Based on conversations with lawyers in smaller firms and/or in small cities and towns across Ontario, the number one suggestion for learning who may be accepting articling students is to get in touch with the Law Association President in the area in which you'd like to work and ask them if they know of any openings and if they'd be willing to meet with you and/or accept your resume to forward to their members.
If you are interested in articling outside of Toronto, this is your gold mine!
There are 48 county and district law libraries across the province of Ontario which make up the new Legal Information and Resource Network - or LIRN). Five are regional or large law libraries, 15 are area or medium-sized law libraries, and 28 are local or small libraries.
Most libraries are staffed on a part time basis and you are encouraged to contact the local law librarian in your area to see what services are available to law students.
Law Libraries are great resources for students! They host networking events where you will be sure to meet friendly members of your local law association!
If you want to have a peek inside a courthouse, have a look at these pics of Thunder Bay's! Inside and Out!
You will want to highlight your (likely more) sophisticated technology skills. Be careful here. Yes -showcase your knowledge. But be prepared to explain how this know-how helps them and their firm in the practice of law. Just as important is your ability to sell yourself as someone who easily learns - and is willing to work with -legacy tools. The fact you are cold calling/cold emailing can go a long way to prove your case here!
Lawyers in small firms are very busy and don't often have marketing budgets or plans in place. As such, there are opportunities out there that are never advertised. In fact, some laywers may not even realize that they want or need an articling student.
It's your job to convince them that a) they want a student; and b) that they want you!
"It’s your job to show them the light. It's about selling the idea as well as yourself. Know the positive aspects and what an articling student can do for a small firm,” says Angela Sordi, a consultant at ZSA Legal Recruitment. "Once you’ve made the case, move in for the kill". It's also important to have the information ready about the requirement to be a principal, and be able to speak about all the requirements. Make their job easy!
Remember, it's important you understand how, when, and why small legal employers hire law students so you can conduct a productive job search, interview effectively,and determine whether a particular employer is the right fit for your current career goals.
The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) has a handy resource guide that you should definitely download and read!
When you follow each of these steps, your cold calls will tend to go more smoothly and result in more appointments. With the right approach, cold calling and cold emailing can serve as effective door openers.
#1: Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back.
If, after two attempts you still haven’t received a reply, try contacting the local Law Librarian (Ontario listing here). Ask them if they can provide you with the Vice President’s contact info. Or, perhaps if they can even circulate your resume and cover letter. The goal here is to be persistent!
#2. Call/Email with purpose.
First things first: do your homework, be selective, and have a clear ask: Do you want to work for them? Or do you want them to open up their network to you? Do you want to speak with them on the phone? Or do you want to come to their office for an in-person meeting? Be clear!
#3. Develop a call script.
You know yourself and your experience inside out, so why do you need to develop a script? Because in the business of cold calling (or cold emailing), you have 30 seconds or less (or a paragraph or two) to grab someone’s attention, so your pitch had better be spot on. Write out what you want to say. If you’re emailing, send the email to yourself first and see how it reads. But if you are calling, your script will help you stay on task, avoid rambling and ensure that you get across the key messages that you want made. And don’t forget your ask! Ask for the interview if that’s what you want. Ask for a follow up call. Ask if you can send them your resume. Ask anything you want, but make sure you MAKE THE ASK!
#4. Practice the script.
Out loud. In front of a mirror. To a friend. Smile while you’re talking. Time your delivery. Keep it succinct. Practice often. Enough said.
#5. Develop a strategy for calling.
Create your target list and identify how much time you can dedicate to making calls and then determine how many calls are you going to make/emails are you going to send in a day? In a week? Remember to include time for follow up calls and emails.
A rule of thumb is that 10 calls = 1 appointment. Be prepared to have a longer list than you first thought.
#6. Bring your “A” game.
Be positive and energetic. This is where smiling when you’re talking comes into play. It may sound silly, but people can “hear” your facial expression, so make it a good one! Know when to say “when” and pay attention to silences. What isn’t being said is as important as what is when it comes to gauging interest.
#7. Again - above all else, be persistent and stay resilient.
#8. Be prepared to follow-up!
