Every law society in Canada requires to-be-lawyers to complete a period of experiential training called articling. Individuals that enroll in the lawyer qualification process become articling students once they secure an articling position to fulfill the qualification requirements. Terms like student-at-law or articled clerk are also suitable and basically, symbolize that you are lawyer-in-training.
Articling is a full-time placement where you usually work in the office or remotely for a period from eight to twelve months depending on your province of qualification.
What Do Articling Students Do?
Your job as an articling student is to learn from tasks and activities that are assigned to you by your Articling Principal. It is the continuation of your legal education but with an extensive practical aspect. During your articling placement, you will get a chance to apply the knowledge you gained in law school to real-life legal situations. You will also learn a lot of new practical skills that will help you become a lawyer and build on the academic foundations of your law degree.
Articling in Big vs Small Law Firm
Generally, when articling at a bigger firm you will have a more structured course of training. The matters that you will be working on will be of bigger value and for bigger clients. In smaller firms, your training might be not as well defined, but you will get a lot of client time and you will be more closely involved in legal matters. Every firm is different and it is important to do your research before applying for articling positions.
Where to Find Articling Student Jobs
Searching for articling positions is quite simple. Firstly, research firms that you want to work for. This can be depending on the practice areas that you are interested in, clients that the firm has, or even salary range. Alternatively, you may be interested in a specific city and you may search for articling positions in Toronto or articling student jobs in Vancouver. Then your usual job search engines will be your best bet. You can also try using the NALP Canada directory of legal employers.
Second, tailor your articling application towards the firm and apply. Almost all firms have articling positions advertised on their websites and it is easy to see what they are looking for from the job description. However, you can go further into tailoring your application by reading the firm’s about section, practice areas, and lawyer backgrounds.
Articling Student Salary
The costs of becoming a lawyer in Canada can be quite high and a suitable salary during articling can financially help some recent law graduates. Of course, your salary as a lawyer will help you alleviate that financial pressure even further!
In Canada, articling students make on average $57,000 with the low salary being $38,000 and the high-end salary being close to $90,000. In general, bigger firms will offer lucrative compensation packages with added health benefits and various work perks.
Alternatives to Articling
There are two ways to avoid articling as part of your professional development. The first one is to receive an exemption. Every province of Canada allows lawyers-to-be to skip articling if they already have a considerable amount of legal work experience. The duration requirements vary from province.
The second one is to attend the Lawyer Practice Program in Ontario which is a four-month in-class learning and a four-month practical education program. This program only satisfies lawyer licensing in Ontario.
Increase Chances of Securing an Articling Position
Articling positions are highly competitive regardless of whether you are applying at a big firm or a small firm. Here are some tips to help you secure an articling placement.
- Networking – by getting to know people that work at the firm you will learn more about the firm’s culture and overall work environment. You can do so at the university’s legal career fair, off-campus networking events, online presentations, and even LinkedIn! This information will help you make a decision whether to apply to that firm or not and also help you tailor your application.
- Broaden your range of firms – although it is good to have a well-defined list of firms to apply to, some aspiring lawyers limit themselves by doing so. Make sure to check out firms that you think are out of your range for one reason or another. Also, take a look at in-house articling roles at companies in industries that spark your interest.
- Secure summer roles – many law firms tend to offer articling jobs to their 1L or 2L summer students or even past legal assistants and paralegals. It would be wise to try and secure a legal role during the summer.