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Does law school choice matter when applying for municipality or provincial lawyer jobs?


Fyodor

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Fyodor
  • Law School Admit

Hello. I am most interested in pursuing the field of law to work for an Ontario municipality or the province. While I can work hard, I know I cannot put in the absurd hours family members do in corporate law. My main goal is to stay in Toronto or the GTA. To have a chance at these jobs do I need to go to law schools like Uoft or Osgoode? Or will other schools like Ottawa, Queens, TMU be totally fine? Extra context: native speaker in English but not French. 

Thanks

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My advice would be stick to an Ontario school. And then stick to the school that keeps your debt load as low as possible - whether it’s lower tuition or scholarships or bursaries or whatever. 

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whereverjustice
  • Lawyer

It's definitely not necessary to attend UofT or Osgoode to work for the Ontario provincial government. Any common law school will do (in Ontario or elsewhere).

It might be helpful to go to a law school somewhere that has a vibrant public sector (e.g. a large city or a provincial capital) to make it easier for you to pursue summer jobs and volunteer experiences that could bolster your resume for government jobs.

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Fyodor
  • Law School Admit

Thank you both for the responses. I am currently living in Toronto and am hoping to practice in Toronto/GTA. One of my top choices is Ottawa and Queens. Do you think Ottawa/Queens would have good opportunities for coming back to Toronto to work in the public sector? 

Thanks again for the replies,

 

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whereverjustice
  • Lawyer

Ottawa, yes, definitely.

I'm not familiar with the experiential programs at Queen's but I would suspect that Ottawa would have a lot more to offer in terms of public sector placement opportunities, both from the size of the city and the fact that it's the national capital.

Ottawa's public law course offerings and faculty are also very strong.

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ZukoJD
  • Articling Student

I would strongly encourage you to get your foot in the door of the public sector in some capacity asap. It seems like many public sector lawyers worked some government position prior. I’ve noticed many of them have experience in student roles that you can get through FSWEP.

Also at uOttawa you can do a student proposed internship. I’ve seen people leverage these to get some public sector experience. Sometimes these lead to paid positions. 

Edited by ZukoJD
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YerAWizardHarry
  • Law Student

Queen's isn't a bad choice either. I have plenty of friends who recently landed jobs in the public sector.

I won't pretend like Queen's outshines Ottawa in terms of opportunities (in your field) though. If you get into both schools, you'll probably have a slightly easier time landing the types of jobs you want with the resume uOttawa can give you. For example, Queen's offers an internship with the federal government (https://law.queensu.ca/federal-government-internship#:~:text=Overview,100 hours during the term) that requires you to spend about one day a week working in-person in Ottawa. This is pretty inaccessible for most of the people I know, even those who have a car. 

All things considered, I definitely agree that you should work on minimizing that debt load. This is something you can do at either school. If you end up at Queens, you're definitely not going to be forced into a corporate law career. 

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BlackRod
  • Lawyer

I wouldn't immediately write off private practice.

Depending on the firm (i.e., if you are outside the GTA and/or not at a national satellite), you don't need to work absurd hours if you are a municipal/land-use planning lawyer. There are several smaller/regional firms throughout Ontario with excellent municipal practices. While you would make less than the Toronto firms, the money is still good.

Further, you would act for many municipal corporations that are too small to employ permanent counsel. As such, after cutting your teeth for 2 - 4 years, you could easily lateral into a position with a larger municipal corporation if you are not enjoying private practice.

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Psmith
  • Lawyer

Queen's has a municipal law course, which I don't think every school does, and it's worthy of note that two of the larger firms in the Kingston area (Templeman and Cunningham Swan) have significant municipal practices.

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erin otoole
  • Lawyer
3 hours ago, Psmith said:

Queen's has a municipal law course, which I don't think every school does, and it's worthy of note that two of the larger firms in the Kingston area (Templeman and Cunningham Swan) have significant municipal practices.

Windsor has both a municipal law, and a land use law course. As well as some oddly specific municipal law externship and clinic opportunities. If Windsor has it I can't imagine it's that rare. 

Edited by erin otoole
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Fyodor
  • Law School Admit
On 11/27/2022 at 7:58 PM, ZukoJD said:

I would strongly encourage you to get your foot in the door of the public sector in some capacity asap. It seems like many public sector lawyers worked some government position prior. I’ve noticed many of them have experience in student roles that you can get through FSWEP.

