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Your Summering/Articling Experience?


anaolah

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anaolah
  • Law Student

For anyone who summered and/or articled at a large (10ish lawyers) defence firm in a major city, what were your work conditions/performance expectations? What were your hours, and were you expected to do more ‘legal assistant’ tasks alongside typical law student things (think cleaning the kitchen, buying coffee supplies). What was your compensation? 
 

Just received a 2L offer and was hoping to get perspective (since there is no transparency around these things in a non-formal recruit). I understand that I am in a privileged position and I am willing to make sacrifices to pursue an area that interests me, but I am not willing to be exploited when I could easily land a cushy job in BigLaw/more relaxed job in a local full-service firm in BC. 


Thanks!

Edited by anaolah
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SNAILS
  • Articling Student

Case Management Court

Above all, expect to be on Zoom in Case Management court and set date court regularly (there may also be some in person appearances). The process is basically to ask for an adjournment and update the court on the reasons why you need an adjournment. They will probably make you do adjournments for multiple lawyers, and some are better than others at telling you the status of a case. You are a bit between a rock and a hard place because you can't routinely tell the court that your principle lawyer did not give you instructions, but you also cannot make stuff up that you were not instructed to tell the court.

So there is a bit of self management involved: Which matters do I need to appear on, and do I have all the information I need to properly speak to the matter? In a pinch, you can ask for the matter to be held down so you or a lawyer can speak to it later that same day.

Incidental duties to case management

  • Reading basic disclosure so you know the cases you are appearing on. 
  • Reviewing disclosure may be followed by further interviews with the client to clarify facts. My principle lawyers would often have me do those and prepare a report on their answers. This preps the principle lawyer to get engaged with the file without spending too much time on basics.
  • You may be authorized to request further disclosure from the Crown if you know what you need. Otherwise, tell your principle lawyers what you think you need and get their approval (i.e. you do not have notes from all officers; videos won't play on the defence lawyer's computers)
  • Convert videos to MP3 as needed (police use STUPID software with two cameras that leads to all kinds of playback problems)
  • Meeting / phoning clients so you know the status of the case (but do not cut out the lawyer and take instructions from the client except in the simplest of matters)
  • Above all, do exactly what your managing lawyers tell you you are allowed to do, and no more
  • Usually, the student who does the adjournment sends the reporting email to the client
  • Usually, you will also docket a small amount of time for the adjournment to that client's file (using software like uLaw or whatever your firm uses).
  • Save all your corresponded to file
  • Document any phone calls with clients with a memo to file and save that to file (I.e. Dear Mr Client, as per your instructions to not accept the guilty plea, Mr Lawyer has instructed me to ask your matter be set down for trial...)

Research

  • Some of my friends have told me they ended up doing more research than case management. (research is something like preparing a memo on whether a statement made at the scene to a paramedic is a legally admissible statement)
  • You research both for Crown meetings to help your lawyer negotiate a guilty plea and for trials and motions

Drafting Documents

  • Affidavits
  • Applications
  • Retainer Agreements (maybe)
  • Requests for Disclosure
  • Third Party Records (and maybe s 278)

Prep Sureties for Bail Hearings

  • Basically, your client is in jail and they will let him out if his mom is his surety
  • You need to photocopy her ID, get her to sign a surety declaration, and explain to her the basics of being a surety (refer her to your lawyer if it gets to complicated)

Shadowing your lawyers

  • The cushiest job for a student is to follow your lawyer to court to Crown meetings and to bail hearings, watch trials and not really do a lot else
  • If you have to take notes for your lawyer, do it very thoroughly (i.e. exactly what a witness said in response to every question on cross examination)
  • Don't count on doing too much shadowing if they are paying you well since it is not a money maker for the firm

Binding

  • Printing documents and putting coils on them 
  • Some things like transcripts need 4 copies (for your principle lawyer, the judge, the Crown, the witness)
  • Believe it or not, lawyers get VERY HAPPY with you if you do simple things like this properly and on time. They might get slightly annoyed if they end up doing their own binding because you went home before finishing and they need it the next day.
  • There are some jobs like this where one hour of your time saves an hour of their time (as opposed to legal research, where it might take you all day to come up with case law and answers that would have taken the lawyer 20 minutes).

