems like white collar crime isn’t prosecuted by DA/ Crown attorney offices to the same degree as it is in certain jurisdictions in the US (like the SDNY).

All in all, this is to say that I don’t think a legal career at the OSC or the Competition Bureau would satisfy my yearning to “make a difference in the world.”

 

 

The antitrust division of the DOJ and the Competition Bureau do much of the same work and collaborate on many of the same cases. There are effectively two ways that I know of to work at the Competition Bureau as a lawyer; as part of the CBLS (a division of the DOJ) or as a competition officer. The latter is a job that does not require a law degree but usually requires a MA in Econ or a law degree (many of the employees at the Bureau have both).

 The Competition Act is a critically important piece of legislation that I think is of fundamental importance in Canada. There are often very large investigations that result in significant fines. Within the last year, there have also been cases of companies cancelling deals because of pushback from the Bureau. There is a lot to unpack in your response and I do not think anyone can answer the question of whether you will be satisfied.

It is possible to work at the Bureau as a summer student. I highly encourage that as you can learn about the actual work that takes place.

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Yes you are essentially correct. The Ontario Securities Commission and all others are supposed to be operational and has only firm-level views of things. Even then, they only impose monetary penalties for enforcement bureaus. Its been talked about for a while about how we are essentially unprepared to deal with a financial crisis given that we don't have any federal agencies equipped with regulating entire markets. Alot of this has to do with provinces constantly challenging any sort of federal regulator.

The Competition Bureau is an independent watchdog agency, but as someone who knows people working there, you are also correct. Alot of their enforcement actions we would regard as trivial, like enforcing competition against grocery stores and so-on in the middle of nowhere. You can see how remarkably weak it is compared to the UK and the US who can go after multinationals. 

Lots of problems with Canadian market regulations, but I think the biggest issue is that our system is so piecemeal and fractured that we are just not equipped to deal with modern problems. Its unfortunate and at some point we're going to need to go through pretty significant overhaul like what the UK did with the Financial Services Act of 2012. 

With that said, there's  a strong difference between regulatory/solicitation type work and litigation type work. This difference is going to grow because our view on regulation is slowly shifting to being proactive and modernized. I don't think regulatory lawmaking is too inaccessibly, its written somewhat clearly and doesn't require specialized knowledge of the Courts since you rarely engage with them. At most its just a matter of understanding statute and regulations, which isn't too hard, and how administrative agencies function. 

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Just now, mazzystar said:

 

The Competition Bureau is an independent watchdog agency, but as someone who knows people working there, you are also correct. Alot of their enforcement actions we would regard as trivial, like enforcing competition against grocery stores and so-on in the middle of nowhere. You can see how remarkably weak it is compared to the UK and the US who can go after multinationals. 

 

I disagree with your characterization of the Bureau as weak. The Competition Act gives the Commissioner arguably more power to act than their UK or US counterparts, at least from a technical perspective. The power to act exists.

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2 minutes ago, JohnStuartHobbes said:

The antitrust division of the DOJ and the Competition Bureau do much of the same work and collaborate on many of the same cases. There are effectively two ways that I know of to work at the Competition Bureau as a lawyer; as part of the CBLS (a division of the DOJ) or as a competition officer. The latter is a job that does not require a law degree but usually requires a MA in Econ or a law degree (many of the employees at the Bureau have both).

 The Competition Act is a critically important piece of legislation that I think is of fundamental importance in Canada. There are often very large investigations that result in significant fines. Within the last year, there have also been cases of companies cancelling deals because of pushback from the Bureau. There is a lot to unpack in your response and I do not think anyone can answer the question of whether you will be satisfied.

It is possible to work at the Bureau as a summer student. I highly encourage that as you can learn about the actual work that takes place.

Well the difference is how strong they actually are. The Competition Bureau has to get court orders to do anything, including getting disclosures from companies, and they have limits on what kinds of monetary penalties they can impose. The types of cases you see brought to action in the US, you'll find companies and industries get fined billions and see them take on big tech. Competition Bureau has hard limits of how much they can penalized, the cap is a few million. 

Competition Bureau, OSC and others also on the other hand have budgets less than $10 Million and are usually stretched thin. Neither do they really have power to go through industry-level oversight or order-making, which is a big problem given how scandal filled the financial sector has been with various rate-rigging or market manipulation issues.

