What you don’t learn in law school
HORROR STORIES Fall 2019 PrecedentJD.com inside Meet the articling student who owes the bank $195,000 What’s it like to practise law in the tech capital of the country? Exclusive: A top civil-rights lawyer explains why it’s damn near impossible to drive social change
This year, thousands of law students will start their articling placements. Hundreds will experience harassment and abuse
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PrecedentJD Fall 2019
COVER STORY 17 THE END OF ARTICLING
The power imbalance between articling students and their principals has left generations of young people vulnerable to harassment and abuse. The legal profession in this country can no longer ignore that fact. It’s time to abolish the articling system By Simon Lewsen
6 EDITOR’S NOTE
My amazing articling experience
7 OUR PEOPLE
Our contributors tell us about their biggest career setbacks
REQUIRED READING 9 CAREER
Two decades ago, Jordana Goldlist was a homeless teenager. Today, she’s a top criminal-defence lawyer
12 FIRST PERSON
How one lawyer overcame the absolute worst moment in his career
The pros and cons of working in New York
EXTRA CREDIT 25 CASH
This articling student is $195,000 in debt
Waterloo is an ideal place to build a legal career
Want to use your law degree to drive social change? Get ready for disappointment
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PrecedentJD Fall 2019
PUBLISHER & EDITOR
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Luck of the draw
My own articling experience was kind of amazing, but that doesn’t mean the system works
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I WAS ONE OF THE LUCKY ONES. When it came time for me to article, in 2001, I
landed at a big Bay Street firm. Having only worked in the non-profit world, I was in awe of the resources the firm had to invest in my training. I had a formal mentor, who took me out for fancy lunches and helped me navigate the corporate culture. I attended seminars on corporate law, as well as lunch-and-learns on legal ethics. The firm even arranged a slate of elite social events: a curling lesson at Toronto’s exclusive Boulevard Club, a boat cruise and a helicopter ride. No big deal. Though these bells and whistles were pretty incredible, I observed law at its highest level on my secondment. For two months during my articles, I worked at Greenspan, Henein and White (now called Greenspan Partners), which, at the time, was the top criminal-law firm in the country. Eddie Greenspan, who passed away in 2014, was a legal titan, and I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to work with him. Sure, I had to do some typical articling-student work: summarizing transcripts, reviewing documents, attending set-date court. But I also got to tag along to trials and, perhaps best of all, sit in Eddie’s office while he worked. I could hang out as he practised speeches, prepared for court, chatted with friends and met with clients. He never shooed me away. It was mentorship at its very best. I ultimately chose not to practise law, but I can’t complain about articling. I had the finest opportunity available. My experience, however, is unusual. Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of great articling principals out there at firms of all sizes. But there are also a lot of terrible ones. For this issue’s cover story (“The end of articling,” p.17), journalist Simon Lewsen spoke to lawyers who had articling experiences that were truly awful. His story includes jaw-dropping accounts of inappropriate behaviour and sexual harassment. The fact that this sort of exploitation continues to go on is unacceptable. In his story, Lewsen calls for drastic changes to the entire lawyer-licensing system. The profession ought to listen. In hindsight, I got to live out the articling dream. I wish everyone could have an experience as good as mine. But the sad reality is that, for too many students, articling is a total nightmare.
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There’s no such thing as a perfect career path. That’s a simple fact. So we asked our contributors to tell us how they overcame their biggest career setback
Kayla Rocca is a Toronto-based portrait photographer. Her work has appeared in some of the best publications in the country, such as the Globe and Mail, Toronto Life and the Kit. But it wasn’t easy to build such a stellar career. “When you’re freelancing, most of your clients will try to negotiate bargain rates,” says Rocca. “At first, I was too intimidated to charge my worth, but I found a mentor who taught me how to run a successful business. I no longer give in to the pressure to lower my rates, and my clients respect me even more.” For this issue, she photographed criminal-defence lawyer Jordana Goldlist in her downtown condo (“Reversal of fortune,” p.9).
“At 15, I worked in the stockroom at Eddie Bauer,” says Simon Lewsen, who contributes regularly to the Globe and Mail, the Walrus and Designlines. “From that job, I learned two things. First, I became adept at folding clothes, a skill I still value today. And second, I learned what it’s like to be bullied at work. The stock manager was a total jerk. It wasn’t fun, but it gave me a taste for what so many people — in so many different professions — are forced to put up with.” He thought back to that experience quite a bit as he wrote this issue’s cover story, a methodical takedown of the articling system (“The end of articling,” p.17).
“My biggest setback was a blessing in disguise,” says Luc Rinaldi, the editor of Pivot, whose work has appeared in Maclean’s, Toronto Life and the Walrus. “In university, my main freelance client was a weekly news magazine called the Grid. But a couple months after I graduated, as I was launching my career, it went under. The silver lining was that the publication’s editors spread across the industry, so I suddenly had contacts at all sorts of magazines.” For this issue, he interviewed three lawyers who live and work in Waterloo (“All hands on tech,” p.28).
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Where* do well-rounded law students go to become top-tier advocates? Lenczner Slaght. We are focused exclusively on litigation and advocacy, and so are our students. As a Lenczner Slaght student, you will attend and support trials, motions, appeals, arbitrations and hearings before a wide range of courts and regulatory tribunals. Our focus on real-world experience is how the best § law students grow into expert litigators. We are looking for students whose drive, resourcefulness and leadership abilities are already evident in their professional and personal lives. We expect students to have a keen interest in litigation, demonstrated through participation in debates, moots, clinics and other opportunities to begin honing advocacy skills. In addition to high academic standing, we want students who are enthusiastic, engaging, confident, and civil in all their dealings. If that sounds like you, we at Lenczner Slaght will help your skills get better ‡ both inside and outside the courtroom. Our highly experienced lawyers teach by example, encouraging you to learn the basics of litigation and build your advocacy skills from there. We don’t simply offer students more opportunities to gain firsthand courtroom experience – we insist on it.