Also at uOttawa you can do a student proposed internship. I’ve seen people leverage these to get some public sector experience. Sometimes these lead to paid positions. 

Thank you so much for this!

I am currently in my fourth year and will be taking a gap year. I now know what type of job I'll have to aim for. I do have a family friend that is a lawyer working for a municipality. So aside from applying through FSWEP, fingers crossed I have a chance there as well. It also seems like uOttawa has so many great things to offer. Are most of the opportunities reserved for bilingual speakers though? While I am a native speaker in English I'm an elementary French speaker at best. 

I do have a great connection being my dad whos work dealt with furnishing government buildings like the Ministry of Labour etc. Only thing is it wouldn't be a clear association. Still worth a consideration though. For sure I'll focus on trying to get some type of government position!

Edited by Fyodor
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Fyodor
  • Law School Admit

 

On 11/28/2022 at 1:01 PM, YerAWizardHarry said:

Queen's isn't a bad choice either. I have plenty of friends who recently landed jobs in the public sector.

I won't pretend like Queen's outshines Ottawa in terms of opportunities (in your field) though. If you get into both schools, you'll probably have a slightly easier time landing the types of jobs you want with the resume uOttawa can give you. For example, Queen's offers an internship with the federal government (https://law.queensu.ca/federal-government-internship#:~:text=Overview,100 hours during the term) that requires you to spend about one day a week working in-person in Ottawa. This is pretty inaccessible for most of the people I know, even those who have a car. 

All things considered, I definitely agree that you should work on minimizing that debt load. This is something you can do at either school. If you end up at Queens, you're definitely not going to be forced into a corporate law career. 

Thank you so much for the advice. It's great to know Queens as great opportunities for this as well. The main thing I'm concerned about with federal government is I assume I will need to be a bilingual speaker. Unfortunately, I'm only native in English with an elementary level of French. It seems to be a a reoccurring theme that minimizing debt load is important especially when aiming to work in the public sector. 

Thanks!

17 hours ago, BlackRod said:

I wouldn't immediately write off private practice.

Depending on the firm (i.e., if you are outside the GTA and/or not at a national satellite), you don't need to work absurd hours if you are a municipal/land-use planning lawyer. There are several smaller/regional firms throughout Ontario with excellent municipal practices. While you would make less than the Toronto firms, the money is still good.

Further, you would act for many municipal corporations that are too small to employ permanent counsel. As such, after cutting your teeth for 2 - 4 years, you could easily lateral into a position with a larger municipal corporation if you are not enjoying private practice.

You make an excellent point! It goes to show how versatile a law degree can be. 

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LMP
  • Articling Student
57 minutes ago, Fyodor said:

 

Thank you so much for the advice. It's great to know Queens as great opportunities for this as well. The main thing I'm concerned about with federal government is I assume I will need to be a bilingual speaker. Unfortunately, I'm only native in English with an elementary level of French. It seems to be a a reoccurring theme that minimizing debt load is important especially when aiming to work in the public sector. 

Thanks!

You make an excellent point! It goes to show how versatile a law degree can be. 

Being bilingual certianly helps and may be a requirement for some positions. But there are many, many, members of the public service who speak only one language. 

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ZukoJD
  • Articling Student
1 hour ago, Fyodor said:

Thank you so much for this!

I am currently in my fourth year and will be taking a gap year. I now know what type of job I'll have to aim for. I do have a family friend that is a lawyer working for a municipality. So aside from applying through FSWEP, fingers crossed I have a chance there as well. It also seems like uOttawa has so many great things to offer. Are most of the opportunities reserved for bilingual speakers though? While I am a native speaker in English I'm an elementary French speaker at best. 

I do have a great connection being my dad whos work dealt with furnishing government buildings like the Ministry of Labour etc. Only thing is it wouldn't be a clear association. Still worth a consideration though. For sure I'll focus on trying to get some type of government position!

I know people who have done their internships with the gov't without knowing French, but it's obviously going to be an asset. I learned French as an anglo so if you want to chat about that PM me. 

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BlackRod
  • Lawyer

There is also a municipal and land use planning course at uOttawa. When I was there, the prof was a retired deputy City Solicitor with the City of Ottawa. Nice guy, and a pretty chill course.

Municipal/land use planning is also a relatively niche field. If you get a position with a smaller regional firm (including the ones Psmith referenced) the job is more relaxed, and you work on files with Bay Street firms opposite all the time. It is a relatively small bar; you start seeing the same faces at the Ontario Land Tribunal pretty quick. Really makes you question why people pay Bay Street rates for municipal lawyers. They charge 40-50% more, and really don't provide any more discernible value...

