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The pros and cons of . . .

Maritime, Quebec City, Charlottetown
|Written By Glenn Kauth

PRACTISING IN QUEBEC CITY

 

PIERRE-MARCEL NORMANDEAU 

sole practitioner

Pros: 

• The delays in the courts are not as long. If you must proceed to litigation in Montreal, for example, you can wait for years, whereas in Quebec City the delays are shorter because the volume of cases is less.

• It’s a nice place to live and work. It’s a very green city, and there are lots of things to do. You name it, we’ve got it. Quebec City is fun, that’s why people come here to visit.

• Compared with Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, the cost of living is much lower.

• It’s a medium-sized city, so there’s a good level of collegiality between attorneys. Lawyers throughout their career meet each other. That establishes a chemistry between attorneys which I would say is to the advantage of clients. For example, on occasion one might wish to obtain delays for a client from an opposing counsel, whereas the same counsel several months or years later might be in the same position. Where such delays do not harm a client’s case, it’s to the advantage of all parties that the lawyers seek to agree on such matters.

• There’s a greater emphasis on mediation. These services are at hand and easily accessible. As a lawyer, you’re not going to bill as much, but usually clients are satisfied with mediation. They’ll give good feedback to other people about your services.

Cons:  

• If you don’t speak French, forget about practising in Quebec City.

• On a practical level, there’s no electronic filing of documents in the courts. They’re not technically savvy yet. They’re working on it but they haven’t mastered it.

• The province of Quebec is based in civil law. A Quebec City lawyer cannot practise elsewhere unless he is accredited in another province because the basis is not the same. That would be a con for someone who does not have a civil law degree, unless that person is willing to go through the accreditation process.

MARC-ANDRE LAFLAMME

McCarthy Tétrault LLP

Pros: 

• Plusieurs des grands cabinets canadiens et québécois possèdent un bureau dans la ville de Québec, permettant aux avocats qui y pratiquent d’interagir sur une base régulière avec leurs collègues pratiquant dans les autres centres économiques du pays. Ceci enrichi également la variété des dossiers sur lesquels les jeunes avocats seront appelés à travailler. à‚ÃÆ’‡Â¨ cela s’ajoutent nombre de moyens et petits cabinets d’avocats offrant un éventail de services professionnels à la clientèle régionale et locale. Ainsi, l’offre de services juridiques dans la ville de Québec est complète, dynamique et hautement qualifiée.

• Les piliers économiques de la ville de Québec se sont bien diversifiés au cours des dernières années, à la faveur de l’émergence de plusieurs entreprises spécialisées, par exemple dans le secteur pharmaceutique.

Cons: 

• La ville de Québec doit constamment faire la promotion des récents efforts de diversification de son économie afin de se défaire de son image de ville centrée sur la fonction publique. Ainsi, par moment, les jeunes avocats trouveront plus difficile d’attirer vers Québec des clients qui, par habitude, préfèrent retenir les services de conseillers juridiques basés à Montréal.

• Il est indéniable que le salaire versé au jeune avocat commençant à pratiquer à Québec sera inférieur à celui de son collègue pratiquant à Montréal, Toronto, ou Calgary.

• Comme pour toute bonne chose, la rareté affecte aussi l’offre d’emploi dans le domaine juridique à Québec! En effet, Québec n’étant pas une ville aussi populeuse que Montréal ou Toronto, l’offre d’emploi dans le domaine juridique y sera toujours plus restreinte. Ainsi, bien que plusieurs cabinets y recrutent chaque année de nouveaux stagiaires ou jeunes avocats, il demeure que le nombre de nouveaux emplois créés chaque année sera relativement inférieur à celui des autres grands centres au pays.

PRACTISING MARITIME LAW

 

SARAH KIRBY

Metcalf & Co. (Halifax, N.S.)

Pros: 

• Maritime law is a branch of common law, so being common law trained is a huge advantage that can translate into many opportunities for international relocation and opportunities for work in-house.

• Personal relationships are important in this small, tight-knit, collegial community — locally, nationally, and internationally.

• It’s extremely interesting. There’s always an international flavour to whatever you’re doing.

• It’s a niche area, which makes it intellectually challenging. Typically, people don’t dabble in it.

Cons: 

• It can be a 24/7 job with unpredictable hours. In shipping, disputes happen at any time. A ship can get arrested at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night, and you have to respond.

• Because it’s so specialized, there are certain pieces you’re only going to learn when you are faced with a situation. But it’s a small community, so there are lots of people to talk to about it.