I SPENT FOUR DAYS IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT.
Jordana Goldlist, pictured in her Toronto condo, discusses her personal experience with the justice system
Reversal of fortune Jordana Goldlist was once a homeless teenager who had been in trouble with the law. Now she runs her own defence practice by Courtney Shea photography by Kayla Rocca
WHEN JORDANA GOLDLIST, a criminal-defence lawyer in Toronto, is in court, she often represents people who are in custody. In those cases, her client typically has to sit at the side of the courtroom, sequestered behind glass inside what’s known as the prisoner’s dock. It looks a bit like a penalty box. At some point, Goldlist will need to have a private word with her client. And when that moment comes, she does something
unusual: instead of talking over the glass barrier, she steps inside the dock and takes a seat next to the accused. This drives some people in the courtroom totally crazy. But Goldlist thinks it’s important to break this professional norm. It helps protect the privacy of her clients, who often face serious charges, including drug trafficking, firearm possession and murder. There’s a reason that Goldlist brings so much compassion to
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PRECEDENTJD FALL 2019
her work: two decades ago, she was the one in trouble with the law. PrecedentJD sat down with the 40-year-old to find out how she turned her life around and why the current system isn’t helping the people who need it. Can you talk about your personal experience with the criminaljustice system? The day after I turned 14, my parents sent me to a group home, because I’d been having behavioural issues. After 18 months, I was sent home with the same problems that I had when I left. By the time I was 16, I was often getting kicked out of my house, so I started selling marijuana to support myself. One day, I got caught selling on school property and was arrested for the second time in three months. I had no one to bail me out, so I ended up at Vanier Correctional Centre. I spent four days in solitary confinement before I was granted bail. Six months later, I plead guilty and was sentenced to two years’ probation. Four days in solitary seems excessive for a teenage weed dealer. It made no sense. I had no record, no weapons and no history of violence. That experience really shook me, though. While I was in solitary, I could hear conversations
between other girls in the jail, and I noticed that most of them knew each other. They would ask, ‘What are you in for this time?’ To them, it was a lifestyle. I promised myself that this was not going to be me. And what happened after you were released? I was expelled from high school. I appealed the decision myself, but dropped out the following year. I spent the rest of my teenage years on the streets. At 19 years old, I woke up. I went to rehab for six months, and then I went back to school. I graduated from high school at 21 and attended York University on an academic scholarship.
That’s where I learned how to be a lawyer.
THE DAY AFTER I TURNED 14, MY PARENTS SENT ME TO A GROUP HOME.
How did you end up at law school? Law school was something I’d dreamed about as a kid. But I thought that everything I had been through in my teens precluded me from that career. I applied on a leap of faith and was accepted to Osgoode Hall. I’m surprised that your first job wasn’t in criminal law, but at a civil-litigation boutique. I always wanted to work in criminal law, but my family wanted me out of the criminal lifestyle completely. I have no regrets, though, about the three years I spent in civil litigation.
Doesn’t law school teach you to be a lawyer? Law school teaches you the law, but that’s only 50 percent of the job. It doesn’t teach you how to actually practise, manage clients and work with colleagues. You’re an example of a person who got “unstuck.” How do we help other people achieve that sort of success? We need meaningful rehabilitation. We’re just jailing youth, people with mental-health issues and people with addictions. And we’re not providing them with the tools that they need to succeed after their release. We also need employers to hire individuals with criminal records. If people can’t earn a living wage, they are going to reoffend. How can law schools encourage a more human approach to the law? We need to recognize that the criminal-justice system judges people on the worst decision they made on the worst day of their life. Law students should be taught to learn someone’s character before they pass judgment based on their file alone.
Timeline of a criminal-defence lawyer
Jordana Goldlist Founder, JHG Criminal Law — Year of call 2008
undergrad at York University, where she majors in philosophy. “I love how it forced me to think and rationalize,” she says. “I wanted to focus on reason rather than emotion.”
2004 Goldlist begins law school at Osgoode Hall. 2007 Upon graduation, she articles at Landy Marr Kats LLP, a litigation boutique in Toronto.
2008 After getting hired back,
she works at the firm for two years as an associate. “I learned a lot,” says Goldlist. “But there was so much paperwork. I got tired of sending angry letters for a living.”
2010 Goldlist joins Edward H. Royle & Partners, one of the top criminaldefence firms in Toronto. In her first case, she represents a woman who was charged with importing half a kilogram of cocaine.
2015 The next phase of her career
begins, as she launches a solo defence practice: JHG Criminal Law.
2018 Goldlist gets a new tattoo across her back, which depicts three “skater chicks” standing in front of Toronto’s Café Isabella, where she used to hang out as a homeless teen. “I don’t forget where I came from.”
ILLUSTRATIONS BY SARA WONG
2000 At 21, Goldlist starts her
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The next few years were not easy. But I did bounce back. Today, I have a great job, and I finally feel like I have control over my career. My story is a common one. I’m not the first lawyer to stare down a major setback, and I certainly won’t be the last. To help you navigate the twists and turns of your career path, here are a few pieces of wisdom that I want to pass along.
