At this time last year, my articling term had nearly come to an end. I still hadn’t heard the news I’d been waiting for: Would I be hired back after my call to the bar?
When the news came that I wouldn’t be hired back, I was devastated. After the door in front of me closed, it was difficult to see other doors opening. But, eventually, I found out that not only are the opportunities there, it’s up to us to find them — and we don’t have to do it alone. Here are a few lessons I learned that might help you find your next open door.
If you’ve made it to the end of the lawyer licensing process, you deserve a round of applause. When you walk across the stage and are called to the bar, you will hear the thunder that welcomes you to our profession. Be kind to yourself. Do not limit your sense of accomplishment and self-approval to that day.
Recognize your achievements: Hired back or not, you have done well. At the same time, try to quiet your inner critical voice. Thoughts will come about what you may have done differently.
All you can do is write those thoughts down and take what lessons you can from them. Everything else outside your control needs to be set aside.
By the end of the licensing process, chances are you may feel depleted. I certainly did. If you wrote the bar exams before you started articling or the LPP, then you started a marathon in full sprint. By the time you get news about hire-back, your feelings may be amplified or distorted by exhaustion. There is no better time to focus on self-care, catch up on sleep and lean on your support network.
After all, success finding a job requires confidence, stamina and enthusiasm. You may be doing yourself a disservice by staggering across the finish line right into applications, cover letters and job interviews. Take care of yourself and the path to the doors to what’s next will shine that much brighter.
[strong]2. Be gracious to others
Nobody will blame you for being a little self-absorbed while re-charting the course of your career. However, if you can, try to draw on your inner strength and show generosity to others at the same time.
Give back to the ones who helped you get this far. Pay it forward, too. If new summer students start before you leave, offer your advice and guidance. Taking the focus off you to make someone else’s life better, even in a small way, is a good feeling. Chances are that it’s part of the reason you became a lawyer in the first place.
If you are not hired back, I promise that you are not the only one. If you are hired back, others will not have been so fortunate. Either situation is a rare opportunity to demonstrate polish and grace. Continue doing your best work, advocating for others and transitioning your files responsibly while the licensing process winds down. The impression you leave when saying goodbye will resonate long after you’re gone.
Offering sincere gratitude and thanks for your experience, even if it did not result in a job offer, is a true demonstration of character. However bittersweet, I was glad I had the chance to meet with the lawyers and staff with whom I worked closely, give them the news personally and thank them for everything.
[strong]3. Ask for help
If you’re like me, your hard work and commitment over the licensing process formed strong bonds. Unwinding those bonds to make room for new ones takes time and effort. You should not feel like you have to go it alone.
Besides asking my support network for help, the best decision I made after finding out I would not be hired back after articling was to call a professional coach. The coach actually specialized in helping articling students and young lawyers find entry-level positions geared to their interests. For me, this not only helped get my application materials up to the next level, it helped me get focused on what exactly I was looking for.
As often as people say the legal market is challenging for young entrants, there is still an incredible variety of options from which to choose. Looking for a job — any job — as a lawyer without a sense of what drives you can be a challenge. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
An independent coach or mentor may help point you in the direction that’s right for you. Your own firm or workplace may have leads on organizations that may be hiring. Use guideposts for inspiration — events, groups or files that energized you — to find out where you might enjoy beginning your legal career.
Try to reach out to one new person a day who might be able to help you, and look for ways you can help them, too. Every meeting is an opportunity — a new door. The more people you meet, the better your chances of finding places you want to work that also happen to be hiring.
Although I don’t have all the answers, I hope you find a few of the points above helpful. If I survived not getting hired back, you can, too. Reach out to me by email or in the comments if you’d like to continue the conversation. I wish you the best of luck and will help however I can.
Ivan Mitchell Merrow is an associate lawyer at Miller Thomson LLP, specializing in commercial litigation, construction litigation and dispute resolution and contract and shareholder disputes.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, writes on IvanMerrow.com and tweets as @CanadianLawGuy. The views presented here are the author’s alone.