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whereverjustice
  • Lawyer
4 hours ago, Fyodor said:

I do have a great connection being my dad whos work dealt with furnishing government buildings like the Ministry of Labour etc. Only thing is it wouldn't be a clear association. Still worth a consideration though.

I'm not 100% sure I understand what you meant by this. But if you mean this is a "great connection" in the sense that your dad's work will give you a meaningful advantage in applying for public sector jobs, I think you are mistaken.

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BlackRod
  • Lawyer
21 minutes ago, whereverjustice said:

I'm not 100% sure I understand what you meant by this. But if you mean this is a "great connection" in the sense that your dad's work will give you a meaningful advantage in applying for public sector jobs, I think you are mistaken.

I believe the Borden Ministry implemented the impartiality of the civil service at the federal (dominion?) level at some point during the First World War. Not sure who did the same at the Ontario level. But yes - nepotism generally doesn't work for positions with the Crowns.

Not that you were implying political donations. But still, generally an anti-nepotism sentiment in government (thankfully).

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Fyodor
  • Law School Admit
55 minutes ago, whereverjustice said:

I'm not 100% sure I understand what you meant by this. But if you mean this is a "great connection" in the sense that your dad's work will give you a meaningful advantage in applying for public sector jobs, I think you are mistaken.

 

34 minutes ago, BlackRod said:

I believe the Borden Ministry implemented the impartiality of the civil service at the federal (dominion?) level at some point during the First World War. Not sure who did the same at the Ontario level. But yes - nepotism generally doesn't work for positions with the Crowns.

Not that you were implying political donations. But still, generally an anti-nepotism sentiment in government (thankfully).

For sure nepotism wouldn't work and I don't expect/want that. I meant more like just like talking to people (probably doing their filing and simple tasks) with people connected to the public sector. I figure it's always good to learn from many people in similar fields of interest. I also figure it's great opportunities to just ask questions in general. That's what I meant by saying how it's not some pure association with the public sector.

From you guys alone I learned so much more about what I am interested in. But encountering people irl who work in it can also add a lot because I find industry professionals always recommend so many doors I didn't even know existed (Like above with the land use planning suggestion!). Hope I didn't come across in a bad way.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
Winter
  • Articling Student

I'm currently an articling student in this area. Just thought I'd add my two cents because on paper, no one would really think I would be competitive enough to land a job in this sector in the GTA. I went to school outside the GTA/Ontario and had really bad grades (and I mean C+ average at best). But had a handful of great grades in key courses like Admin and public law related paper courses.

The thing that made a difference (and confirmed later by my boss) is that I had work experience in government dating back to my undergraduate years. My work experience spoke for itself - I didn't have to justify to anyone why I would be interested in articling in the public sector or in this particular stratus of government. And the work experience spanned a wide variety of government. My jobs were was mostly student administrative positions (with some being legal adjacent) but I had a lot of exposure and I lucked out with great bosses who gave me tasks or got me involved in things that were beyond administrative because I expressed interest. It was also compelling enough that the legal branch of my home province also offered me an articling interview. Often, if you hold a student position in government, most bosses are willing to write some great references on your behalf if you genuinely worked hard and were enthusiastic. So echoing comments above, definitely get your foot in the door with government and try and pick up projects that are government related while at law school.

 

And for what it's worth, I see a LOT of Windsor grads in this area both at junior and senior levels. And I genuinely mean a lot.

 

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Fyodor
  • Law School Admit
20 hours ago, Winter said:

I'm currently an articling student in this area. Just thought I'd add my two cents because on paper, no one would really think I would be competitive enough to land a job in this sector in the GTA. I went to school outside the GTA/Ontario and had really bad grades (and I mean C+ average at best). But had a handful of great grades in key courses like Admin and public law related paper courses.

The thing that made a difference (and confirmed later by my boss) is that I had work experience in government dating back to my undergraduate years. My work experience spoke for itself - I didn't have to justify to anyone why I would be interested in articling in the public sector or in this particular stratus of government. And the work experience spanned a wide variety of government. My jobs were was mostly student administrative positions (with some being legal adjacent) but I had a lot of exposure and I lucked out with great bosses who gave me tasks or got me involved in things that were beyond administrative because I expressed interest. It was also compelling enough that the legal branch of my home province also offered me an articling interview. Often, if you hold a student position in government, most bosses are willing to write some great references on your behalf if you genuinely worked hard and were enthusiastic. So echoing comments above, definitely get your foot in the door with government and try and pick up projects that are government related while at law school.

