People I Met Practicing Law

Law Firm Primer For Articling Students and New Associates – Part Six: The Law Clerks

This is the sixth in a series about information that Articling Students and new Associates should have before deciding to stay at a firm for the long-term.

Today it is about some of my favourite people in law firms – the Law Clerks (“LC”) (aka Paralegals).

Why do I love the LC? It is mainly because at their best, they are smart, detail oriented, and well-organized like good Lawyers, without the attitude or the arrogance.

Here is what I suggest that you find out about the LCs at your firm:

  1. Are they really LCs, with all of the training and certifications, or are they Legal Assistants who have been given the LC title instead of a raise and/or to keep them from jumping ship?
  2. Does the firm continually invest in their education and training?
  3. Are they encouraged to speak up and tell the Lawyers when they are getting it wrong, and to suggest more effective ways to complete projects?
  4. Does the firm trust them to deal with clients and the clients’ other professionals without running everything through the Lawyer?
  5. Is it generally understood throughout the firm the LCs know lots of stuff that the lawyers never knew or have long forgotten? Do the Lawyers listen when they talk?
  6. Are they trained to research and solve their own problems before asking Lawyers for help?
  7. Do they get paid more than some of the junior Lawyers. (They should!)
  8. Do they take complete responsibility for matters that have been delegated to them while still knowing when to turn to the Lawyers for help?
  9. Are they relied upon to make recommendations and assist with the implementation of new technology that affects their practice area?
  10. Is the LC given the task of training Articling Students and new Associates in what the LC does?

Why does any of this matter to Articling Student and new Associates? I’ll tell you why! It is because: (i) whether a firm invests in LCs can be an indication of the business savvy of the Partners and their willingness to invest in people to succeed, and how hierarchical the organization is (which is a nifty thing for people at the bottom of the pyramid to know); and (ii) the difference between having capable and empowered LCs and not having them can, for the lawyer, be the difference between mental health and Crazy Town.

If the LCs and your firm’s attitude toward them do not impress you much, you need to ask why things are the way that they are at your firm, and what that suggests about how happy you will be there.

If they do impress you, the firm may still not be for you.  There are more folks to meet at your firm before you can really tell whether your job will be a dream or a nightmare.

Next time: The Supervising Lawyer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *