A Year in the Life of Articling Students
Want to know how they really feel?
By Christine Murray
Five British Columbia articling students volunteered to (anonymously) answer questions about their experience over the articling year. The answers were overwhelmingly positive and busted the myths that have been floating around law school hallways. The best of the answers are below:
WHAT EXPECTATIONS DID YOU HAVE GOING INTO YOUR ARTICLES?
“After hearing many articling (horror) stories from friends who had graduated before me, I went into articling expecting the worst; long hours, feeling overwhelmed and stressed and wondering if I had made the right decision by going to law school.”
“Going into articling I almost expected it to be a natural progression from law school in that I would slowly gain substantive knowledge in a number of specific subjects and start to feel prepared to set out as a lawyer. Before articling, I had never even worked in an office environment before, so I did not have many expectations in terms of what the actual day-to-day work would be like.”
REFLECTING ON YOUR EXPERIENCE, DID IT MEET YOUR EXPECTATIONS?
“I am happy to report that my experience was far more positive than what I expected! I have really enjoyed articling; I had great mentors who were genuinely concerned that I have the best articling experience possible. They made every effort to give me challenging work and were sure to give me constructive and positive feedback. I expected to work 12 hour + days, but was happy to discover that practising law in Victoria is quite a bit more laid back than Vancouver and Calgary.”
“One thing I was not prepared for was how different the assignments I was given were from those in law school. I always took for granted how the limited nature of the subject matter covered in a final exam or an essay made it a lot easier to figure out how to approach a particular issue. Once articling began, just figuring out which textbook to open first was a challenge. However, I feel that getting the chance to closely study interesting topics in school gave me the analytical skills required to address unexpected issues and tasks.”
DESCRIBE A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE THAT YOU HAD DURING YOUR ARTICLES
“My principal recently sent me to meet with an expert we have retained for an upcoming case. My role was to support him and provide legal guidance as he met with other engineers who had been retained by opposing counsel. It was really nice to know that my principal trusted me to take that kind of a role.”
“One of the positive experiences I had was getting to make a film for a comedic skit that articling students and new lawyers at my firm have to put on as a ‘rite of passage.’” Working together on something totally unrelated to law provided much-needed perspective in the middle of what can feel like a long year. My articling experience definitely would have been a lot more difficult without having the chance to get to know other students and lawyers who were just starting out and who had as many questions and uncertainties as I did.”
NAME ONE THING YOUR FIRM OR PRINCIPAL COULD HAVE DONE TO MOST IMPROVE YOUR ARTICLING EXPERIENCE
“I would have liked to have had more courtroom experience, however I know there will be plenty of time for this in the future.”
“Honestly, I have nothing to compare my experience to directly and from what I hear while I have been working very hard, that is par for the course and the people in my office are generally very supportive and approachable.”
“Sit and have a drink and a chat more often.”
Family Lawyer Christine Murray practises at Berge Hart Cassels LLP.
This article was published in the June 2012 issue of BarTalk. © 2012 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.