In the line of fire
Once I landed a job on Bay Street, I thought my career was going to be perfect. Then I was let go by Daniel Waldman illustration by Kyle Metcalf
If you feel off-balance at work, it may be time to move on. I’m not suggesting you run at the first sign of trouble; in this profession, speed bumps are common. But if the writing is on the wall, don’t ignore the truth. Don’t let your loyalty to others dictate your career choices. This one is hard. Throughout your career, people will go to bat for you. If you land a big-firm job because a senior partner vouched for you before the hiring committee, you’ll naturally develop a strong connection with that person. That’s a good thing. But first and foremost, do what is best for you. If you’re unhappy somewhere or a great opportunity knocks, don’t let your loyalties prevent you from making the appropriate decision. The people who truly support you will understand. MY LEGAL CAREER began at the
I was right to worry. One afternoon, in my fifth year at the firm, a worst-possible time. It was 2009, and the global recession was in full partner unexpectedly called me into her office. I was being let go. It throttle, wreaking havoc on the job market. Yet, despite that bad timing, felt like someone had punched me in the chest and blown all the air I landed a great articling job at the Ontario Securities Commission, out of my lungs, but I still managed and, the following year, I was hired to ask one question: “Why?” back on a short-term contract. I was given a brisk explanation: Near the end of that contract, I saw the executive committee had determined I’d never make partner, so that a Bay Street firm was looking to hire a junior securities litigator. it was time to say goodbye. I was I jumped at the opportunity, and, told to go home and come back the before I knew it, I had a job offer. next day to write transfer memos The future looked bright. for all of my files. After that, I was Or so I thought. As it turned out, not to return. it was difficult to integrate into That was a brutal day. I had to the new firm as a lateral hire. With- go home, where my wife and I had out the benefit of an articling a two-year-old baby, and face the experience, I struggled to produce reality that I was out of a job. The good work and navigate the politics next day, I found out that the firm of the workplace. The firm was had gone through a rough year, and supportive and patient, but, even I wasn’t the only associate who had at my best, my work life was rocky. been let go as a result. But that didn’t I never felt like I truly belonged. make things any less difficult.
I HAD TO GO HOME, WHERE MY WIFE AND I HAD A TWO-YEAR-OLD BABY, AND FACE THE REALITY THAT I WAS OUT OF A JOB.
Accept that your career may not go as planned. Let’s be honest. You might not land your firstchoice articling position. And even if you do secure your dream job, you might realize, after a few years, that you hate the work. It’s also possible that you’ll spend a decade at a firm you love, working hard, but fail to make partner. None of these scenarios would be much fun. But I personally know lawyers who have encountered these setbacks and landed comfortably on their feet. In fact, some of them are thankful in the end. There you have it. I hope that you find this advice helpful as you embark on your legal career. And remember this: even if things don’t go your way, you will survive. Best of luck. Daniel Waldman is a lawyer at Pallett Valo LLP in Mississauga. He practises commercial litigation, with a focus on real-property disputes.
REQUIRED READING PRECEDENTJD.COM 13
Lake loved his job in New York. His fellow students at Milbank were a compelling group, high achievers from all over the world. The work on his plate — research projects, sitIf you land a summer job ting in on calls — wasn’t too difficult in New York, you’ll make so and was often educational. And his compensation was stratospheric. much money it’s almost absurd. But what’s it actually (The city’s top firms currently pay their students a pro-rated salary of like to work in the global US$190,000, more than double the mega-city? income of students on Bay Street.) The firm pampered its student by Jason McBride cohort, hoping to lure a sizeable portion back as associates. “As a IN 2007, as a second-year student at summer student,” says Lake, “you Osgoode Hall, Konata Lake landed often feel like you’re at the top of a summer job at the New York City the food chain.” He was hired back office of Milbank LLP, one of the as an associate, but, after one year, top corporate-law firms in the world. he moved to the New York office of It was the legal equivalent of a Torys LLP. Not long after, he transgolden ticket. The competition for ferred to the firm’s office in Toronto, where his wife was completing summer jobs in the American capital of commerce and business her medical residency. He’s now is notoriously fierce: an extremely a partner. small number of second-year stuBut New York is a tale of two cities. dents secure such plum positions. Annamaria Enenajor, for instance, CHECKUP
Inside the Big Apple
Annamaria Enenajor Partner at Ruby Shiller Enenajor DiGiuseppe
Konata Lake Partner at Torys LLP
had a more mixed experience. In 2011, as a 3L at McGill University, she summered at Ropes & Gray LLP, another one of the city’s top-tier corporate firms. At first, it went well: the firm was welcoming and she was given meaningful pro bono work. But she also worked extraordinarily long hours. There was plenty of tedious document review to complete. And she felt uncomfortable with much of American culture. Her office was located in a Manhattan skyscraper that also housed Fox News. “I didn’t admire the American Constitution,” she says, “as much as I admire the Canadian one.” Enenajor later joined the firm as an associate, but she didn’t last long in the role. Within two years, she had moved back to Toronto. And today, she’s a partner at Ruby Shiller Enenajor DiGiuseppe, a top criminal-defence firm. “I’m happy to be contributing to my own society and country.”
