Articling Students in Need

One of the unique requirements that we have in North America to be called to the bar is the articling process, the merits of which have been discussed here. And we have seen law students try to use social media to get these positions.

But I still know an astonishing number of students from the class of 2010 that do not have any articling position at all. Not just from my school, but across Ontario and the country. So here’s my attempt to try and do something about it.

There’s no real reliable way to track the numbers. Most Career Services Offices (CSOs) don’t collect the data, and most students don’t self-identify, for a number of reasons including fear of peer evaluation.

We do have the Feb. 24, 2010 minutes from the Legal and Literary Society, Osgoode’s student government, which states:

1.Articling/Job Search

1. Possible Joint Initiatives

  • Currently, 20% of the graduating class of Osgoode does not have articles
  • But this is not unique to Osgoode; problem across the province
  • Bulk of articling positions have been given out; combination of shift in model of law as a business; increase in number of students at law school
    • Grades thing?
      • Preliminary call is made on grades; yes
      • Some articling jobs are being paid very little or not at all.
      • Fewer jobs out there right now; smaller practitioners are not hiring anyone; big firms are not hiring as many.

2. Law School Wide Initiative

  • Recommendations; co-op programs (ie small practitioners splitting articling students)
  • Getting Osgoode students into the new positions created.
  • More fully leverage our alumni network
  • For future years, we should know who went where and when, so that we have an idea of who still is searching for a job.
  • Career Fair: Friday March 5, 2 – 4 at the Metro Convention Centre
  • Career Services Concerns:
    • Release of final grades past due date of firm job posting deadlines
    • Students found out about Alberta process only post deadline
    • General unwillingness to help – told to “check the memo”
      [emphasis added]

Considering that Osgoode is in the ballpark of 275 students, that’s around 55 people. I’ve personally heard figures higher and lower than this. And then there are all the other Ontario schools with substantial numbers of students who are from Toronto and are looking to return.

Part of the solution would obviously be for students to look outside of the major cities. But there are also problems with smaller firms advertising and finding students looking for these opportunities. CSOs are doing what they can, and are usually doing a great job, but can only do so much. I still have too many friends still looking.

After one sole practitioner recently contacted us about an available position, I’ve decided to set up a page on Law is Cool for articling positions, with a dedicated e-mail address for law firms looking for students.

If we can match even a single student it will be worth our while, as we are facilitating the entry of the next generation of lawyers. Any help that readers can offer to assist these students is greatly appreciated.


  1. Good posting Omar. As we discussed in person many times, the Law Society really must step up and do something about this problem. If not, the legal profession will remain insulated from the rest of society based on entrenched interest, inherited privilege and nepotism except for the lucky few who manage by hook or by crook to break in.

    The fact that a student blog such as Law is Cool has taken measures to address the matter in a very limited way speaks on the magnitude of the situation and the failure of the Law Society to effectively deal with it.

  2. Joel, I’ve always tried to have a problem-solving orientation and an internal locus of control. That means if there’s something wrong, there has to be something I can do the change it, or at least try.

    I don’t know how much more the Law Society or even the law schools can do, although you have raised many important issues in your piece on this. Fortunately it’s not a lucky few who manage to break in; it’s a few who don’t. The current situation is complicated by greater economic issues outside of the control of many of the parties involved.

    We can only try to help those who have fared less well. That’s usually the philosophy that got most of us into this profession in the first place.

  3. Fair points Omar. I was perhaps slightly more cynical then I ought to be. I just hate it when I see people struggling with part-time jobs and risking everything they have just to fall between the cracks because of factors out of their control.

  4. This is my first post on slaw having learned more about it at today’s Solo and Small firm conference.

    Omar, there’s a major ethical concern that some lawyers face when deciding whether to hire an articling student which relates to the issue of compensation.

    Many small firms and solo practitioners pay their articling students very little. I think this is wrong. That said, many students really need work and at this point are willing to take such a job. As a result, the market allows for these disgustingly low salaries.

    I’m in a position where I just cannot afford an articling student and don’t really have enough work to give one. On the other hand, I’d really like to help a student who needs a position. It’s a tough ethical scenario. I also get calls sometimes for someone wishing to “volunteer” for my office. While an educational internship program is one thing, I’m not a charity and don’t deserve to have someone “volunteering” for me.

    What are your thoughts and the thoughts of students in general? Ultimately, I feel that I cannot ethically take on a student unless I am able to treat them fairly in terms of salary and experience provided. Unfortunately the result of that position is that a student may be unable to fulfill their LSUC requirements.

  5. My thoughts are that obviously LSUC (or other law society) requirements should be met. But there is some work to go around, we just have to find it.

    Compensation is a huge issue, but cost of living in smaller towns is also much lower than the big cities.

    Another idea that is often raised in conversations I have with lawyers is sharing an articling student between several law firms to ensure adequate exposure, but also minimizing the costs involved.

    Just as for every wrong there is a remedy, I do tend to think that with enough creativity there with every problem there is some form of a solution. But law firms also have to see the value in taking students on as well.

  6. Possible solution – give credits to students who work at CLA clinics during law school to reduce the required months serving as an articling student.

  7. What about some sort of entrepreneurial arrangement where a student is paid based on work brought in or billings? The wage would, of course, be fair and appropriate. Many firms take advantage of such an EWYK arrangement.

    We need to be creative in solving this conflict between students needing jobs and solo/small-firms who legitimately cannot afford to pay them fairly.

  8. Adam, I’m all for creative ideas.
    Completely unrelated to this initiative, I am one of the new articling ambassadors for the OBA. I’m not entirely sure what the responsibilities entail, but I’ll be sure to forward any constructive solutions that people offer.

  9. Omar, you and the other ambassadors should quickly organize a round table meeting to discuss ways to promote and improve the hiring of students for articling positions before the due date in August. I am willing to attend and share my own experience and support. The meeting should be held soon after your bar exams. I am willing to help with the organization of the meeting. There is still time to help students who have not yet found an articling position. PM me.

  10. Hi,

    Thanks for posting positions. I have got Certificate of Qualification from NCA, Ottawa and now in process of finding Articles. Most law firms i applied don’t know about NCA process for accreditaion of foreign law graduates. Even Law socoiety of BC does not had done enough for us. They should scrap articles for foreign lawyers like Law society of Upper canada or give enough information to Law firms Who we are? Even non profit organizations don’t hire NCA Students.

  11. Re: Gurminder’s post:
    I am an NCA student, and am in the process of completing articles. I had no trouble finding articles and have no idea why you might be having trouble.
    I am just completing articles in Hamilton Ontario with one of the best, and biggest firms in the city.
    Brush up, and off, your resume, and pound the pavement. There are tons of opportunities out there for those willing to look.
    Also, I found that most people knew exactly what the NCA was, and was about. It was not a disadvantage in any way. In fact, I might even say that it was a bit of an advantage, which helped distinguish my application from others.

  12. I am one of the 2010 grads without an article. Currenly the UofC has about 10% of its students without positions.

  13. I can appreciate your comment concerning CDO’s (Career Development Office). I am currently attending Dalhousie and will be entering into my third year. My experience with Dal’s CDO has been poor. If you are not a big firm candidate, there is no information available in terms of smaller firms. The CDO’s information on regional firms in Alberta, where I am from, is outdated and sometimes outright incorrect. I understand that CDO’s can only do so much, but they should be expected to their job at a minimum. I know I am going to one of those students without articles. I do not blame Dal for this because my grades are below average. But I believe that when students are struggling, the schools need to step up and do a better job of reaching out to the smaller, non national firms.

    Good Luck to all those looking for articles.