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Hi everyone, I have a quick question and I was hoping to get other's input since I am feeling conflicted. 

I recently interviewed with a firm, and from the sound of it the interview went well. I was told the pay would be $650/week for the 10-month articling period. 

This is a small 16-lawyer civil litigation firm in Toronto. 

I cannot shake the feeling that $650 a week is too low for a firm in Toronto. Don't get me wrong, I am not expecting big-law pay. However, with the amount of hours articling students work, the $650 comes out to be less than minimum. With the cost of living in Toronto it just seems like a really low ball offer.

What are your thoughts on this? Especially considering the current market. Should I try and negotiate the pay? 

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That sounds seriously low to me. Do you have any other potential options? You should assess your strengths as an applicant and be realistic about whether or not you'll get other offers.

The market is pretty poor for people entering the profession right now so I guess it is better than unpaid but not by a whole lot. At that rate you should also make sure they're paying the cost of your LSO application, bar exam material and fees, etc. otherwise that annualized ~$34,000 will be closer to ~$28,000 which is basically unlivable in the city. Negotiating salary is tricky, articling students have basically no bargaining power. That being said if you know someone who works there or who has in the past from upper years you should be able to get a better sense of things. If pay used to be higher and this is a pandemic cut I'd say you're probably SOL.

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That's pretty low, but I wouldn't necessarily call it exploitative. At least they're making an effort to pay their students instead of acting like they're doing you a favour by making you work for free in exchange for experience. Do you think they're doing it purely out of stinginess or necessity? I worked for comparable firms as a student and I'll PM you my weekly pay for comparison.

You'll have to make a calculated decision based on the risk of not getting a job at all. Like you mentioned, the job market isn't looking great. Do you have other prospects? Can you financially and emotionally handle a prolonged job search? Are you prepared to do the LPP if you're out of options?

Also consider the non-monetary benefits of working for this firm (ex. collegiality, hireback prospects, relevance to your area of interest, mentorship, quality of the files, proximity to home, work-life balance) and whether the low compensation make you disgruntled and therefore affect your work performance.

Edited by BNAAct1867
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28 minutes ago, ConfusedLawStudent17 said:

Hi everyone, I have a quick question and I was hoping to get other's input since I am feeling conflicted. 

I recently interviewed with a firm, and from the sound of it the interview went well. I was told the pay would be $650/week for the 10-month articling period. 

This is a small 16-lawyer civil litigation firm in Toronto. 

I cannot shake the feeling that $650 a week is too low for a firm in Toronto. Don't get me wrong, I am not expecting big-law pay. However, with the amount of hours articling students work, the $650 comes out to be less than minimum. With the cost of living in Toronto it just seems like a really low ball offer.

What are your thoughts on this? Especially considering the current market. Should I try and negotiate the pay? 

I would want to know what the expectations are like, is this a firm that expects you to be working 55-75 hours a week? Is there good mentorship? Do they have good work that you are interested in?

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A lot of articles out there are unpaid.

There's more to exploitative than the pay. 

I raise my brow at there being 16 lawyers in the firm in Toronto, but regardless, the articling market is tough right now. If there's good mentorship and it's good experience, and if you can afford it, it's not bad.

Not sure about negotiating. But if the offer has been made, it might not be the worst thing to see if there's any room at all. Just based on rent, etc. But don't negotiate from an expectation. That would turn people off.

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This is why articling is such a disaster. $650/week is low. Yes, it is better than no articling job, or an unpaid one, but do we really think a civil litigation firm in Toronto with 16 lawyers can't afford to pay an articling student a living wage? 

On the one hand, these are trying times for businesses and I suppose that just because a firm has more than a dozen lawyers doesn't mean it's flush with cash to hire a student.

On the other hand, come on. If you can't afford to pay a student a living wage, don't hire one.

I wish I had better advice for you. I would say if you have other options, explore them. If not, get through articling and look for greener pastures once you become a lawyer. 

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9 minutes ago, Mal said:

I would want to know what the expectations are like, is this a firm that expects you to be working 55-75 hours a week? Is there good mentorship? Do they have good work that you are interested in?

See thats the thing, I am not really interested in the area of law. I have been umbrella applying to firms in the hope of finding something. I suppose if they make an offer I can inquiry into expected hours, LSO fees, etc. and make my decision from there. 

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3 minutes ago, Viszlaw said:

This is why articling is such a disaster. $650/week is low. Yes, it is better than no articling job, or an unpaid one, but do we really think a civil litigation firm in Toronto with 16 lawyers can't afford to pay an articling student a living wage? 

On the one hand, these are trying times for businesses and I suppose that just because a firm has more than a dozen lawyers doesn't mean it's flush with cash to hire a student.

On the other hand, come on. If you can't afford to pay a student a living wage, don't hire one.

I wish I had better advice for you. I would say if you have other options, explore them. If not, get through articling and look for greener pastures once you become a lawyer. 

Then we'd have a lot of students who never become lawyers. Think it through.

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3 minutes ago, Viszlaw said:

This is why articling is such a disaster. $650/week is low. Yes, it is better than no articling job, or an unpaid one, but do we really think a civil litigation firm in Toronto with 16 lawyers can't afford to pay an articling student a living wage? 