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He approached the Ontario Securities Commission, which regulates the province’s capital markets, and asked if it could offer him a position. The gambit worked: he landed a four-month paid work placement at the Commission. And, today, he works there as an in-house legal counsel. “I love my job,” he says. “It’s a dream come true.” Here, he explains how the LPP helped him launch his legal career. During the first half of the LPP, candidates handle mock files in a range of practice areas, such as corporate, criminal and family. Talk about that experience. “The training was practical. This allowed me to discover my potential as a working lawyer. In one criminal-law exercise, for instance, I took a client through proceedings in front of a judge, who was played by one of the program’s lawyer-mentors. I performed better in that environment than I ever did at law school, where I studied criminal law in the abstract. “After the exercise, the mentor even offered me her card and invited me to contact her after I finished the program. If she’d only seen my transcripts, I may not have made the same impression.” Once you began your work placement at the Ontario Securities Commission, what sort of legal work was on your plate? “It was a busy time. We were updating the regulations that govern the so-called exempt market. This basically refers to securities that are not traded on the public stock exchange, and that can be sold without a prospectus. I was helping to draft and revise those new rules.”
Nick Hawkins, legal counsel at the Ontario Securities Commission, credits his early success to the Law Practice Program at Ryerson University
Nick Hawkins has always been obsessed with the stock market. “It’s a fascinating window into both the economy and human behaviour,” he says. “One of my long-time goals has been to build a career that taps into that interest.” Once Hawkins graduated from law school, at the University of Ottawa, he got to work. His first move was to enroll in the Law Practice Program (LPP) at Ryerson University, one of the paths to licensing in Ontario. The program begins in the fall with four months of real-time online and in-person training; in the winter, it concludes with a four-month work placement. Though the LPP will help everyone in the program secure a placement, it also encourages candidates to seek out a position on their own. Hawkins, sensing an opportunity to enter the investment world, chose the entrepreneurial route.
How did the LPP help you succeed once you arrived in the workplace? “The program teaches you to analyze and critique information, which is a big part of regulatory work. I had the confidence to share my opinions and speak my mind. I think my colleagues appreciated that.” Would you recommend the program to current law students?
“Absolutely. It gave me exposure to a wide range of legal work, and it helped me make valuable connections in the profession. The program gave me the tools I needed to chart my own path.” The Law Practice Program at Ryerson University is a rigorous eight-month training program that equips law-school graduates with the practical skills they need to become great lawyers. To learn more, visit ryerson.ca/lpp.
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by Simon Lewsen
THE END OF ARTICLING Articling students are uniquely vulnerable to harassment and discrimination. As youâ€™re about to read, many are forced to put up with the abuse to get called to the bar. Isnâ€™t it time to eliminate this toxic rite of passage?
18 PRECEDENTJD FALL 2019
IT HAD BEEN TWO MONTHS SINCE ERICA GRADUATED FROM OSGOODE HALL, AND SHE STILL HADN’T FOUND AN ARTICLING POSITION. IT WAS JULY OF 2017.
On one hand, she wasn’t too disappointed: she expected her job search to be difficult. She’d wanted to work at a firm that specialized in both environmental and Aboriginal law, but she knew that such firms have limited resources to hire students. Erica had received two job offers, but the positions were unpaid. “I had to turn them down,” she says. “I couldn’t afford to work for free.” Then Erica met a sole practitioner who had a business and real-estate practice in the GTA. (Erica’s real name, and the names of other former articling students, have been withheld. We have marked their names with an asterisk.) His office was a long commute from her home, where she lived with her parents. But she saw the job as a potential learning opportunity, and the $30,000 salary was looking pretty sweet. The lawyer seemed engaged and thoughtful. When Erica told him that her father was a general contractor, he said that her exposure to that industry would make her an asset to his real-estate practice. And when she mentioned her Mi’kmaw heritage, he expressed an
interest in learning more about Indigenous peoples in Canada. It felt like a great fit, so she took the job. That turned out to be a terrible mistake. Once she started work, her new boss treated her as if she wasn’t there. They barely spoke, and when he gave her tasks, they were of the most menial kind. He’d tell her to file papers or answer the phones. Erica confronted her boss. It wasn’t that she objected to handling occasional secretarial tasks; it was that she wanted experience in the practice of law. Her principal was surprised by this argument. He pushed his glasses to the tip of his nose and looked at her above the frames. “You need to take the firm as it is,” he said. Their relationship never improved. Erica asked, repeatedly, that he assign her meaningful work. He obliged, grudgingly, but his attempts were half-hearted at best. He’d ask her to write a closing report on a real-estate transaction she knew nothing about, or he’d tell her to draft a will for a client but then refuse to let her sit in on the consult meeting. If she made mistakes, he’d yell, swear or call her incompetent.
His temper could be terrifying. A month into the job, he handed her a reference number and told her to retrieve the corresponding file from the storage room. When she produced the wrong document, he went into a rage. “He stormed to my desk and started flaring pages all over the place looking for the piece of paper he’d given me,” recalls Erica. Eventually, he found it, revealing that the mistake had been his all along: he’d written down the incorrect number. Still, he insisted that she was at fault for failing to catch his error. Her boss’s law clerk didn’t behave much better. During one interaction over a mistake on a file, Erica spoke up to defend herself. The clerk straightened her back and lowered her voice. “I suppose you want to be a know-it-all little bitch,” she said. Around this point, Erica began phoning the Law Society of Ontario on a weekly basis. They assigned her a caseworker, who discouraged her from lodging a formal complaint that could further jeopardize her already strained relationship with her boss. Erica wondered if her best course of action was to put up with the mistreatment. The behaviour seemed wildly inappropriate, but she had no benchmark to measure it against. And anyway, she thought, wasn’t articling supposed to be tough? At other times, she contemplated quitting. But she feared the consequences. Would she find a better position? And if she got an interview, she’d have to explain why she was walking out on her current job, while, at the same time, making a case that she’s a trustworthy employee, the kind who sticks around. This dilemma reveals the central flaw in the entire articling system. When students are in the middle of an awful articling position, they aren’t even lawyers yet. So they can’t simply quit and find another job (which is hard enough on its own). The power that articling principals have over their students allows them to behave terribly with impunity. That harsh reality raises an obvious question: Is it time for the articling system to die?