Client intakes

  • This means talking to new clients and getting basic information like what they are charged with an so on
  • The lawyer will then approve whether to take or not take that client
  • In my case (not the norm) they had me go so far as to talk retainer prices and even draft a retainer agreement
  • In my firm, it could take my principle lawyers quite a while to actually get engaged in a file since there are 100's of clients ahead of them. This means the students is mostly taking care of them for now.

Maintain Calendar of NCD and Appointment

  • You have just been granted an adjournment in a matter until September 13th, 2024. You need to use your firms calendar system or else nobody will know to appear on that date!
  • Your principle lawyer told you to phone the client and ask if he understands the terms of his guilty plea. The client wants to meet with the lawyer to talk about it and you set it for August 11 at 11:00 am. Provided you are authorized to set appointments for your lawyer(s), make sure it is in their electronic calendar and that you have not double booked them.
  • For me, lawyers preferred to have me communicate with clients for non-essential matters. A law student cannot give legal advice, and cannot make decisions rightfully left to a lawyer. So you will need to set appointments from time to time (and having someone else set the appointment may be inefficient).

General Docketing

  • This is perhaps a bit more uncommon than what I have listed above, but you may be required to docket hours other than hours that you yourself worked.
  • Your principle lawyer may be behind on docketing and does not remember when she read the disclosure or prepared the third party records application (2 months later!) but she knows she did it at some point and you need to fill out the docket so the client can be billed and so the money can be taken from the trust account
  • You may also be required to automatically docket for your lawyer when she appears in court

NOT CLEANING AND BUYING COFEE SUPPLIES

  • If I am wrong about the duties I have listed above, then you will be perhaps required to review disclosure all day or watch and summarize police interview videos
  • Cleaning/restocking the kitchen = no way

NOTE ON "LEGAL ASSISTANTS"

  • Different terms mean different things in different provinces
  • Most firms have people who have not been to law school who prepare affidavits, file things with the court, assist the lawyers in research, and so on. These may be legal assistants, law clerks or licenced Paralegals in Ontario.
  • For the most part these people are higher on the food chain than you are as a law student. You will need these people to help you with questions like how to file things, how to troubleshoot software, etc. You must always be respectful to your fellow staff and treat them with respect since they know more than you do! 
  • (Please excuse the rant, but I got a sense from your cleaning comment that you underestimate the importance of legal assistants)

HOURS OF WORK

  • Your lawyer may suggest certain hours of work such as 8:30 to 5:00 pm Monday to Thursday with an early end to the day on Fridays at 2:00 pm
  • At a ten lawyer firm, you have multiple bosses and each could place demands on you
  • To a large extent, you might have the option of saying "No, sorry, I have another job from Lawyer X and I am swamped"
  • But you get as much out of the job as you put in. If they see you working your ass off by showing up early and staying late and putting 110% into everything, you are much more likely to get hired back. I had a fellow law student I worked with who left at 5:00 on the dot every day - he was not hired back. Now, if you decide that you do not want to work at the firm where you are summering, this might affect how hard you work...but also keep in mind letters of reference.
  • SUMMARY: expect to be putting in 50 hours per week

HOURLY RATE / COMPENSATION

  • $18 to $21 for a student who has completed his 2L of law school. Perhaps a bit less for someone who has only completed his 1L.
  • "Volunteer" arrangements can be common as well for students who have only completed 1L where you get to do more shadowing and not work like a dog, and they maybe give you $5000 at the end of the summer for your tuition (but since you apparently accepted this job on a wage basis, expect an hourly wage
  • I am going to throw out a broad range of $600-1000 per week (from low end wages with  minimum of hours worked to higher end wages and lots of hours worked).
  • Sorry! there is no $100 000 K /Year for 2L law students!!! But you might get there some day.
Edited by SNAILS
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