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3 minutes ago, JohnStuartHobbes said:

I disagree with your characterization of the Bureau as weak. The Competition Act gives the Commissioner arguably more power to act than their UK or US counterparts, at least from a technical perspective. The power to act exists.

I mean US antitrust has been pretty weak the last few decades, but the organizations that are bringing action are much stronger than in Canada. Lots of operational issues here that mostly has to do with poor government funding. But for example, they brought billions of dollars in fines against the big international banks for collusion, which Canada did not despite it affecting us.

Securities regulations is another topic and Canada is quite abysmal at this. We are not prepared to anticipate/react to another financial crisis similar to 2008 because there's no agency that has market-level oversight or surveillance. 

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1 minute ago, mazzystar said:

Well the difference is how strong they actually are. The Competition Bureau has to get court orders to do anything, including getting disclosures from companies, and they have limits on what kinds of monetary penalties they can impose. The types of cases you see brought to action in the US, you'll find companies and industries get fined billions and see them take on big tech. Competition Bureau has hard limits of how much they can penalized, the cap is a few million. 

Competition Bureau, OSC and others also on the other hand have budgets less than $10 Million and are usually stretched thin. Neither do they really have power to go through industry-level oversight or order-making, which is a big problem given how scandal filled the financial sector has been with various rate-rigging or market manipulation issues.

The powers afforded to the SEC, US DOJ, and Competition Bureau are largely consistent with one another. US second requests and Competition Bureau supplementary information requests in the mergers context, for example, are very similar in most practical respects. However, I agree with you that the Bureau could take more cases. Since 2010, the Bureau has only applied to the Competition Tribunal under Section 92 to block a merger fewer than 10 times. While there are consent agreements, there is much less litigation than in the US.

I agree with you that funding is an issue. The Competition Bureau is a law enforcement agency with the Federal Government and since such agencies tend to be critically underfunded and I think you are right that this resource constraint affects their ability to bring cases. My disagreement that the Bureau is weak was largely pedantic. However, if the Bureau decides to bring a case, they have extraordinary powers to act. 

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By the way OP, you'll start to get a sense of why we have so many oversight problems when you start learning about how our constitution/powers are split up. Canada is the most decentralized democracy and so many things are effectively outside the control of the Federal government. Historically this is why our Federal government has been so weak and Ottawa has been undeveloped compared to Washington or London. Whenever anything emerges, there's infighting between Feds and Provs and everything stalls. 

Look at the Greenhouse Gas Act for example. 

With that said, its only a matter of time when we start facing more issues on a national scale where we would need more unity in governance. Things like privacy, data, etc. are pushing us there but things against have been so lackluster. 

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4 minutes ago, mazzystar said:

I mean US antitrust has been pretty weak the last few decades, but the organizations that are bringing action are much stronger than in Canada. Lots of operational issues here that mostly has to do with poor government funding. But for example, they brought billions of dollars in fines against the big international banks for collusion, which Canada did not despite it affecting us.

Securities regulations is another topic and Canada is quite abysmal at this. We are not prepared to anticipate/react to another financial crisis similar to 2008 because there's no agency that has market-level oversight or surveillance. 

I agree. For example, a competition officer at the Bureau right out of articling will usually start off at a salary of $55,000. This contrasts sharply with the ~$110,000 + bonus that someone in the private bar would typically expect. I think this just helps to illustrate the funding gap that exists.

 

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Just now, JohnStuartHobbes said:

I agree. For example, a competition officer at the Bureau right out of articling will usually start off at a salary of $55,000. This contrasts sharply with the ~$110,000 + bonus that someone in the private bar would typically expect. I think this just helps to illustrate the funding gap that exists.

 

Agreed. Also think more unity or oversight is needed to deal with the big problems like going after monopolistic tech and social media. To me it seems like our agencies operate in siloes while the problems we face overlap significantly. 

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52 minutes ago, Deadpool said:

My post was in response to these statements:

All in all, this is to say that I don’t think a legal career at the OSC or the Competition Bureau would satisfy my yearning to “make a difference in the world.”

I’m a mature student and decided to quit my cushy, well-paying job to attend law school in order to chase this vague notion of “making a difference in the world.”

