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Less reading n writing and more interacting!


idealest

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idealest
  • Lawyer

Hello all

Wondering what people's suggestions are for a lawyer who wants to get into an area of practice that involves more interaction and action and less reading researching and drafting. Most lawyer roles involve a fair amount of research, reading and drafting, but there are roles that more dynamic in nature out there. 

The roles that come to mind are duty counsel or working in a legal clinic.

Any other roles that come to mind?

Has anyone worked either as duty counsel or in a legal clinic? How did that go for you?

 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
Ruthless4Life
  • Lawyer

A lot of partners at big law firms spend a lot of their time doing PR and interacting with clients, potential clients, to bring in business with most of the legal work going to the junior lawyers. 

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Phaedrus
  • Lawyer

There's an issue with the framing of the question and the assumption that lawyers who are on their feet perform substantially less research and drafting. My answer's directed more toward applicants and students who are interested in on-your-feet practice.

I practice criminal and family law; areas that have you in court more days than not, and I'll tell you that the consequence of getting to talk all day is that my 'real day' starts when I get back from court at 4:30.

Cases have issues, and understanding issues requires research. It's great to rip through oral submissions, but to get there I've reviewed disclosure; filed a Charter notice (research and writing), conducted a voir dire (research, document review, and prep), and filed a brief (research and writing). Criminal and family law are always shifting below your feet and every senior lawyer will tell you it's impossible to stay on top of it all. I don't always prepare a formal research memo when I research a topic (though I, personally, prefer to for the sake of helping future-me), but I research and draft every day and more often than not it's really early in the morning or really late at night. Why? Because materials need to be filed and I won't have time tomorrow because I'm in court. I'd probably agree that I don't draft as many formal memos and documents as solicitors, but it's still an integral part of my job. 

Duty counsel could be the least research and drafting intensive niche, perhaps. Learn ss. 515-520, St-CloudAntic and Zora and you're most of the way there. But that doesn't mean it's an easy job by any stretch. I think Diplock talked about it elsewhere on this forum or its predecessor, and described the job as often crafting release plans from shoestrings and paperclips. It's trying to avoid the use of remand as a means further punish homelessness, and often working with upset people and all the ways their fear/anger can manifest itself. Oh, and you have no preparation time. And if you're not getting yelled at by your client, you find yourself getting grilled by judges and Crown. 

The challenges with being staff duty counsel are two-fold: (1) it's emotionally exhausting for the reasons above, and (2) you become pigeon-holed very quickly. You have to be alive to Charter and other evidentiary issues as DC, but that's a distinct requirement from needing to have an in-depth understanding of same. They get really good at issue spotting, but DC aren't filing Charter applications on a regular basis, aren't they drafting written briefs as often, and they're not running proper trials. If the time comes that they want to go/return to full criminal practice, DC need to get up to speed on the procedural and substantive parts of criminal law while fighting the urge to assume that their knowledge and skills fully transfer.

To be clear, I have a lot of respect and admiration for the work staff duty counsel do. Most I know have been doing it for years and the ones who stick with it are some of the most thick-skinned, compassionate people out there. It takes a certain kind of person to juggle the amount of work they do, take punishment from all sides, and still end their day in good cheer. 

EDIT: I was reflecting a bit on the "drafting" component of my practice. A major piece of criminal and family practice that gets overlooked/forgotten is the constant negotiation with opposing counsel. I may not file a formal brief for a case - and I'd say I probably don't for most - but I'm writing advocacy pieces back and forth on all. And, for the record, it's fucking hard. Why? Because piss off the Crown and they'll take it out on your client; phrase a sentence wrong and suddenly Mom's willing to drag you through a lengthy contested hearing; give one detail too much and you've sunk yourself. It's time consuming and requires an intimate knowledge of the law/issues and their application to your client's case; so, you guessed it, it's research, reference to legislation/caselaw, writing, and strong professional/social tact. It's just a lot of research and drafting that never sees the light of day. 

Edited by Phaedrus
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In my years of doing employment law, both in a firm and in-house, I've found it to offer a pretty nice mix or sitting back doing thinking/writing and being out there talking to people/advocating.

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  • 3 months later...
practitionerpak
  • Law School Admit
On 1/20/2023 at 7:16 PM, Phaedrus said:

I practice criminal and family law; areas that have you in court more days than not, and I'll tell you that the consequence of getting to talk all day is that my 'real day' starts when I get back from court at 4:30.

Phaedrus, could you speak to the size of your practice? And how late in the office is normal for you?

 

I'm packing bags and moving across the world to get licensed in Ontario and pursue (niche) litigation. Any insight is appreciated. 

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Phaedrus
  • Lawyer

Sure. I practice in a rural area and not in Ontario. My caseload varies, but on average I carry 90-130 "full service" files and another 40-70 "summary advice" files. Summary advice files are those limited to an hour or two of consultation, assistance preparing applications, appearance at a tenancy or income assistance hearing. 

A note on the caseload: It's not an accurate measurement of busyness. Organizationally, each Information is its own file, and a single client might (and for the folks I represent, often) have multiple Informations on the go. For example, it's not uncommon to have a client with 10+ active Informations (files) before the court. A full-service family file can be a straight forward custody matter (to all the family lawyers on the forum - yes, this is tongue-in-cheek) or a complicated divorce+custody+asset division matter. Just like other practice areas, there are low demand "backburner" files and there are all-consuming files. And then there are the ones I just feel bad for that I inevitably end up investing way too much time and energy on. 

I try to keep my hours regular and consistent to avoid emotional burn out. I try to be in around 7:30 am and out by 6:30 pm. I don't work too many weekends (and I actively work late to avoid them). 

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Case
  • Lawyer

As Phadreus says, appearances can be deceiving. For lawyers who are "on their feet" and interacting all day the foundations of success come from deep research and attentive drafting.

On the contrary, the fat solicitor, who appears to spend all day drafting and reading, sometimes actually spends the majority of their time schmoozing clients and third party referral sources.

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