he most remarkable thing about Erica’s story is the fact that it’s unremarkable. In 2017, the Law Society of Ontario published a survey of articling students in the province. It showed that 21 percent of students who had articled in the previous two years experienced unwelcome conduct or comments while on the job. Think about that statistic. As many as 2,000 law-school graduates take on articling positions in Ontario in a given year, and 21 percent of 2,000 is 420. That’s a lot of bad experiences. One person is deeply familiar with this subject. Fay Faraday is the lead lawyer on the Law Society of Ontario’s Discrimination and Harassment Counsel. In this role, she offers assistance to anyone who has faced mistreatment at the hands of a lawyer or a paralegal in the province. And she often hears from articling students who accuse their principals of subjecting them to verbal abuse, sexual harassment and public humiliation. “It’s profoundly disturbing,” says Faraday. “But this is how some lawyers are choosing to treat their future peers in the profession.” Across the country, the picture is similarly bleak. In Quebec, 60 percent of law students report being asked discriminatory questions during articling interviews. In British Columbia, a growing number of articling principals now require students to put in three or four months of paralegal or administrative work before they start their articling term; in effect, these principals are extorting their students for additional low- paid labour. In Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, there have also been reports that students have experienced discrimination and harassment on the job. This is one of the reasons why the law societies of these three provinces have teamed up to commission a survey on the articling system as a whole. No region in this country has eliminated toxic articling placements.
This problem has deep historical roots. The law has, for the most part, been an apprenticeship-based industry. In medieval England, people learned common law not at Oxford or Cambridge but at the Inns of Court — a guild and also a forbear to the country’s modern bar associations — where they socialized with lawyers and judges, observed legal proceedings and conducted moot trials. It wasn’t until the Victorian era that attending law school and passing a written exam became official stops along the road to licensing. But law school never replaced the apprenticeship model. There’s a widespread understanding that you can’t become a lawyer simply by reading caselaw; you must learn how the job actually works. And if professors don’t teach such skills — which, for the most part, they don’t — students have to acquire the training elsewhere. In Canada, the profession still operates under a hybrid system that blends academic instruction with mandatory on-the-job training. And it’s ripe for abuse. First, there’s the problem of scarcity. In Ontario, the number of law-school
graduates has increased by 70 percent in the past decade, outpacing growth in articling positions. By August of a given year, when most articling positions are due to start, between 200 and 300 candidates are still hunting for placements. The situation elsewhere is less extreme, but students in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec still find themselves under intense pressure to land one of a limited number of jobs. In a hyper-competitive market, people are more willing than usual to tolerate abuse. Workplace mistreatment is also most likely to occur in situations where the employee depends on the boss for more than just a job. “The articling principal is a gatekeeper to licensing,” says Morgan Sim, an employment lawyer at Pinto James LLP in Toronto. “The employer has something in addition to a paycheque to lord over the employee.” Then there’s the issue of oversight. It’s simply not possible for provincial law societies to keep tabs on the thousands of articling positions spread out across the country. It’s too easy for principals to behave badly with impunity. This allows shocking abuses to occur unchecked.
HE STORMED TO MY DESK AND STARTED FLARING PAGES ALL OVER THE PLACE.
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fter graduating from law school, Hailey* accepted an articling position at what seemed like a conventional small firm. On her first day, she showed up at the office only to be told that she’d be working in the firm’s “other location.” She was then taken across the street to a residential tower. Her new workplace, it turned out, was the kitchen island in her boss’s tiny apartment. Typically, she was alone with him in the space. He rarely left the property, except to take meetings with clients, before which he’d often shower in an ensuite bathroom a few metres from where she sat. “There was frosted glass,” says Hailey, “through which you could see the outline of a body.” The hours were brutal. She might stay at the apartment until 1 a.m. typing his notes because he refused to use a computer, but he still expected her to report to work at 7 a.m. the next day. If she was late, she was reprimanded. When he caught pneumonia, she caught it, too. And then there were the knives: a massive collection of pocket knives, carving knives and switchblades, which her boss frequently sharpened while speaking with her. Like Erica, Hailey reported her experiences to the Law Society of Ontario and was encouraged not to escalate her complaints. (When given an opportunity to respond to allegations in this article, an LSO spokesperson wrote, in an email, “The Law Society takes complaints seriously and has protocols in place to respond.” He went on to cite the organization’s articling office, its formal-complaints process and its discrimination and harassment counsel.) Eventually, Hailey found another articling position through family connections and quietly switched jobs. The experience, however, had been demoralizing. “I was broken mentally,” she says. “My health had completely deteriorated. I was very close to just quitting law entirely.”
