The stress of passing the Bar is present in every student’s mind from the very beginning of their legal studies. In Quebec, the ideal time to apply and find an internship in one of the top prominent law firms is during the second or third year of law school, during what is referred to as the ‘’course aux stages’’ (i.e. the race to find an internship). Not every student participates in the event and only a select few who take part have the privilege of landing an internship. Some students with connections find a spot in midsize firms, and those with more important connections can find an internship in the ‘’big’’ firms even after the Course is over. A vast majority of students, however, hold off their search during their bachelor’s degree and only begin to apply during Bar School.
There are some offers listed on L’Ecole Du Barreau du Quebec’s website, as well as some offers on the various university law faculty websites. However, with six law schools preparing students to be called to the Bar, the competition is very tough and the number of internships available compared to the number of applicants is extremely low. Many times, applicants quickly learn that some lawyers don’t even have the means to offer an internship (not enough work to occupy the intern, the lawyer isn’t always available to supervise the intern’s work, or they don’t have the budget, etc). For this reason, creativity plays an important role in this economy and the system should be more open to facilitate the access to the profession.
Similar to the co-op programs (small practitioners splitting articling students) which Omar Ha Red-Eye spoke of in a previous post, a lawyer in Montreal developed a new system that could help stimulate the internship process. With the help of technology (collaborative platforms, electronic documents and signatures, instant messaging, cell phones, etc.), Dominic Jaar has re-imagined the traditional law internship, which I’ll refer to as the 2.0 Internship, and Francois Senecal has in fact completed a non-conventional internship with Dominic at Ledjit Consulting (which was recently acquired by KPMG) in Montreal. This was of course done with the permission of the “Comité de Formation Permanente”. Permission had to be granted by the Quebec Bar due to the fact that the intern’s work would not continuously be supervised (which in principle is indeed a requirement of the regulatory Committee) – at least in the traditional understanding of “supervision”.
Once permission was granted, Francois had landed a stage and Dominic had landed an intern whose work he could supervise even while being on business trips. The main condition of their contract was that Francois had to be available online, on Skype, during work hours. Furthermore, as in an office setting, Dominic had to be able to easily reach Francois at any moment. Francois benefited from being able to contact any of the firm’s employees, who were always reachable online or by phone. Ledjit generally followed an “open door” policy, and lawyers had to be easily reachable and ready to help.
Francois did however still meet Dominic in person at least once a week. They would debrief each other and prepare an evaluation of the week. They always kept in mind that the traditional internship process of being in-person contact was also very important and promoted further communication. Francois successfully completed his internship and was hired to work for Ledjit Consulting (and now is an adviser at KPMG).
I believe that Francois and Dominic’s successful internship experience should receive much more promotion and advertisement by the Quebec Bar (as well as other Bars for that matter). It could definitely open doors for students who are having a hard time finding a traditional internship. It could be as equally beneficial to lawyers who can’t commit to hiring an intern while meeting the usual and traditional requirements of supervision.