On the one hand, these are trying times for businesses and I suppose that just because a firm has more than a dozen lawyers doesn't mean it's flush with cash to hire a student.

On the other hand, come on. If you can't afford to pay a student a living wage, don't hire one.

I wish I had better advice for you. I would say if you have other options, explore them. If not, get through articling and look for greener pastures once you become a lawyer. 

Yea, they are hiring 3 students. I was confused why they didn't just hire 2 and pay them both a better (more livable) wage. Thank you for the advice. 

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I'd definitely make sure that your firm is paying the articling fees given that amount of weekly compensation. The firm I am articling for implied that they would be paying the LSO fees during OCI's, which did not turn out to be true (finding that one out was a tough day). Having OSAP repayments, 100K in bank loan repayments, articling in a pandemic (only 8 months of income instead of the 10 months) and having to shell out over a month's worth of salary to the LSO's pockets has been frustrating. Keep in mind those hidden costs.

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Just now, pzabbythesecond said:

Then we'd have a lot of students who never become lawyers. Think it through.

The problem is that a big chunk of the profession treats articling like a business decision when it is also meant to be a duty on members of the profession. There is a trade-off between having a monopoly on legal services and needing to act somewhat in the public interest.

I obviously don't have answers, but it is frustrating how much pressure we place on some segments of the profession (e.g. criminal defense lawyers) while allow others to exploit the situation.

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2 minutes ago, ConfusedLawStudent17 said:

See thats the thing, I am not really interested in the area of law. I have been umbrella applying to firms in the hope of finding something. I suppose if they make an offer I can inquiry into expected hours, LSO fees, etc. and make my decision from there. 

How far off is their area of practice from your area of interest? Is this firm so highly specialized that it'll lock you into a weird trajectory, or do you expect it to help you develop general competencies that you can take with you if/when you choose to leave?

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3 minutes ago, BNAAct1867 said:

How far off is their area of practice from your area of interest? Is this firm so highly specialized that it'll lock you into a weird trajectory, or do you expect it to help you develop general competencies that you can take with you if/when you choose to leave?

Thats actually a great point! They're an insurance litigation firm, I was leaning more towards family and estate law, but like you said, there is always things I will learn there that I can apply to my career going forward. 

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4 minutes ago, ConfusedLawStudent17 said:

Thats actually a great point! They're an insurance litigation firm, I was leaning more towards family and estate law, but like you said, there is always things I will learn there that I can apply to my career going forward. 

It's potentially a good opportunity to get familiar with the Rules of Civil Procedure, how to draft motions, etc. in a supervised environment.

3 minutes ago, ConfusedLawStudent17 said:

Thank you for all the advice everyone! I love how law students and professionals can be so supportive! I really appreciate it. 

WE LOVE YOU AND WISH YOU SUCCESS ❤️

Edited by BNAAct1867
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12 minutes ago, ConfusedLawStudent17 said:

See thats the thing, I am not really interested in the area of law. I have been umbrella applying to firms in the hope of finding something. I suppose if they make an offer I can inquiry into expected hours, LSO fees, etc. and make my decision from there. 

I guess it depends on (1) how desperate you are and (2) whether you can make this work financially. Like, are you in third year or have you graduated? If you've been on the job market for months and haven't found anything, then yeah, you might get stuck with something like this. But even if that's the case, are you able to take on more debt? Because that's possible at this pay. 

10 minutes ago, ConfusedLawStudent17 said:

Yea, they are hiring 3 students. I was confused why they didn't just hire 2 and pay them both a better (more livable) wage. Thank you for the advice. 

Gross. 

 

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2 minutes ago, realpseudonym said:

I guess it depends on (1) how desperate you are and (2) whether you can make this work financially. Like, are you in third year or have you graduated? If you've been on the job market for months and haven't found anything, then yeah, you might get stuck with something like this. But even if that's the case, are you able to take on more debt? Because that's possible at this pay. 

Gross. 

 

Yea, I was not planning on adding more debt to the ever-growing student line of credit, and OSAP. Im in my third year, and have been looking for a while now. I have other interviews lined up but I worry about taking the risk. Thank you for the insights! 

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25 minutes ago, Brooke said:

I'd definitely make sure that your firm is paying the articling fees given that amount of weekly compensation. The firm I am articling for implied that they would be paying the LSO fees during OCI's, which did not turn out to be true (finding that one out was a tough day). Having OSAP repayments, 100K in bank loan repayments, articling in a pandemic (only 8 months of income instead of the 10 months) and having to shell out over a month's worth of salary to the LSO's pockets has been frustrating. Keep in mind those hidden costs.

An OCI firm didn’t cover your licensing fees? Yikes.

Edited by easttowest
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14 minutes ago, pzabbythesecond said:

Then we'd have a lot of students who never become lawyers. Think it through.

Yeah, that's the problem. Law schools admit more students than there are articling positions. Many firms get away with exploiting their students because you need to article (or do the LPP in Ontario, which is a whole other can of worms) to become a lawyer. I was one of those students who just sucked it up. It was an awful 10 months and I moved to greener pastures after. Do I think everyone else should just suck it up? No. I think there are better solutions out there and that the LSO can do better... but here we are. 

 

 

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