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FAQ on "Bay St Firms"


QueensGrad

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Forever Curious
  • Law Student
On 6/7/2021 at 2:30 PM, aflorrick said:

Last summer, students using their own laptops just connected remotely to a firm computer. No security issues - it really wasn't a big deal. 

As a matter of cyber security, it actually is a huge concern. Like HUGE. 

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Kashi
  • Law Student
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Forever Curious said:

As a matter of cyber security, it actually is a huge concern. Like HUGE. 

Idk man. I think these law firms probably have the money to shell out for expensive IT consultants that will tell them what is secure and what is not secure. 

From my friends that work at firms with their own laptops, I heard that all work is done either through a VPN or virtual desktop anyways. It's not as if they are just saving files onto their personal hard drive. 

EDIT: Personally, I would also much rather work with my own laptop. In my experience, work-provided laptops are usually of the Lenovo variety which have to be some of the clumsiest, worst laptops I've ever seen. 

Edited by Kashi
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Jaggers
38 minutes ago, Kashi said:

Idk man. I think these law firms probably have the money to shell out for expensive IT consultants that will tell them what is secure and what is not secure. 

The firms are way behind their big clients on cybersecurity. I don't understand all of the concerns, but we have phased out anyone's ability to remote connect from their own laptop or PC.

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Kashi
  • Law Student
5 minutes ago, Jaggers said:

The firms are way behind their big clients on cybersecurity. I don't understand all of the concerns, but we have phased out anyone's ability to remote connect from their own laptop or PC.

I don't know much about cybersecurity but I thought that an encrypted VPN w/ a remote desktop would be quite secure, no? How is that any different from using a firm laptop connected to your home wifi?

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Jaggers
Just now, Kashi said:

I don't know much about cybersecurity but I thought that an encrypted VPN w/ a remote desktop would be quite secure, no? How is that any different from using a firm laptop connected to your home wifi?

I don't know. That's why I'm a lawyer and not a cybersecurity expert. But I assure you we have many experts working in the area, and using your own computer to remote in is a no go for us. I think the risk is more intentional data leak than being hacked or targeted.

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Pantalaimon
  • Articling Student

I think the concern would be bugs living on your home laptop that would (hopefully) not be living on a firm laptop. Not so much the connection between the laptop & firm, that's covered by the VPN, but for instance a keylogger that snuck onto your home PC doesn't have to mess around with actually intercepting any communications, since it's compromised you at the origin.

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Ryn
  • Lawyer
8 minutes ago, Kashi said:

I don't know much about cybersecurity but I thought that an encrypted VPN w/ a remote desktop would be quite secure, no? How is that any different from using a firm laptop connected to your home wifi?

Typically firm laptops are managed by the IT people so you can't do anything except work stuff. It's locked down enough to where you have some reasonable protection against worms and viruses that will try to get into the corporate network. No such assurances on your home computer, unfortunately. VPN just secures the traffic going between you and the servers; it doesn't work if one of the endpoints are compromised.

 

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Ghalm
  • Lawyer
On 6/7/2021 at 10:28 AM, QueensGrad said:
  • possible you may have to advocate for / enable things that go against your personal beliefs (working for giant evil corporations, oil & gas work, tax loopholes, stopping unions, etc.)

IMO the work can sometimes entail advocating for / enabling things that align with your personal beliefs (conducting internal investigations into the shady conduct of management, pursuing the recovery of stolen assets, defending against overreaching securities misrepresentation claims, representing the sympathetic party to a contractual dispute or an oppression claim etc.). In my limited experience, whether the work aligns with your personal beliefs or not is file specific (and, of course, person specific). There are certainly files that do not align with my personal beliefs that I have worked on (defending class actions where the plaintiffs are sympathetic, for example).

This is not to at all suggest that even if the work aligns with your personal beliefs it is equivalent to the kind of work done by, for example, those helping marginalized individuals facing deportation or other work with clients who are marginalized by one or more social injustices. Though, I know going into the OCI recruit, I thought the work at big law firms was either going to be neutral vis-a-vis my personal beliefs or against my personal beliefs, but it was nice to see that sometimes the work would align with my personal beliefs. 

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C_Terror
  • Lawyer
9 hours ago, Kashi said:

Idk man. I think these law firms probably have the money to shell out for expensive IT consultants that will tell them what is secure and what is not secure.

From my friends that work at firms with their own laptops, I heard that all work is done either through a VPN or virtual desktop anyways. It's not as if they are just saving files onto their personal hard drive.

EDIT: Personally, I would also much rather work with my own laptop. In my experience, work-provided laptops are usually of the Lenovo variety which have to be some of the clumsiest, worst laptops I've ever seen.

For what it's worth, my firm gave us laughably expensive non-Lenovo laptop/tablets and it worked great, and was lighter than an iPad.

With regards to 'perks'. It shouldn't matter, but on a subconscious level, it does, and the little things do add up. 

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Kashi
  • Law Student
14 hours ago, C_Terror said:

For what it's worth, my firm gave us laughably expensive non-Lenovo laptop/tablets and it worked great, and was lighter than an iPad.

With regards to 'perks'. It shouldn't matter, but on a subconscious level, it does, and the little things do add up. 

I wonder if perks tend to matter to students because a firm job is usually their first big-boy/girl job...? I can't imagine that anyone who already had a career before law school will care about a charcuterie plate . . . I would assume that they would care more about opportunities for advancement, development, etc.... 

It also just comes back to a point I made on the original forum which is that lawyers/law students love comparing themselves to other lawyers/law students. Any little discrepancy in which one person can say "My X is better than your Y" will be picked up and extended far beyond what it should . . . not because of any practical value that X has but simply as a dick-measuring contest. 

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SlytherinLLP
  • Articling Student

In my view, this notion of "prestige" only exists in the minds of naïve and quixotic law students, and only for a brief time between Call Day and the point of entering practice (or summering for that matter). After a summer on "Bay Street" and with articles imminent, I feel no superiority or entitlement. If anything those I hold in highest regard are young solo practitioners or scrappy criminal defense lawyers. Those are some of the brightest minds (gold medalists) and they practice in London, Ottawa, etc. (no view of the CN tower from their condos or client lunches at Byblos).

Also, many of the cons you indicated are not at all unique to "Bay Street". They are inherent to practice. 

 

 

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Sparky
  • Law Student
22 hours ago, Kashi said:

I wonder if perks tend to matter to students because a firm job is usually their first big-boy/girl job...? I can't imagine that anyone who already had a career before law school will care about a charcuterie plate . . . I would assume that they would care more about opportunities for advancement, development, etc.... 

It also just comes back to a point I made on the original forum which is that lawyers/law students love comparing themselves to other lawyers/law students. Any little discrepancy in which one person can say "My X is better than your Y" will be picked up and extended far beyond what it should . . . not because of any practical value that X has but simply as a dick-measuring contest. 

Not necessarily. I worked for a number of years in a different profession prior to law school and my current view is that while opportunities for advancement and development are important, those are generally present in some way at many different workplaces. I don't have much experience on this matter yet, but I can't imagine that any one Big Law firm would be much worse in terms of a learning experience or in terms of advancement opportunities than a similarly sized competitor.

On the other hand, enjoying the time I spend at my job/the office is very important to me. Now that doesn't necessarily have to do with amenities like catered food (in fact, in the past, it has mostly correlated with how well I can connect with my colleagues, the relative age of the office, and how chill everyone is work-culture-wise), but those things would certainly help on that front. At the end of the day, I do place some value in the comfort of my work environment - but I also recognize that others may have different priorities.

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On 6/7/2021 at 1:08 PM, Jaggers said:

I would say this about the term:

Strangely, the term "Seven Sisters" seems to have caught on in some circles, though it is meaningless as a term today. The "Seven Sisters" are the seven firms that were on the top of a table one year in the early 2000s for deals advised on by volume. The seven firms are Blakes, Davies, Goodmans, Stikeman Elliott, McCarthy Tetrault, Osler and Torys. These are all highly reputable firms, though there is little that distinguishes them from the other large national or global firms in terms of the type of clients and mandates they serve, or the experience a summer or articling student may gain.

I think the conversation has moved on a bit but I thought I would just weigh in with my perspective, having worked at both one of the other large national firms and a sister firm. I'll note I work in a specialty practice and am only familiar with the Toronto market, and I recognize that my experience working at one firm in each category (to the extent one even recognizes they are real categories) is not necessarily representative of all of the other firms in the category. That being said, I think my experiences and thoughts are generally been corroborated in conversations I've had with friends that work at firms across the spectrum over the years.

Yes, the seven sisters label is dated and based on a very particular criterion. It's also a bit lame and you really don't hear people use it that often (but not quite as rarely as others here seem to suggest). But I think it still should be recognized those same seven firms are still generally the top-ranked firms when it comes to corporate/commercial, securities, M&Abanking & finance, and yes, even litigation - i.e., the main things that large, full-service firms do. You definitely see other national firms ranked highly in those categories too, but not as consistently as the sisters. And so I think there is a degree of utility in the term when it comes to helping students decide what firms to target when starting out in their careers. (I'll just add I think the Drew Hasselbeck article is really dumb and weighs obscure practice areas in which 3-4 lawyers at a given firm might practice the same as corporate/commercial in which like 80+ lawyers practice.)

The clients and work/mandates that the sister firms attract is generally and consistently more sophisticated. (See for example, last year's list of the deals of the year and cases of the year - some familiar names tend to appear more often.) I think this is valuable for a student/young lawyer for several reasons - you'll learn how to handle complex files and issues early on and get exposure to more sophisticated clients (i.e., better exit opportunities).

