Tomorrow morning hundreds of hopeful law students (and some law graduates) will descend upon the City of Toronto in search of an articling position.
It is not unusual for a law firm to receive two hundred applications or more for every available position. The process is competitive and it is intense and gruelling.
As a member of my firm’s student committee, I will be spending the next three days away from clients and files and instead will be eyeballs deep in interviews, committee meetings and dinner engagements trying to find the right students for our firm.
Since tis the season for articling interviews, I thought I would share some advice with the students who are about to embark on this process. Please note that all opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
It Is Okay To Be Nervous
I expect you to be a bit nervous when I meet you. I understand that there is a lot riding on this process for you, that it is incredibly stressful and that you probably did not sleep much last night. It wasn’t too long ago that I was in your chair. Guess what, I was nervous too. Don’t stress too much about a little case of the jitters. I’m more off-put by someone who appears to be 100% at ease than I am by someone who appears to be a bit nervous.
Be Confident… but not too Confident
As the saying goes, “No one will believe in you unless you do.” You need to communicate, directly or indirectly, that you’re capable of being an excellent articling student if you get the position. If you don’t think you can do the job well, I’m not going to think you can either. Conversely, excessive confidence, or cockiness, isn’t going to win you any points. Articling students almost never hit the ground running at full speed on day one, so realize that you’re going to be learning a lot during your 10 month term and be a bit humble as well.
Show Me You’re Interested
You need to communicate why you want to work with us as opposed to another firm. I realize that it may be hard to draw a meaningful distinction between firms from where you sit, but I want to see that you’ve invested the time and effort in trying. It shows me that you’re invested in the process. If you provide me with a generic answer it tells me you didn’t feel it was worth it to put in the effort to look into what we are all about.
Your Life Experiences Tell Me More About you Than your Grades
If you’re meeting me it means your grades were good enough to get you in the door and they are probably similar to most of the other candidates we are meeting. What will distinguish you are the life experiences you have, and how those experiences impacted your life. To a large degree, I care more about why you did things and how those things shaped you than I do about what you’ve done. I’ve been incredibly impressed by a candidate explaining how working at the Home Depot shaped their character. I’ve also been incredibly unimpressed by a candidate explaining their internship at the UN and how it will help them conduct excellent research.
Show Me You Can Learn
I don’t expect you to have the necessary legal skills that will make you an exceptional articling student on the morning of your first day. However, I want to make sure that you have the necessary personality traits and ability to learn (quickly). We can teach you to become a great articling student; we want to know that you can learn.
This is Not the End
This process is the beginning of a long career. If you’re not hired by the firm you desire, or if you’re not offered any position at all when the process concludes, realize it is not the end of the world. The ratio of applications and interviews to positions dictates that the majority of the people who go through this process will experience some disappointment. There will be other excellent opportunities for you.
If I ask You what Animal you Would be and Why…
The correct answer is a giraffe, due to their excellent eyesight and powerful kicks.
Good luck everyone!!