The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 3, June 2010

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Why I hired an Articling Student

By Ronald J. (Ron) Everard, QC, Bencher and Chair, Credentials & Education Committee, Law Society of Alberta

As someone who has practised law for his entire career in a small firm, I had the belief of many of my peers when it came to hiring Articling Students and Associate Lawyers— let the large firms hire and train the Articling Students and then, once the Students have been admitted to the Bar, hire those newly admitted lawyers who, for one reason or another, leave the large firm where they articled. That way you avoid the grief and expense of training a novice lawyer. Someone else does the training for you.

It sounds fine in theory, but the results were mixed. Some of the Associates we hired over the years were excellent and stayed for years. Others were not a fit for our small firm or we weren’t a fit for them. They moved on. Some came with good practices and habits which improved our shop. Others didn’t.

Then, eight years ago I did something I had never done before and hired one of the third year law students who did not yet have an Articling position.

I hadn’t advertised for an Articling Student (and in fact the ad was for a newly admitted lawyer), but the young lady in question, being intelligent and a self-starter, had a prior degree as a Registered Nurse, and she realized that her prior medical experience would be an asset for our boutique injury and Insurance firm.

So when she saw our advertisement for a newly admitted lawyer with experience or interest in Injury Law, she applied and asked if we would consider taking on a student. When we didn’t respond enthusiastically to her first application, she applied again. To make a long story short, we were sufficiently impressed with the grit and tenacity of this young law student that we did something that we had never done before, and hired our first articling student. She’s been with us ever since and is a valued and respected member of our firm.

Why am I telling you this story?

As of this writing, seven third-year law students at the University of Alberta, and six from the University of Calgary do not yet have articles. They need the articling experience, and exposure to CPLED (Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education) if they are to ever be admitted to the Bar and to begin their careers in law.

For reasons which are not fully clear, perhaps nothing more than the still uncertain economy, many small and medium-sized firms have not yet made the decision to hire a student this year. The students in question are an intelligent, individualistic lot, some simply desiring an articling experience different than what the large firms can offer them.

Here there is an opportunity, not just for the students, but for lawyers in small and medium firms (or a combination of firms) to take on a student and to give that student good, solid articles which will make that individual a productive and valued member of this noble profession of ours.

For me, providing articles to a student turned out to be a win-win situation. I learned as much being a principal as my student learned from me, and the experience of mentoring a fledgling lawyer-to-be paid off in the idealism and enthusiasm which it brought to me.

So if you haven’t yet hired, or considered hiring an articling student for this next year, give it a go.

You will open doors, not just in someone else’s life, but in your own. Mentoring a student, and passing on the knowledge, ethics, and professionalism that you bring to the practise of law, is one of the great things that we can do for one another.

Give it a go. You won’t be sorry you did.

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