THE EMPLOYER HAS SOMETHING IN ADDITION TO A PAYCHEQUE TO LORD OVER THE EMPLOYEE.
ullying in the legal workforce is so commonplace that it’s become normalized. There is a pervasive belief that lawyering is difficult work, and that the rookie class must be pushed hard from day one. To a degree, this maxim is true — legal work does require stamina, attentiveness and grit — but no workplace should tolerate abuse. Doron Gold is a staff clinician at Homewood Health, which runs the Law Society of Ontario’s member-assistance program. In this role, he offers confidential support to judges, lawyers and licensee candidates. Many of his clients are students,
some of whom are suicidal. “I’ve known people who’ve had three or four placements and been harassed at every one,” says Gold. Though he doesn’t think the profession should abolish the articling system, he is concerned about the high number of problematic placements. Abusive bosses often act like mistreatment is part of the normal course of professional development. Such attitudes are prevalent not only in small shops but also at some of the largest firms in the country. Jonathan* articled at a Bay Street firm, where he was often required to work past midnight. One weekend, he spent 30 hours preparing a report; his superiors then presented the work at a conference for a major law-enforcement agency but didn’t mention his input. Jonathan didn’t resent the long hours — that’s what he’d signed up for, after
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all — but he thought he’d at least get credit for his work. He recalls another incident in which he was heading to the bathroom late at night, whereupon a partner reprimanded him for the way he walked. “The partner said, ‘You do good work, but you don’t walk with gusto or purpose,’” Jonathan recalls. “I thought, I’m going to take a dump at 10 p.m. What do you want from me?” To most of his colleagues, the long hours and random humiliations were typical. Nothing to get worked up about. But that lack of concern is itself a problem. Sure, articling students on Bay Street make good money; that doesn’t mean they should have to work well into the night without complaint. “I liken the experience of articling on Bay Street to Lord of the Flies,” says Jonathan. “We’re all stuck on this island. We never leave. And we have to follow this weird internal social structure.”
he Law Society of Ontario, to its credit, is in the midst of a decadelong effort to reform the lawyer- licensing regime. In 2014, it launched the Law Practice Program, an eightmonth course — taught in English at Ryerson University and in French at the University of Ottawa — that law grads can complete instead of articling. In the fall term, candidates work through mock files in a range of practice areas, under the guidance of working lawyers. In the winter, candidates complete a four-month work placement. In 2013, the Law Society approved a new law school at Lakehead University, which weaves a work placement into its third year. And so, upon
I WAS BROKEN MENTALLY. MY HEALTH HAD COMPLETELY DETERIORATED. I WAS VERY CLOSE TO JUST QUITTING LAW ENTIRELY.
graduation, students don’t have to article or enroll in the Law Practice Program. These two initiatives, in theory, could have been major solutions. The students who attended Lakehead would exit law school as full-fledged lawyers. And those at other schools who couldn’t secure a traditional articling job would be able to take the Law Practice Program. If only things had worked out so well. The participation rate in the Law Practice Program has been low. The Law Society had hoped the program would attract at least 400 candidates per year, but in 2017–18, only 218 people enrolled. Keep in mind: there are at least 200 law grads in Ontario who fail to find an articling position on an annual basis, but who choose unemployment over the Law Practice Program. That is a bad decision. There is no evidence that articling is better than the Law Practice Program. In fact, the opposite might be true. In 2016, the Law Society published a major report into how the program stacks up against articling. It came to the following conclusion: “In some ways the LPP delivery is superior to the Articling Program for consistency and attention to sole and small firm practice realities.” That line should be on billboards. Too many students are choosing to pursue an articling position at any cost, even when a highquality alternative exists. If we eliminated articling, they wouldn’t be able to make that mistake. Last year, the Law Society passed a series of modest reforms to the articling system. These include a minimumcompensation guarantee; a more intensive application process for principals, along with a requirement to take a short online course; and a spot-audit system, which will allow regulators to show up at firms, review files and interview both principals and students. These new rules should all be in effect by 2021. And yet, it’s hard to see how these small measures will address the underlying power imbalance that makes articling students so vulnerable in the first place. Maybe, then, it’s time to consider a more radical proposal. Maybe it’s time to bring articling to an end.
solution has always been in clear view: to eliminate articling and incorporate hands-on training into law school. If a particular school refuses to revise its curriculum, then its graduates can take some version of the Law Practice Program. This approach would remove the inequalities inherent in the articling system, whereby some lucky students get high-quality training at top-tier firms and others toil as lowwage secretaries for sole practitioners. The good news is that we’re already heading in this direction. There is, of course, the innovative curriculum at Lakehead University. In Toronto, Ryerson University is set to open a law school in September 2020, which will provide extensive vocational training. Its students, like those at Lakehead, won’t need to article. The faculty of law at the University of Calgary has also built hands-on training into its coursework. “We have extensive practical education in all of our courses,” says Ian Holloway, the law school’s dean. “It actually deepens real theoretical understanding.” Holloway is critical of what he calls the “false dichotomy” between theory (which one learns in school) and practice (a subject that is unfit for the classroom). As he puts it, “The two go hand in glove.” It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that he is a staunch critic of articling. He supports a standardized training program that isn’t subject to the whims of the job market. This would allow all students to get some basic instruction in transactional work, advocacy and negotiation — skills that even the best articling programs sometimes neglect or are unable to provide. After all, it doesn’t make much sense that someone could article at a big commercial firm, decide not to stay and, soon after, conduct a murder trial. Of course, no amount of in-class training will turn law students into experienced
I’VE KNOWN PEOPLE WHO’VE HAD THREE OR FOUR PLACEMENTS AND BEEN HARASSED AT EVERY ONE. lawyers. But the death of articling would hardly mean the death of mentorship. If anything, it would create an incentive for all law firms to understand mentorship the way the best already do: as an ongoing process. And meanwhile, when new lawyers work at a firm with a poor mentorship program, they can quit without jeopardizing their entire career.
