Over the past few months, Canadian Lawyer 4Students has been running a series of articles to assist students with the recruitment process. In part V, we get a current student at a large, commercial law firm to give advice on how to seek out opportunities outside of Bay Street.
Walking into any law school in Canada, it doesn’t take very long to understand the firms drive the schools. Whether it’s sitting in the Fasken Martineau Lecture Hall or taking a drink from the McCarthy Tétrault Water Fountain, Bay Street is always rearing its head at you. For those not interested in spending their life helping companies merge and acquire one another, it’s important to know where else to turn.
When does the “non-Bay Street” recruitment week take place at school?
Unfortunately — unlike the Bay Street job process — there is no designated week for seeking out other employment. This means you need a bit of ingenuity in terms of seeking out a job. While this may seem daunting, in the Google era this task is not insurmountable.
Where should I start?
Whether people like to admit it or not, much of the Bay Street job recruitment process involves having students “stretch” their interest in corporate and commercial transactions. For other employers, this won’t be the case; they will want to know why you actually want to work for them. While this is positive — since most of us are generally better off when we are sincere — this means you will actually have to put some thought into what your interests are before pursuing various job opportunities.
Where is the biggest place to look for jobs?
One of the biggest employers in law is the government. Many provincial governments — either through various ministries or through their prosecutions departments — have positions open in the winter semester. Applying for government jobs is also the easiest way to get “inside information” on job opportunities, as most schools have a large number of students employed at either the federal or provincial levels of government.
What about working for “the bad guys?”
Your friends may question you forever, but if you enjoy criminal law, there is no question you will learn a lot about the field working for a criminal defence firm. Many firms, including well-known places such as Hicks Adams LLP and Greenspan Partners, accept applications throughout the year. If you have the chance, it never hurts to take a stroll over to an office and introduce yourself (face-to-face contact does matter more when applying to smaller firms).
No thanks . . . what else is out there?
Many of the “good guys,” such as Ecojustice and Animal Justice Canada, have in the past also hired students later on in the year. The dilemma with jobs at these types of places is there is no guarantee these organizations will have the funding to take on students every year. A prudent course of action is to send an e-mail to someone at the organization expressing your interest in that area of law, and trying to arrange a phone call with them. They may not be able to offer you a job, but at the very least they can give you leads on other places to follow up on (better than your career office may be able to).
Overall, finding a non-corporate job at law school these days can seem daunting, as the schools have placed most of their resources into the Bay Street process. Nonetheless, by pounding the pavement and setting up calls with people at firms you are interested in, you will eventually find a job — even a paid one — that actually interests you. While your Bay Street friends may be gloating now, you may end up being more satisfied down the road.
Like many students, Kap Rooney entered law school in 2010 to delay getting a real job for three years. He will soon need to find another way to avoid growing up.