 

And for what it's worth, I see a LOT of Windsor grads in this area both at junior and senior levels. And I genuinely mean a lot.

 

Wow thank you so much for this information! I'm trying to find municipal/provincial applications but I am really struggling. I am taking a gap year after I finish my degree this year so I am really hoping I can find any placement in the government. I've always worked hard and got great references from former managers so I really hope it can continue if I end up finding government work. Do you have any suggestions for places to apply in Ontario? I find Indeed does not have much but occasionally a position to be a court reporter comes up. Also congrats! Im glad to see your hard work is paying off 🙂

Thanks!

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On 12/23/2022 at 11:39 AM, Fyodor said:

Wow thank you so much for this information! I'm trying to find municipal/provincial applications but I am really struggling. I am taking a gap year after I finish my degree this year so I am really hoping I can find any placement in the government. I've always worked hard and got great references from former managers so I really hope it can continue if I end up finding government work. Do you have any suggestions for places to apply in Ontario? I find Indeed does not have much but occasionally a position to be a court reporter comes up. Also congrats! Im glad to see your hard work is paying off 🙂

Thanks!

Have you been checking the OPS Career website? It's probably one of the better resources on that front.

https://www.gojobs.gov.on.ca/Jobs.aspx

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  • 2 weeks later...
Winter
  • Articling Student
On 12/23/2022 at 11:39 AM, Fyodor said:

Wow thank you so much for this information! I'm trying to find municipal/provincial applications but I am really struggling. I am taking a gap year after I finish my degree this year so I am really hoping I can find any placement in the government. I've always worked hard and got great references from former managers so I really hope it can continue if I end up finding government work. Do you have any suggestions for places to apply in Ontario? I find Indeed does not have much but occasionally a position to be a court reporter comes up. Also congrats! Im glad to see your hard work is paying off 🙂

Thanks!

I don't know too much about Ontario directly because the program I used to find jobs is not applicable here. But I think someone mentioned FSWEP, which you can do as a student. That'll give you some government experience. I also see a few municipal or general government positions pop up in LinkedIn. And then my other suggestion would be to go to a particular municipality or ministry's website. A lof of municipalities hire students in the summer in admin position. I think one thing I would emphasize is not turning down opportunities that are more administrative or particularly not adjacent/applicable to law. What you want is to get your foot in the door and then use it to build. Because municipal is not straightforward, a lot of it will fall on you to create opportunities while in school. And if you're taking a gap year, I'd see if I could find a policy position or some sort of clerical position. Just get yourself in is my suggestion. 

 

Also thanks! If you have more specific questions, just dm me. 

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  • 4 months later...
Fyodor
  • Law School Admit
On 1/7/2023 at 3:00 AM, Winter said:

I don't know too much about Ontario directly because the program I used to find jobs is not applicable here. But I think someone mentioned FSWEP, which you can do as a student. That'll give you some government experience. I also see a few municipal or general government positions pop up in LinkedIn. And then my other suggestion would be to go to a particular municipality or ministry's website. A lof of municipalities hire students in the summer in admin position. I think one thing I would emphasize is not turning down opportunities that are more administrative or particularly not adjacent/applicable to law. What you want is to get your foot in the door and then use it to build. Because municipal is not straightforward, a lot of it will fall on you to create opportunities while in school. And if you're taking a gap year, I'd see if I could find a policy position or some sort of clerical position. Just get yourself in is my suggestion. 

 

Also thanks! If you have more specific questions, just dm me. 

 

On 12/25/2022 at 9:59 PM, ZineZ said:

Have you been checking the OPS Career website? It's probably one of the better resources on that front.

https://www.gojobs.gov.on.ca/Jobs.aspx

Thank you both for some great feedback!

I just finished my last semester and am now studying full-time for the LSAT. I'm going to do my best to apply for positions like this starting this fall. Hopefully between the fall 2023-summer 2024 I find something! All of the responses here have been so helpful and I truly appreciate it 🙂 

My final question is does the area of provincial work matter? Or is any provincial work good enough? For example, would working administrative at the Attorney General be equivalent to lets say administrative roles at the Region of Peel? 

Thanks!

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