In many jurisdictions, law students looking to be licensed as lawyers must pass a bar exam and undergo a paid legal internship with a firm or organization. This legal internship is called “articling.”
During one’s articling experience, the law student will learn practical legal skills, such as how to litigate, how to draft and file a motion, and other essential legal writing, research and drafting skills. They will also learn the operational side of running a law practice, such as the billable hour or docketing one’s time and accounting. The length of articles depends on the jurisdiction. However, the articling experience depends as much on the organization as it does on the interests and efforts of the individual.
With such a tough legal market despite changes and innovations to the legal profession, many students start their third and final year of law school or even complete law school without a job in hand. This can be discouraging, especially when you find yourself drowning in school-related debt and your other colleagues have all found positions. But take heart! You too can and will find an articling position that you will love! In fact, it’s often those students who eschew traditional recruitment procedures and create their own path who have the most rewarding legal careers.
Preparation Is Key
Truthfully, the process to secure an articling position begins long before you apply. If you want to be successful in securing an articling position, make sure you have good grades, as well as a strong (and proof-read) CV and cover letter. It helps to have “summered” (i.e. worked during your second year summer) with the firm or organization with which you would like to article, otherwise getting the chance to work at that firm may be more difficult.
It’s also good to try as much as possible to beef up your resume with practical legal experience: join extra-curricular activities, volunteer, work at your school’s legal clinic, work on the law journal, participate in mooting exercises, and/or try to publish a paper in a law journal or submit it to an essay competition. Employers will want to know what you will be able to do once hired.
Pay Attention To E-mails And Bulletins Sent By Your School
Chances are your career services office sends out a lot of information about articles and jobs. Pay attention! Your job is to wade through the tsunami of information available to you and discern whatever information will be helpful to you in your job search. Search online job postings regularly.
Read the magazines in the office, not only for job postings, but for interesting articles about finding an articling position or stories of lawyers who have gone off of the beaten path. Check out their career library. Be in the know, because what you don’t know can and will hurt you.
Participate In On-Campus Recruitment
The easiest way to find an articling position is to travel the popular, well-beaten path of participating in on-campus recruitment or interviews (OCI). In on-campus recruitment, recruiters from large, national and/or mid-sized firms come on campus to conduct first round interviews with pre-selected candidates.
If successful, many of these candidates will be invited to second round interviews. These second-round interviews may take place at the law firm itself by way of a cocktail party or may take the form of another formal interview. If successful, candidates will be contacted by the firm and hired as an articling student.
Attend Career Fairs
Along the same lines of networking, you should attend career fairs. These fairs most likely will have representatives (i.e. lawyers or current articling students) present to answer your questions. What better opportunity to showcase your personality and inquisitiveness and give the recruiter a chance to put a name to a face when your resume lands on their desk? Don’t miss this invaluable opportunity!
Network Like Crazy
Because many positions are not posted externally, it will be critical for you to network in order to find your coveted articling position.
Attend the events organized by your bar association. Join other professional associations that may or may not be law-related (women’s law associations, ethnic law student or lawyer associations, chambers of commerce, business associations, real estate associations, etc.). Go to conferences. Stay connected to your law society (some law societies hire articling students). Attend those charity golf tournaments and awards dinners. Join a political party and go to their fundraisers and events. Talk to your professors. Mention your job search to your friends and family.
You never know who may have heard of any openings, and all it takes is an in. At this point, it’s not so much about your grades anymore. It’s not even so much about who you know. It’s about who knows you.
Search Online Legal Job Databases
Do not forget to probe online legal databases. There are many. A few of them include Pslawnet, Eluta.ca, indeed.ca, wowjobs.ca, jobs.gc.ca, totallegaljobs.ca, legalaid.on.ca, and charityvillage.com. Also check out the job posting/careers sections on the websites of those organizations that interest you. If they do not have any postings, don’t hesitate to do a “cold call.” State who you are and ask if they have any openings. Offer to send them your resume for their perusal.
Consider Applying To Smaller Or Rural Firms
Competition to article at the large Bay Street or Wall Street firms is fierce. However, there are rural communities that are in dire need of a lawyer, and lawyers in those communities who would like to retire but have no one to help run their practice once they do. This is where you come in. If you are not averse to moving and are open and adaptable to living in a small and culturally diverse community, this may be the route for you.