Law Students and Young Lawyers

Career Quiz for Law Students and Young Lawyers

So you went to Law School and participated in the legal clinic at the Fasken Building at University of Toronto or won a scholarship from Davies at Osgoode Hall.  Somehow you were given the impression by your Law School experience that if you did not get yourself hired by a Big Law firm (“BL”), you  would be a second-rate lawyer.

Although critical thinkers at Law School should have warned you about the Golden Rule, (“he who has the gold makes the rules”) and its corollary (“follow the money to find the guilty,”) you may have missed that lesson and ended up believing that bigger is better.

Since Law School is not going to help you explore alternatives to the career path recommended by their biggest donors, I thought that I would help you do that by giving you some questions to ponder. Here they are:

  1. Do  you want to work an incredible number of hours and make a lot of money?  If so, keep on that BL path.
  2. Does working for humongous clients on transactions with lots of zeros or suing people for really large amounts of money sound like fun?  Yes?  BL is your place.
  3. Do you think that working for one of the largest firms in the country is prestigious and do you crave that type of recognition? BL is for you.
  4. Do you enjoy being a small cog in the big wheels of large firms and clients, dealing with your own supervisors and clients’ managers instead of directly with business owners? You can do that at BL.
  5. Do you want to specialize in a narrow area of the law?  BL’s okay.
  6. How about having the job security that comes with having your own portable client base? Less likely in BL.
  7. Might you enjoy working directly with the ultimate decision-makers? More likely outside of BL.
  8. Perhaps you would enjoy having real influence over your legal practice and the direction of the firm?  Likely not going to get there quickly (or at all) at BL.
  9. Does several hundred fewer billable hours per year and more evenings and weekends off sound good? Unlikely to happen at BL.
  10. Do you see yourself developing a more general expertise and enjoying the multi-faceted client relationships which come with that?  A more personalized setting may be better for you.
  11. Would you prefer to set the rules which will apply to your professional life, and by extension to your personal life, rather than having an institution set them for you? You may not like BL.

BL, Medium Law, and Small Law all have their advantages and disadvantages.  Thinking that BL is just ‘better’ than other ways to practice law is just nonsense that is spouted by people with a great deal of money to market themselves, including by influencing the Law Schools.  Your future might be better there, but it might not be.  Some very bright, talented people wind up stifled and miserable. My advice: Don’t follow the crowd, which will be following the money.

This article was originally published by Law360 Canada, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

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