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Collected wisdom

|Written By Gail J. Cohen

Each month our sister publication Canadian Lawyer interviews a managing partner or law office leader from across the country. Many of them have shared their thoughts on retaining and recruiting associates. Here’s a few of their words of wisdom from interviews over the past year.

  

Associate retention is a big issue these days. What is BLG doing in that area?

We are, without a doubt, one of the best development committees in Canada, if not North America. We spend a tremendous amount in investing in professional development, more than the average firm would do. We invest a lot in education and programs and do a lot of intensive training from new associates to junior partners. We bring people in to do this training and we’ve developed programs based on what we’ve seen has worked best in the U.S. and the U.K. We used to go and learn from other firms, but now other firms are coming and learning from us. For us, in terms of recruitment and retention, this is one thing that works really well.

— Sean Weir

Managing partner, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

Interviewed Nov. 21, 2007

What would you say to a young recruit to get them to come to Blakes?

Firstly, good work, great opportunities to move to other offices both nationally and internationally to obtain that sort of experience. I would focus on the fact that Blakes is, and has been for five consecutive years, been named one of Canada’s top 100 employers. I think that, in and of itself, says a lot about the environment and nature of the workplace. We’re certainly finding that is attractive to people who are considering lateral opportunities.

— James Christie

Chairman, Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP

Interviewed March 25, 2008

What is BCF doing in the area of associate retention?

We’ve done pretty well since we began in 1995. We started with seven and now we have 130 professionals. We are open-minded, we listen to young lawyers, and make sure they have fascinating files. We are always trying to hire lawyers that are better than us. We feel if they are working for a cause, more than just being a lawyer, but wanting to leave their mark, they will have a lot more fun. We also have a flat structure that lets them grow. So far so good for us.

— Mario Charpentier

Co-managing partner, BCF Avocats, Montreal

Interviewed May 15, 2008

What advice do you have for a lawyers who want to get into social justice and environmental law?

Follow your passions. There may not necessarily be a place for you now, but if you build your skills, this is a burgeoning area of law and there will be a place for you in the future. Do what I did. Go get a job at a law firm, and practise in the real world before you hit the rarefied air of environmental law.

— Devon Page

Executive director, Ecojustice

Interviewed July 15, 2008

What advice would you give to young lawyers starting out?

If you want to be a lawyer, be sure you actually want to work in a law firm. Life in a law firm is not for everyone. In a normal job, if you’re dying with a cold and you’re pregnant and you can’t get any medicine, you’d be at home. In a law firm, you’re here at work. . . . It’s very hard to ever get a break at any time during the year. It’s hard to really enjoy a vacation. There’s a lot of things that are difficult when you’re in a law firm and it’s very intense, always stressful for many people. I don’t find it stressful. I find it challenging. I can be working on a very difficult transaction, but I don’t let that stress me. That is not in everybody’s nature. So for people who get very anxious and stressed even about the little things, this is not the place. So I always tell people that in an interview. I say, ‘Are you sure this is the kind of environment you want to work in?’ Sometimes people are not cut for a law firm. So that would be the other piece of advice: be sure this is really what you want to do. Especially for women, I think it’s a little harder.

— Elisabeth Eljuri

Managing partner, Caracas, Venezuela office of Macleod Dixon LLP

Interviewed Aug. 21, 2008

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PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT