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Articling vs First-Year Associate


Law nerd 221

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Law nerd 221
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I'm curious to learn about the differences in your experiences working as an articling student compared to your first year as an associate. For context, I began my role as an associate in July at a boutique family law firm, I also completed my articling in family law, albeit at a different firm. I've noticed that my responsibilities so far have been quite similar to those in my articling role if not less. Is this a common scenario, or does it vary more widely in other cases? 

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36 minutes ago, Law nerd 221 said:

Is this a common scenario, or does it vary more widely in other cases? 

I imagine it's quite similar in most cases. I articled in at a mid-sized Bay firm and spent most of my time with the corporate group. When I returned as an associate, the work was largely the same as when I was in the closing months of my articling. Remember, you still don't know a lot, even having finished articling. You're just baseline competent to be a practicing lawyer. There is much to learn.

Over the next several years, I got more autonomy and made more decisions on files. Eventually I had my own files that were passed to me by the partners, with them just maintaining general oversight on things. Naturally, I asked a lot of questions and passed unfamiliar things by those with more experience. And I did a ton of reading on my own. But soon enough you start to get the general feel for things, and issues that used to be novel to you become routine.

I'm unfamiliar with family law practice, but in general I don't imagine you'll see a jarring difference as a first year associate. Over the next few years, though, you'll notice the slow creep of autonomy and responsibility as you get better at practice.

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Aschenbach
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I find compared to articling, I'm more involved in speaking with clients, attending meetings, drafting pleadings, attending hearings, and less on legal research (although I still do quite a bit). Whereas in articling pretty much all I did was legal research and write memos. Overall the transition isn't drastic though.

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Psychometronic
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There was a lot of overlap between my articles and my first year and I was lucky to have had a gentle "on-ramping" into associateship. A lot of my written work was (and is) still reviewed by partners but I had more independence and a larger file load. 

Edited by Psychometronic
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Law nerd 221
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14 hours ago, Aschenbach said:

I find compared to articling, I'm more involved in speaking with clients, attending meetings, drafting pleadings, attending hearings, and less on legal research (although I still do quite a bit). Whereas in articling pretty much all I did was legal research and write memos. Overall the transition isn't drastic though.

Interesting! I guess I had a more hands on experience during my articling compared to others and that's why I don't feel a drastic change. 

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Aureliuse
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I have been in family law since law school.


When I started as an associate, I was given "chunks" of big files to work on with other juniors - seemingly menial tasks such as organizing disclosure, assembling briefs, and proofreading. I did a lot of research. I did a lot of notetaking. I did a lot of transcribing. I did a lot of reading for senior counsel.

I was "paraded" or tagged along with more senior lawyers to court, client meetings, and examinations just to know the basics. I was more in a support role.

I got "baby files" around 3rd and 4th year of practice. Files with either some supervision, a lot of supervision, or little supervision.

A lot of my "deep learning" happened in 3rd and 4th year, when I basically got a boot to my rear that sent me into the "deep end" of the pool. Senior counsel had an "open door" policy if I was struggling, or I had an "ethical issue/client management issue/billing issue." But overall, I took the reins on my own files. I was also expected to to market myself - partners were quite pleased whenever I got some new files on my own.

Mind you, I made mistakes, got bruises, cautions, and faced angry/nasty/annoying clients in my 3rd and 4th year. I took wrong positions sometimes in court due to a lack of experience. I probably also bored or annoyed judges inadvertently. I learned from every bad experience. Every loss cut deep; but I learned to grow from that.

I am still learning mind you, but my first 5 years were hard; especially when the "training wheels" were off against some nasty, bully-type, senior lawyers.

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Lawstudents20202020
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My articling was similar, although it was at a more general civil lit firm. My first year I moved to a small firm and was handed 20 legal aid files (in addition to about 70 probate files and a real estate practice) and was given very little oversight. I do not recommend starting off a career this way.

After a bit over a year I tapped out and went to a mid sized where my experience has been similar to @Aureliuse

 

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