Thursday, August 24, 2006

Articling: Watching your Classmates Succeed

I didn't really think about it much during law school, but now that it is here, I really enjoy watching my friends and classmates going through their bar call ceremonies and becoming members of the Law Society. I haven't been able to attend all of the ceremonies, but I have been able to see photos and have heard the stories. Thinking back to their scared faces in those first year classes, and thinking of all of the panic going on in the law library, I wonder if I looked equally scared and panicked. All of my friends, save one or two, have succeeded in obtaining articles, completing their articles and bar exam/CPLED requirements, and getting offers from their firms. That's pretty good, I think. Way to go guys and gals!

The bar call ceremony is different everywhere. In Calgary and Edmonton, for example, you often do the ceremony en masse with a bunch of other new lawyers. In smaller centres, you usually go alone, or with one other person. That was the case for me. I went with another fellow who had been a solicitor in the U.K. for 11 years.

Our judge, a member of the Court of Queens Bench, met with us before hand, interviewed us, shared some good inside jokes and shared a bit of sage advice. The ceremony itself was really nice. Although it had its formal moments, it was also filled with joviality, and even laughter. It was really great to have friends and family in attendance. I have some classmates who had family come from pretty far away. For many parents, it is a very proud moment.

You will have to wear robes to your bar call ceremony in most jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions (such as Saskatchewan, I believe), you just go down somewhere and sign the Law Society register. There is no real ceremony. If you do end up having to wear robes, be prepared to pay between $900 and $1000. Some firms will cover this cost. You may want to negotiate this with your firm when you negotiate your articling contract. I didn't realize they would be so much money, and it hurt my bank account at a time when I was hoping to start getting ahead on student loans.

There are a bunch of administrative hoops that you will need to go through before you get called to the bar. In Alberta, the rule is that you cannot be called to the bar until 30 days have passed beyond the end of your articles. That is also something that nobody told me about before beginning my article, or during my article. What a rip off! Another month at articling salary sucks. I was able to push my call date up one week, but apparently that is as far as it can be pushed. So, be prepared for this little technicality. You will also have to fill out a bunch of paperwork, which will include your principal. Get this done before the end of your articles, so that you can submit it the day after your articles are complete and shorten any possible delays.

Be sure to read through the archives of this blog. There are many entries about law school, articling, the LSAT, and more. Shoot me any questions you might have, and be sure to check out my book whether you are just thinking about law school, are about to write the LSAT, are applying for law school, in law school already, or about to apply for articles.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Law School - Get a Real Mentor

Some schools offer formal mentorship programs for first year law students. This may link up professors and law students, practitioners and law students, or even lower-year and upper-year law students. My experience with this was abysmal. It may have been fantastic for other classmates or colleagues at other law schools, but for me it was useless. The practitioner that I was assigned to was extremely overworked, overstressed and overcome with emotion about his own career. He signed up for the mentorship program with very good intentions, I am sure, but bit off much more than he could chew. As a result, the time that I was able to squeeze out of him was comparatively futile for both of us. Scheduled appointments were postponed, invitations to attend court cancelled, and the relationship quickly deteriorated and eventually disappeared by my second semester of law school. I have heard similar stories from classmates.

I would highly suggest seeking out a formal mentor of your own choice and finding. A practitioner is great, if you can find one. A family friend or colleague of someone that you know is ideal, as they will feel more inclined to make good on their commitment that they make to you, and may feel more accountable for the relationship. Seek out someone who you perceive to handle stress well, to be on top of their game, and most importantly, who shares some of your interests, both in and out of law school. Try to strike up a professional relationship, but do not be afraid to be friendly.

In my experience, a golf game or coffee with a chosen mentor is worth more than almost anything in law school. A small word of advice from a veteran of the law school and practical legal worlds can save you tons of time and stress, and can really help you in your goals to succeed. A good mentor can also be invaluable when it comes time to apply for a summer job or an article. A practitioner can be an excellent ‘in’ at the law firm that they work for, but also at other firms. Remember, they were once law students, and likely have maintained friendships with their past classmates or co-workers. The legal community is relatively small, and having an ally, or more than one ally, can be like gold when it comes to obtaining employment in your field of choice.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Still Birthing the law firm

I apologize for not posting regularly as of late. I have been up to my neck in setting up our new law offices. It's been two months of exhileration and fun. Business is going good, and our offices are 95% complete. I promise to post more during August, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out this cool story about a former lawyer from Quebec gone music industry. As I keep saying, a law degree can lead to so many possibilities.