Law Students – Stay Calm and Carry-On

This week, it was (on campus interview) OCI week at Western University Law School with law firms recruiting for summer jobs in 2013. For those who don’t know, students who don’t get a summer job are less likely to get an articling position, and those who don’t get an articling job are unable to practice. Not to put too fine a point on it but, 13% of students in Ontario last year did not get articling jobs. So the pressure on students can be immense.

Some students missed my class due to this time-honoured rite of passage that was only beginning to raise its ugly head when I was a student – in the very same room in which I now teach.

The process is an apt metaphor for the legal profession’s slavish devotion to the past. We use the same old dusty process year after year to attract talent to take part in the same old “promotion to partner tournament” discussed by Glanater and Palay in 1991 and by Mayson in 1997. And a silly tournament it is; one in which the winners are those who forsake all they held dear pre-law school in exchange for a pot of gold that may be more illusory then real.

And while many of students are flattered by the thrill of the chase, many others privately agree with me that forcing law students to begin a career path after 8 months of law school – based on marks that in no way truly reflect the ability of the candidate – is not good law firm management practice. But still they go.

However unlike in my day, students, whether they realize it or not, have far more career opportunities with their legal degrees than I did at their age. And although it may be hard to see through the gloomy haze of plummeting articling job numbers, they are much better off than those of us in my graduating class. They now have the ideas, technology and market conditions to shatter the old ways of delivering legal services. They now have chances to take new roles with new entrants to the legal services industry; roles that were not even a pipe dream when I graduated.

And one day, I hope that someone in the class I now teach will finally drive a stake deep into the heart of both the summer/articling job circus and promotion-to-partner tournament.

So if you are a law student, or even thinking of law school – chin up!

Stay calm and carry-on to a new era in legal services that only you can create.

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