n the end, Erica did not complete her dreadful articling term. It was so awful that she decided, despite the risks, to look for another job. And she was lucky to find one. When she informed her principal that she was leaving for another office, he told her that he’d kept a record of all the mistakes she’d made on the job. If she formally reported him to the Law Society, he implied, he’d retaliate by blowing up her career. Erica kept quiet. In her second articling placement, her co-workers were difficult, but the job was bearable, and she got a great deal of high-quality work. That enabled her to
get the thing she wanted most: a licence to practise. After being called to the bar in June 2018, she started her own office, which specializes in wills, real estate and administrative matters. As the business grows, she hopes to move further into environmental and human-rights law, too, allowing the more lucrative files to subsidize pro bono work. Though she’s critical of how her professional regulator handled her workplace complaints, she’s grateful for another Law Society initiative called the Coach and Advisor Network. “They connect you with a more senior call who’s willing to mentor you for free,” says Erica, who regularly has coffee with advisors she met through that program. She’s been self-employed for less than a year, but she’s already turning a profit. She regularly has coffee with advisers who are also supporters and peers. This informal network provides her with the ongoing support that she needs to sustain her career. Erica, for her part, doesn’t claim that her articling experience was a complete wash. She did pick up at least one valuable lesson on the job. “I’ll know exactly how not to operate,” she says, “when I start bringing in employees of my own.”
INTERESTING CASES, FRIENDLY FACES.
EXTRA CREDIT I NEVER BUY ANYTHING THAT’S NOT ON SALE. EVER. A recent gradate of Osgoode Hall, Heather Donkers is pictured here at Robichaud’s Criminal Defence Litigation, where she worked part-time as a student
Going for broke Heather Donkers is an articling student in Toronto. Her student debt sits at $195,000
by Katherine Laidlaw photography by Jennifer Roberts
HEATHER DONKERS never imagined going to law school. Her parents, who worked as a tool-and-die maker and an administrative assistant, hadn’t gone to university. Neither had any member of her extended family. “I couldn’t picture myself in law school,” says Donkers, who grew up in Newmarket, Ont. “It seemed unattainable.” But then a tragic life event inspired her to pursue the impossible. As
an undergraduate student at Queen’s University, Donkers was the victim of a sexual assault. Over the next two years, she cooperated with the police investigation and testified in court. By the time the trial ended, in a guilty verdict, she had made up her mind. “I was going to become a lawyer,” she says. “I wanted to work in the criminaljustice system, where I could be a voice for survivors.”
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Donkers has willed that goal into reality. In June, she graduated from Osgoode Hall, and, this coming fall, she will start articling at the Crown’s criminal-law office in Toronto. But that achievement has come with an astronomical price tag: at 24 years old, Donkers carries $195,000 in student debt. It’s a staggering amount that, at times, feels insurmountable. “The reality is, I need to pay this money back,” she says. “And I don’t know how I’m going to do that.” There’s no way to generalize about the cost of law school in Canada. If you study law in the Prairies — at the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta or the University of Saskatchewan — your tuition sits around $13,000. But if you attend McGill University and you’re a resident of Quebec, it’ll only cost you around $4,700. And in Toronto, of course, the numbers skyrocket. Tuition at Osgoode Hall is about $28,500 and, at the University of Toronto, the price swells to $34,500. At the low end, the cost is actually modest; at the high end, it’s monstrous. Donkers didn’t expect a free education. At 14, she worked as an ice-cream scooper at the Marble Slab Creamery in Newmarket. That part-time job helped fund her first year at Queen’s. Throughout her undergraduate career, she also worked as a residence don. And yet, after graduation, she still owed the bank $30,000. The next year, she arrived at Osgoode Hall. The tuition was a major burden. Donkers was forced to live a bare-bones student life, made possible by a student loan, credit cards and cut corners. In anticipation of recruitment season, she bought her professional wardrobe at Banana Republic on Boxing Day. “I have been extremely conscious about spending,” she says. “I never buy anything that’s not on sale. Ever.” As a 1L, Donkers lived on campus, but, over the next two years, she lived in Newmarket with her parents. And she never stopped working. Whenever it was possible, she took on research-assistant positions with professors. In her third year of law school, she worked part-time
at Robichaud’s Criminal Defence Litigation, writing blog posts for the firm’s website. Some expenses were unavoidable. As a 2L, Donkers landed a competitive internship at the United Nations, and she took the Geneva-based job even though it added $10,000 to her debt. On occasion, she splurged for leisure. There was a recent spring flight to Peru, which she paid for with credit-card points; during her twoand-a-half weeks in the country, she stayed in ultra-cheap hostels. And to keep grounded, she sometimes shelled out for a manicure or a massage. “That might look frivolous,” she says. “But it was an investment in me functioning as a law student.” As an articling student at the Crown’s office, Donkers is set to earn a salary of about $67,000. At a glance, that’s a decent income, but it will barely cover her expenses. You might have heard that rent in downtown Toronto is notoriously steep. This is true. Donkers doles out $1,220 to live in a two-bedroom
I NEED TO PAY THIS MONEY BACK. AND I DON’T KNOW HOW I’M GOING TO DO THAT.