The billable rates at the sister firms tend to be significantly higher which, as an associate might not appear to matter as much since salaries across the street are basically lock step for the first few years with a few exceptions (Davies, BJ). But it allows these firms to invest in their associates more (and I guess it will also matter a lot down the line if you plan on sticking around that long). For example, it was a struggle for me to get approved to go to conferences as an associate at the non-sister firm, whereas I was simply told to register for the same conferences at the sister firm. Other perks like marketing budget, firm retreat, etc. have been better at the sister firm too - and I take the point of the poster above that these things sound kind of small and dumb but when you're working long hours they can go a long way. It's also why a firm like BLG's first reaction to the pandemic was to cut salaries: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-major-law-firms-conserve-cash-by-cutting-lawyer-salaries/ (it was eventually restored, but I gather associates there were not happy about it, and rightfully so). 

I'm not saying that these factors should be the only things students consider. There are for sure other important considerations like firm culture, working conditions in a particular group within a firm, commitment to diversity, etc. But it's hard to gauge these things without actually working there for an extended period of time. Everyone you meet during OCIs is generally pleasant and nice (they don't choose the weirdos and jerks to conduct interviews). And for the most part - it's luck of the draw - there are terrible lawyers and groups (substantively and behaviourally) at the best firms and amazing lawyers and groups at the other reputable firms. So unless someone knows from the start they absolutely want to do Canada Agribusiness: Agriculture & Food Products where Miller Thomson and Norton Rose are Band 1, or have the inside scoop that Cassels' corporate practice has the coolest people while Osler's is full of weirdos (totally making these examples up) - you can understand why people who don't really know what they want to do at the start of their careers gravitate towards choosing firms that are known to be generally excellent across all major practice areas and will give them the best opportunities vs. those that are generally reputable but may not be as consistently strong and offer slightly less compelling opportunities. And I guess the seven sisters label is a lazy but helpful guide to doing just that. 

That being said, people can and do build very successful, fulfilling careers wherever they end up and it would be silly to carry a chip on one's shoulder their whole career just because they don't work at a firm with a lazy label some journalist came up with. 

I guess what I'm saying is I disagree that the term is entirely without merit and meaningless, but agree that it isn't everything...(sorry for the stream of consciousness rambling).

Edited by ldi
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SNAILS
  • Law Student

Excellent opening post by @QueensGrad . I gathered a lot of information that I did not gather even after reading 100 threads on LS.ca

I am wondering...

(1) Are there any firms that are considered "Bay Street" or "big law" that do a lot of criminal law?

(2) What does it look like for a person wishing to possibly work for a Bay Street firm but not live or work in the GTA?

The second question might seem like a really dumb question, but one of the firms mentioned by the OP (a personal injury firm) has an office in the area I wish to practice law, and this area is quite far from the GTA (like 3 hours drive away). So, if a person got hired, would you be expected to report to the office in the GTA for years and years, or is there such a thing as working out of a specific office in a specific, smaller, city/town?

I am going to Osgoode, then moving back to my home area for articling/working, if that helps anyone answer the question.

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QMT20
  • Articling Student
16 minutes ago, SNAILS said:

(1) Are there any firms that are considered "Bay Street" or "big law" that do a lot of criminal law?

(2) What does it look like for a person wishing to possibly work for a Bay Street firm but not live or work in the GTA?

The second question might seem like a really dumb question, but one of the firms mentioned by the OP (a personal injury firm) has an office in the area I wish to practice law, and this area is quite far from the GTA (like 3 hours drive away). So, if a person got hired, would you be expected to report to the office in the GTA for years and years, or is there such a thing as working out of a specific office in a specific, smaller, city/town?

I am going to Osgoode, then moving back to my home area for articling/working, if that helps anyone answer the question.

(1) The firm where I'll be articling has a white collar crime group and you can choose to specialize in that group for one of your rotations. I think it's the same for many other Bay St. firms. However, the top-end work for criminal law is probably actually going to crim boutiques like Henein Hutchison, Greenspan, Greenspan Humphrey Weinstein, Lockyear, and others. I'm also not sure if the white collar crime group hires students back after articling every year or only when there's a need an associate. 

(2) Is the firm you're talking about Lerners and their London office? Or possibly one of Miller Thomson or Gowling's offices in Kitchener/Hamilton. If Lerners, my understanding is their London office is actually more of a full service firm than their Toronto office which mostly handles litigation work. I'm not too sure about Miller Thomson and Gowling's offices in smaller cities but I imagine they'd do work for their institutional clients with operations in those areas as well as for some local companies in those areas. You can apply to those firms specifically through regional recruits during 2L. Sometimes those firms are also looking for articling students so you could possibly apply again in 3L if they have a need. You'd be working in their regional office, not commuting to Toronto to report to their downtown office. There's also smaller full service firms that just operate outside of downtown Toronto which serve businesses in their communities, for example, Pallett Valo in Mississauga, Cunningham Swan in Kingston etc. 

Edited by QMT20
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