I don't know how OP defines "making a difference in the world" so perhaps they should clarify this. 

By "making a difference" I guess I mean not working for corporate monopolies or helping to erode regulations. I'd be happy in any legal job where I'm fighting for the "little guy." (you can tell I have a bit of a david v. goaliath complex haha). I'd also prefer to do litigation.

 

1 hour ago, easttowest said:

I don’t find anything soul-crushing about swatting away specious secondary market civil liability claims. Quite the opposite, actually. 

You could always go plaintiff-side and make those claims. Obviously, some are legit.

The plaintiff side is an option I've considered, however I don't know much about the landscape here in Canada. Again, I could be wrong about this, but my perception is that plaintiff litigation isn't as active here in Canada as it is in the US. What would be the Canadian equivalent of a Keker Van Nest or Sussman here? Is there a Canadian version of bill lerach? 

I guess I could try and work for those aforementioned firms but I doubt I'd get in given my LSAT score hahaha...

Edited by elpolitomijo

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31 minutes ago, mazzystar said:

Yes you are essentially correct. The Ontario Securities Commission and all others are supposed to be operational and has only firm-level views of things. Even then, they only impose monetary penalties for enforcement bureaus. Its been talked about for a while about how we are essentially unprepared to deal with a financial crisis given that we don't have any federal agencies equipped with regulating entire markets. Alot of this has to do with provinces constantly challenging any sort of federal regulator.

The Competition Bureau is an independent watchdog agency, but as someone who knows people working there, you are also correct. Alot of their enforcement actions we would regard as trivial, like enforcing competition against grocery stores and so-on in the middle of nowhere. You can see how remarkably weak it is compared to the UK and the US who can go after multinationals. 

Lots of problems with Canadian market regulations, but I think the biggest issue is that our system is so piecemeal and fractured that we are just not equipped to deal with modern problems. Its unfortunate and at some point we're going to need to go through pretty significant overhaul like what the UK did with the Financial Services Act of 2012. 

With that said, there's  a strong difference between regulatory/solicitation type work and litigation type work. This difference is going to grow because our view on regulation is slowly shifting to being proactive and modernized. I don't think regulatory lawmaking is too inaccessibly, its written somewhat clearly and doesn't require specialized knowledge of the Courts since you rarely engage with them. At most its just a matter of understanding statute and regulations, which isn't too hard, and how administrative agencies function. 

*sadface* yeah this what I was afraid of. It seems like we just love our monopolies here in Canada...

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12 minutes ago, elpolitomijo said:

*sadface* yeah this what I was afraid of. It seems like we just love our monopolies here in Canada...

Think its more to do with the fact that our reforms/legislation/oversight hasn't really kept up to pace with things.  

Edited by mazzystar

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32 minutes ago, elpolitomijo said:

By "making a difference" I guess I mean not working for corporate monopolies or helping to erode regulations. I'd be happy in any legal job where I'm fighting for the "little guy." (you can tell I have a bit of a david v. goaliath complex haha). I'd also prefer to do litigation.

 

The plaintiff side is an option I've considered, however I don't know much about the landscape here in Canada. Again, I could be wrong about this, but my perception is that plaintiff litigation isn't as active here in Canada as it is in the US. What would be the Canadian equivalent of a Keker Van Nest or Sussman here? Is there a Canadian version of bill lerach? 

I guess I could try and work for those aforementioned firms but I doubt I'd get in given my LSAT score hahaha...

As in criminally unscrupulous? Not that I am aware of (nor am I suggesting any particular Canadian lawyer is unscrupulous).

Basically any of the bigger plaintiff-side class action shops have probably had carriage of a Part 23.1 claim. I’m aware of at least one primarily securities plaintiff-side shop in Toronto. If you google securities class action lawyer Toronto I imagine you’ll find some relevant firms.

After reading Circle of Greed, I used to think I wanted to move to plaintiff-side securities-specific class action work, but I’m not so sure anymore. 
 

As an aside, your LSAT score is entirely irrelevant to what firms might hire you. You just need to get into law school and get good grades.

Edited by easttowest

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1 hour ago, elpolitomijo said:

 

 

Is there a Canadian version of bill lerach? 

 

 

Good lord, I hope not.

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