Landing an articling position with a foreign law degree
By Ilana Raynai
Most, if not all, Canadian university students wanting to become lawyers, will apply for law school in Canada. In Ontario, there are six law schools; in Canada there are 25. With over 20,000 applications, and about 3,000 spots for those applicants, the goal of becoming a lawyer sometimes seems to be close to impossible.
But now, many of those who have the passion and perseverance to make it in law, but are rejected from Canadian schools, seem to be looking elsewhere. In the past five years many Canadians have found their way studying in other countries, including England and Australia.
While one can be commended for fulfilling their dream, there is the daunting task of returning home, getting qualified to practice and of course finding a job. I went through this process and am going into my third year as a lawyer; however, the journey to get to where I am today was not easy.
After my return home from Australia I kept being reassured that I would find a job. I was also told that five to 10 years into my practice no-one would even care where I went to law school, as it would be my reputation as a litigator that would prevail. That all sounded great, but I was still fresh out of law school, in the process of becoming accredited, with no articling job.
The competition for articling positions at the top law firms is fierce. While it is the goal of any law firm to hire the crème de la crème, the top firms in our province tend to want to hire those applicants who attend the top law schools. In Ontario there seems to be a growing number of law grads, combined with a steady influx of law grads with foreign degrees, without articling positions. The Law Society of Upper Canada has recognized this rising problem which has sparked them to analyze the current articling problem.
The difficulty that exists today is that the number of Ontario and Canadian law grads is increasing at a rate that cannot be sustained by the number of articling positions available. So what is a Canadian to do when they have obtained a foreign law degree?
It is extremely important to understand the obstacles one faces in returning home after studying abroad. From the accreditation process to getting an articling interview and securing a position, below are a list of some helpful tips to keep you from being discouraged:
1. Understand what you need to do to have your foreign degree recognized. Knowing what requirements to meet prior to studying abroad is essential as it will help you stay on track and goal-oriented.
2. Network prior to and during your studies. Obtaining employment may be easier if you know or have some sort of relationship with a practising lawyer. Developing those relationships prior to attending law school may assist you when it comes time to finding a job.
3. Get a job in the legal field. After graduating from law school and prior to writing the bar and articling, foreign law grads have to become accredited. Using this time wisely could not be more beneficial to you than getting a job in a law firm or in a legal department of a company. Making yourself known within the field is the best way to score a job. Companies tend to want to keep people around they know as opposed to hiring a stranger.
4. Get the grades. There is already competition amongst Ontario law grads for articling jobs. Most law firms will tend to toss aside articling applications from foreign law grads based on that reason alone. However, if you have excellent grades and experience, there is no reason why you cannot compete for the same position as an Ontario law grad.
As cliché as it sounds, the most important thing to remember is that if you set your mind to it, anything is possible. It may seem daunting as you go through the process, but at the end of the day it will all be worth it knowing how hard you have worked for your achievements.