• There is a fair amount of business networking involved, so if you’re not into getting yourself out there, it might not be for you.

• There’s a bit less business from protection and indemnity clubs that provide insurance to ship owners. The clubs increasingly have their own in-house claims people and lawyers who can do some of the work, which create business challenges for lawyers.

LEONA BAXTER

Pushor Mitchell LLP (Kelowna, B.C.)

Pros: 

• It’s fascinating and interesting work because you end up speaking to people from different countries every day.

• Maritime insurance involves a very sophisticated type of client. Most people tend to work in it for a very long time.

• It can be lucrative. Maritime law is a fairly small area, so the firms that do it tend to do very well with it.

• It has an international focus. There are lots of conferences going on all the time. They’re fascinating. You get a lot of exposure to international organizations all over the world.

• You get to travel. We’re always somewhere. I happen to speak Japanese, so I do a lot of work in Asia.

Cons: 

• The laws can be complicated. They are extremely different, and there’s just a lot more of them. There are interpretation issues as well because different nations interpret rules differently.

• It can be a challenging area to break into. Clients are very discerning about who they go to. The business is well taken care of by established lawyers.

• Maritime law is heavy and involves a lot of reading. I read of lot of textbooks, more so than I ever have. Sometimes, the technical aspects can be difficult.

• It’s probably not much of a growth industry. My impression is that the cargo work is not as busy as it was just because of improvements in ship safety.

• Probably the biggest challenge is that everybody who does it is more senior than I am. I’m always the most junior person.

PRACTISING IN CHARLOTTETOWN

 

KEVIN KILEY 

partner, McInnes Cooper

Pros: 

• To a certain extent, we don’t go through the same economic highs and lows that they do on Bay Street. We haven’t really seen any significant evidence of a downturn in the legal work we’re carrying out. At the same time, the economy here in recent years has been relatively strong. Small and medium-sized businesses continue to flourish in areas such as information technology, aerospace, and biotechnology.

• It’s a small bar where all the lawyers know of each other. As a result, I think that goes a long way towards enhancing collegiality. It’s in no one’s interest to be unnecessarily difficult.

• We’re a government town and a university town, so there are lots of opportunities to practise law at a fairly high level, including institutional work.

• In a small place, there tends to be a lot more community spirit. The pace is quite a bit slower. I can be at work in seven minutes.

• In a smaller centre, there is more opportunity to move from being the person who is carrying the briefcase to being the lead on the file.

Cons: 

• Any time you’re practising in a smaller location, there’s probably the perception that there is not as much exposure to larger projects.

• In any city, you have a spectrum of legal rates. But the highs may not be as high in the smaller centres.

• There are always going to be some amenities that will be absent because it’s a smaller area.

• It can be hard for outsiders to adapt. If you’ve come from outside Prince Edward Island and you don’t know many people, it’s going to be more noticeable to you that many of your colleagues do.

• A younger lawyer will deal with projects of less dollar value than someone on Bay Street.

JORDAN BROWN

associate, Cox & Palmer

 

Pros:

• The small market allows, and in some ways dictates, young lawyers to build their own practice. Practising law then becomes a lifestyle, complete with social events and community involvement.

• The market size also forces young lawyers to carry a general practice. For those who consider variety to be the spice of life, this is an interesting and rewarding way to practise. It allows you to figure out what areas of law you enjoy.

• Our small, collegial bar is ideal for one’s growth as a private sector lawyer. Dealing with the same people every day results in greater collegiality and enables associates to learn from senior practitioners.

• The pace of life is more relaxed than in major centres. This means greater flexibility in the manner in which you structure your practice and allows for more personal time.

• Perhaps the greatest advantage is more interaction with clients than you would have in a larger centre. This can make your practice very rewarding.

Cons: 

• In a small market, young lawyers need to be outgoing and comfortable enough in social settings to attract their own clientele. For introverts, this can be a struggle.

• Being a generalist requires a great deal of additional support to ensure competency; you could become a jack of all trades and master of none. Also, the so-called “big work” is not as prevalent, and there are limited opportunities to focus on areas that are of the most interest.

• Salaries are lower. However, this is not as bad as it may seem because so too is the cost of living, and generally you work fewer hours.

• As a result of the extra social and entrepreneurial aspects of a small-centre practice, one is bound to put in a greater number of non-billable hours than in larger centres.

• P.E.I. winters can be long and arduous if you don’t make an effort to enjoy what the island’s winters have to offer.


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