apartment with a roommate. Not to mention the fact that she has to pay back the bank. Her line of credit costs $680 a month; and her government loan costs $722. On this schedule, it will take at least 15 years for Donkers to free herself of both debts. Despite that intimidating financial burden, she has an unwavering commitment to making social change. “I went into law school thinking that I was going to work in the criminal-justice system,” she says. “I have never lost that desire.” Though she wasn’t tempted to take a Bay Street position to pay off her debt faster, many of her classmates have made that choice. “Some of my friends, who I never guessed would have gone into a corporate firm, have done exactly that,” says Donkers. “I think some of them have had to prioritize debt repayment over the human-rights work they hoped to do in law school. We need to have a much deeper conversation about the consequences of student debt. It takes such an enormous toll, both mentally and financially.” jD
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plenty of work,” she says. “It’s a busy market.” It’s also an exciting one. Ahsan Sadiq, a corporate partner at Miller Thomson LLP, has an impressive Waterloo is the high-tech capital of the country. Meet three lawyers client roster that includes entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. “I do who love living and working in this fast-growing city whatever it takes to help early-stage by Luc Rinaldi companies and their founders,” says the 44-year-old. “It’s not the right job for someone who wants to toil away in the halls of the law firm doing research.” Sadiq and his wife, an artist, live in a “nice fenced house with a backyard, an art studio and a dog.” In Toronto, the same place would have cost double, perhaps triple, what they paid for it. The average detached house in Waterloo goes for about $575,000; in Toronto, however, the cost rises to a staggering $1.3 million. But there is a catch. If you work in Waterloo, your compensation will take a hit — at least, in the early years. At Miller Thomson’s Toronto office, articling students earn about $75,000 a year, while their counterparts in Waterloo take home $54,000. “You have to really believe in yourself,” says Sadiq, “and understand that you’re playing for the long term.” And on the subject of the long game, Waterloo is an ideal place to raise a family. “You’ve got the city, but you’re also surrounded by the country,” says Roth, who has two young children. “You can get a flavour of everything. There are a lot of great parks and trails. It’s nice to be able to drive 15 minutes and be at a farm, a conservation area or an apple orchard.” The city’s future looks bright. WHEN MELISSA ROTH completed of young parents or recent graduWaterloo is growing faster than both her articling term at Hicks Morley ates who work in the city’s thriving the provincial and national average. technology sector. Thanks to LLP in Toronto, the firm hired Sahil Shoor, an associate at Gowlher back as an associate — to work the University of Waterloo’s highly ing WLG, can attest to that statistic at its now-seven-lawyer office competitive engineering program, first-hand. “I moved to the city in Waterloo, a suburban region of four years ago,” says the 30-year the city has the second-densest 600,000 in southwestern Ontario. old, who practises municipal law concentration of tech start-ups in “I loved living in a big city,” she says. the world. There is only one region and civil litigation. “And since then, “To be honest, I had reservations I’ve seen a lot of young lawyers with a higher spot on the list: Silicon Valley. about coming to a smaller place.” arrive. They all love it.” To practise law in Waterloo, thereIt’s been seven years since that Shoor, a small-time gym rat, has moment. And in that time, Roth has fore, means serving this high-flying enjoyed the recent influx of spinning turned into one of the area’s proud- industry. Roth, a management-side In downtown Waterloo, studios and boxing joints, no doubt est residents. employment lawyer, represents you’ll find a bustling a product of trendy newcomers. area packed with a range of companies throughout The city itself teems with life. “Waterloo has become much more more than 400 unique the city, and that includes some Uptown, you’ll find cafés and than just a student town,” he says. restaurants, shops cocktail bars, each one chock full in the technology space. “There’s and cafés. “It has so much to offer.” EXPLORE
PHOTO COURTESY OF EXPLORE WATERLOO REGION
All hands on tech
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protect the police against calls for reform. My attempts to change the police have been hopeless. There will, however, be some victories. In my lifetime, the lives of LGBT Canadians It’s almost impossible to improve society through have undergone an enormous shift. They the legal system. But it’s a battle we have to fight can now lead, by and large, normal lives. And they achieved this, in part, by using by Clayton Ruby, C.M. the courts. In 2003, the LGBT community THE WHOLE POINT OF PRACTISING LAW seen the best the profession has to offer. in Ontario won the right to same-sex is to make the world a better place. To Well, it just isn’t. marriage in a landmark case before the bring about change. And to improve sociBut if you want to use your law degree province’s Court of Appeal. It took the ety at large. As a law student, I knew to make the world a better place, you’ll federal government two more years to that this was true. I never doubted that have to resist the social pressure to enter legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. I would spend my legal career pursuing the corporate world. And then, once It’s true that some discrimination remains, you take on cases that have the power to those important goals. But I had no idea but it is clearly on the losing end of a generational battle. how difficult it would be to actually effect make a difference, you’ll have to brace Let me end with an incongruously reliyourself for disappointment. You will lose real change. gious note. Over the course of your career, in court. You will be passed over, critiMost law schools convey the idea that you are going to encounter many difficult unless you leap into a high-paying job on cized. There may even be death threats. Bay Street or Wall Street, you have failed. (I have always thought: Relax, the ones to problems. I certainly have. It’s helpful to keep in mind this verse from the Old worry about don’t call first.) You’ll have But the secret truth is that working for to keep struggling. Testament, which, in my view, captures such firms usually involves working And it will be a struggle. I am continuthe essence of Judaism: “Do justice, love incredibly long hours and selling yourself kindness and walk humbly with thy God.” to the corporate rich. Young people often ally baffled at how resistant Canadian institutions are to change. Take the police. It’s that simple. go to these firms and dedicate at least a period of time to making the maximum They lie about breaching constitutional Clayton Ruby has practised civil-rights and amount of money for the richest clients. rights. They prevent ordinary citizens criminal-defence law in Canada for close There is little wonder that some of them from photographing their wrongdoing. to five decades. He is a partner at Ruby Shiller Enenajor DiGiuseppe. drop out of law entirely, thinking they’ve And meanwhile, those in power often ADVICE
ILLUSTRATION BY SARA WONG
The secret truth
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