If You Didn’t Get Offered Articles

It’s articling season in Alberta. If you’re one of the many students who didn’t land an offer this week, that’s the first thing that you have to remember. You’re one of many students who didn’t land an offer this week.

During the official recruitment period the supply of jobs will inevitably be much smaller than the demand. While firms can safely decide not to participate in the recruitment period, how many students do you know who had the courage to take that risk? As taxing as articling week is on students, it’s also onerous for firms. As such, a lot of firms opt out of recruitment week and instead plan to hire on their own schedule and on their own terms – even large and midsize firms are opting out. Many other firms don’t know what their staffing needs will be a year from now and won’t be in a position to advertise until closer to the position’s actual start date. While it can be discouraging that your job search isn’t over yet, there’s still a good supply of good positions out there. From here on applications, interviews and offers can also proceed at a far less hectic pace.

Not having an articling position also means you still have time to think about what kind of lawyer you want to be. If you went to law school with the goal of making a difference in society, how will you reflect that goal as you move forward in your job search? If you went to law school because you thought a law degree would get you a better job, what does “better” look like to you now that you’re two thirds through your degree? If you went to law school to keep your options open while you decided what to do when you grow up, what type of practice will allow you the opportunity to learn while you make up your mind?

As your search continues, keep in mind that mobility is the new reality. For many of you, finding an articling position will not be your first law job. It’s also very unlikely that it will be your last. While an articling position often comes with the prospect of longer term employment, it is still just a one year term at the outset. Looking for a job for a 12 month term rather than aiming to lock in the rest of your life might help to keep things in perspective.


  1. I think the tone of this article is a welcome one, however as a student still searching for articles, some of the views seem dated.

    First let’s talk about the comment that mid-sized and larger firms opt out of the articling process. This is simply not the case, if you do not get articles through summer programs or the articling recruit, the likelihood of those types of firms still recruiting in third year is almost non-existent. The fact of the matter is that firms of those sizes are recruiting their students earlier and earlier as time goes on. The articling recruitment period in Alberta is essentially secondary to summer student recruitment. As time goes on, I predict that most articles at large or mid-sized firms will be taken well in advance of this phase of recruitment.

    I agree with the point that mobility is the new reality, we obviously are working in a time where the concept of working for a single employer in your lifetime is a dated one. That being said, I think there is also a valid point to be made that some individuals, by virtue of where they articled, will be more mobile than others.

    Already there are comments in other publications where recruiters at national firms essentially separate young lawyers into two camps, those who had articles at mid-sized or large firms and boutiques, and those who did not. It’s a secondary point to this article, but it seems that those who do not secure the last jobs available at larger firms through this process will be limited in their options later on. They may bounce between smaller firms or open their own practices, but they are not likely to ever move up to a larger firm.

    Those have been my observations at least, although I am not in legal practice I think there is some truth to these comments. Should anyone wish to correct me, I welcome constructive feedback.

  2. The search for articles was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. I was one of the students who graduated without an articling position lined up. I wasn’t a terrible student, but I wasn’t top of the class either (my transcript was a sea of Bs). Watching friends who I knew had worse grades than me somehow talk their way into what, at the time, looked like excellent jobs with large firms was extremely frustrating. Eventually I applied for a summer internship with an organization I was passionate about, just for something to do after graduation. I was offered the position and accepted it, despite many warnings that doing so might have a negative impact on my ability to find articles.

    In the few weeks between graduation and starting the internship, I found two articling jobs to apply for. I applied to both, was offered interviews at both and during the first week of my internship, received offers from both firms. After years of banging my head against the wall, I was now in a position where I actually had some choice as to where I wanted to work.

    It turned out to be a great summer. The internship was a wonderful experience, and it was something I would never have had the chance to do if I had been offered an articling position earlier.

    I guess the point of my story is that the search for articles can be an awful, soul-crushing experience. Try not to take it too personally. Some law firms receive hundreds of applications for a single position. While some of the factors they use to make their decision are obvious (eg. grades), others are things you would never be able to predict and which are entirely of your control. Maybe the firm has an intense hockey rivalry with another firm, and the successful candidate just happened to mention in their interview the 15 years of junior hockey they played.

    And remember that you WILL find a position, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

    With respect to anonymous’s comment: I admit that I haven’t practiced long enough to know whether my mobility prospects will be hampered by articling at a small firm. However, I do know several people who found late articling positions, articled at small firms, and now work at some of the biggest firms in the country. So it may make moving up to a large firm harder, but it’s certainly not impossible.