Get confirmation of the follow up. If you’ve simply gotten them to agree to receive your resume, then tell them you’ll be in touch “in 2-3 days. Not “next week”. Not “a couple of days”. Don’t let them forget about you. Confirm this by sending them a reminder of that in the text of your email accompanying your resume. If you’ve landed a meeting or phone call, send them a calendar invite. Get it locked in their system. And make sure to include all your contact info on that in case they need to reschedule.
1. You need to be able to convincingly answer the question, “Why this firm?”
This may seem basic, but it is extremely important. Firms realize that you need to get an articling job somewhere—this is true of every student they interview. What they don’t know is which student is genuinely passionate about working at their specific firm.
You need to give the firm a reason to invest in you by explaining why you want to pursue articling and, eventually, a career in law. You can do this by researching the firm ahead of time and figuring out what distinguishes this firm from the others.
How do you distinguish the firm? Try to understand the type of company culture they have - and be prepared to describe what you like about it. Highlight a unique practice area they specialize in, or a unique department structure, and explain why it appeals to you. If you take the time to research the firm and reflect on how articling there would fit in with your overall career goals, this should not be a difficult question to answer.
2. Be prepared to tell them your story when they ask, “Why did you go to law school?”
This is a window into the type of person you are, what motivates you, and why you want to be a lawyer. Be honest when answering this question.
Seriously think about why you wanted to go to law school, and then connect that to why you want to work at this firm. Formulate a story that creates a vision of you as a person, not just an articling student.
If your reasons for wanting to go to law school have evolved, and you now have different motivations for wanting to practice law, explain this. It will show growth and self-awareness, and it will also show that you have actually thought about the kind of career you want to have.
3. Show them you have a burning desire for the job.
Firms want to see that you really want to work there, and that you’ll be a motivated and enthusiastic addition to their team – even if for only a few months. This is not the time to play it cool!
Firms are looking for people who are passionate about working with them—people who really want the job and who will be willing to follow through if they get it.
If the firm thinks that this is just another interview for you, then you will become just another candidate for them. Remember, you are trying to become an advocate. If you can’t advocate for yourself, how will you advocate for clients?
4. Be humble.
Confidence is important, but it’s equally important not to cross the line and come off as over-confident. Nobody wants to hire somebody who seems arrogant or conceited—especially for a junior role that will require hard work and receptiveness.
You are applying to be a student-at-law, which means you have a lot to learn. Ensure that you come across as aware of this. Don’t put others down or speak as though you think certain things are beneath you. Firms want to hire people who are teachable, not people who think they have it all figured out because they got all A+’s in Law School.
Do speak confidently about your skills and ability to learn, because this is what firms are ultimately looking for. In fact, it’s a good idea to talk specifically about the skills and tasks that you’re excited to learn in the role. This shows you will be an eager and confident learner.
5. Always equip yourself with a few good questions.
Asking questions at your interview shows that you are engaged, curious, and able to think critically. People who are invested are curious—they want to know what the firm’s culture is like, the story behind how it got started, and where it’s aiming to go in future. Asking questions about these things will make it clear you are just as interested in the firm as they are in you. You can even go a step beyond this by researching the competitive landscape of the industry as a whole and speaking to some of the pertinent challenges and opportunities.
Try to avoid asking basic questions that can easily be answered with a Google search. This will just make you look unprepared and unaware. Instead, try to ask questions that will engage the interviewer. While they are interviewing you, you are also interviewing them to see if they are the right fit for you.
Asking your interviewer a few well-placed questions about him or herself is a great way to connect personally. If there is time near the end of the interview, ask about their story—how long they’ve been part of the firm, what they like most about it, and how they got started there.
Also important - If your interviewer asks you a question that you don’t completely understand, ask for clarification. This shows genuine confidence and a real desire to understand what they’re asking, both of which they will respect.
6. Plan your answers to any question you might not want to answer.
If there is something in your application that jumps out in a negative way, be prepared to talk about it. The kinds of things that can stick out are a particularly bad grade, a shoddy semester, a sparse or transient employment history, and a lack of connection to the city the firm is in.
You need to know the weak spots on your application and how to respond to them because the interviewer is going to ask about it. If it is a bad grade or a weak semester, wait until the interviewer brings it up and have a response prepared. Remember, it is important to acknowledge the issue and take responsibility. If there is rationale, explain it briefly, but don’t harp on it—answer and then move on.
If your weak spot is something like a lack of connection to the location of the firm you are applying to, consider bringing this up before the interviewer does. Explain why you are going to law school in Toronto but you want to work in a small town and/or a small firm.
This will alleviate any concerns surrounding this part of your application and show them you really do want to make the move and stick around.
7. Be true to yourself.
Yes, it is cliché, but you need to hear it again anyways. Articling is the very beginning of your professional career as a lawyer. If you want to get started on the right path to a career that you’ll enjoy, you’ll need to focus on being authentic and self-aware.
Everyone talks about “fit” for a reason. You need to be truthful about what motivates you, what you are interested in, and the kind of place you want to work. Articling students work long hours, so you should try and find a place you like to be where you get to do things you like to do.
The more sincere you are in your interview the more likely you will be to end up somewhere that is a genuine fit for you. At the end of the day, that’s what matters the most, and you’ll be grateful for it down the line.
Good luck, future lawyers!
Adapted heavily from Edmond (a great resource for future lawyers!).
NORTHEAST REGION PRESIDENTS
Algoma Law Association
Mark Lepore - MLepore@ssmlawfirm.com
Cochrane Law Association
Graham Jenner - firstname.lastname@example.org
Nipissing Law Association
Gordon A. Prisco - email@example.com
Parry Sound Law Association
Joyce Faria - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sudbury Law Association
Stephanie Baker - Stephanie.Baker2@ontario.ca
Temiskaming Law Association
Marc Ducharme - email@example.com
NORTHWEST REGION PRESIDENTS
Kenora Law Association
Kimberly Mejia - firstname.lastname@example.org
Rainy River Law Association
Douglas Judson - email@example.com
Thunder Bay Law Association
Terry-Lynn Miettinen - firstname.lastname@example.org
Elgin Law Association
Keli Mersereau - email@example.com
Essex Law Association
David Sundin - firstname.lastname@example.org
Huron Law Association
Scott Cowan - email@example.com
Kent Law Association
Paul Watson - Paul@pauldwatsonlawoffice.com
Lambton Law Association
Ian Bruce - firstname.lastname@example.org
Middlesex Law Association
Lawrence Blokker - email@example.com
Oxford Law Association
Carey Speirs - firstname.lastname@example.org
Perth Law Association
William Thorn - email@example.com
Carleton Law Association
Karen Reid - firstname.lastname@example.org
Frontenac Law Association
Warren WhiteKnight - email@example.com
Hastings County Law Association
Pieter Kort - firstname.lastname@example.org
Lanark Law Association
Nicola Edmundson - Nicola.Edmundson@fcsllg.ca
Leeds & Grenville Law Association
James Eastwood - email@example.com
Lennox & Addington Law Association
Jillian Burford-Grinnell - firstname.lastname@example.org
Prescott & Russell Law Association
Marc Gauthier - email@example.com
Renfrew Law Association
Jean-Pierre Quintal - firstname.lastname@example.org
Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry Law Association
Stephanie Gibson - email@example.com
Durham Law Association
Mark Jacula - firstname.lastname@example.org
Muskoka Law Association
Valerie Tingey - email@example.com
Northumberland Law Association
Alison Lester - firstname.lastname@example.org
Peterborough Law Association
Christopher Russell - email@example.com
Simcoe Law Association
Corey Wall - firstname.lastname@example.org
Victoria-Haliburton Law Association
Brent Walmsley - email@example.com
York Law Association
Adam White - firstname.lastname@example.org
Bruce Law Association
Lori MacIntosh - email@example.com
Dufferin Law Association
Nancy Claridge - firstname.lastname@example.org
Grey Law Association
Nicholas Lovell - email@example.com
Halton Law Associaton
Ken Kelertas, President - firstname.lastname@example.org
Peel Law Association
Eugene Bhattacharya - Eugene.email@example.com
Wellington Law Association
David Cameletti - firstname.lastname@example.org
Brant Law Association
Matthew Lambert - MLambert@ballacheymoore.com
Haldimand Law Association
Elaine Rosewell - email@example.com
Hamilton Law Association
Patric Mackesy - firstname.lastname@example.org
Lincoln Law Association
Sarah Draper - DraperS@niagaralaw.ca
Norfolk Law Association
Robert MacLeod - email@example.com
Waterloo Law Association
Rob Bickle - firstname.lastname@example.org
Welland Law Association
Ashley Gibson - email@example.com