Hard times – and hope – for law students

Reading the mainstream press lately one would be left with the impression that things are looking pretty grim for law students.

Maclean’s, in its annual rankings of professional schools (including law schools) ran a feature this week entitled “Should articling be scrapped?”

The feature goes over the well known stats about how law students in Ontario are finding it increasingly difficult to find articling positions, driven mostly by the bad economy:

As many as 15 per cent of Ontario’s roughly 1,75 law graduates may fall victim this year to an articling shortage in the province that is having a ripple effect for firms and students across the country.

The Huffington Post also recently ran a feature asking “Becoming A Lawyer: Is A Law Degree Still A ‘Golden Ticket’?” and Toronto Life blared that “A law degree used to guarantee a high-paying job. Tell that to the glut of grads who can’t find an articling gig.”

While these stats and headlines no doubt highlight the very real difficulties that law students are facing, we at Lexpert hope to help law students get more insight about some practice areas where the future does look promising.

In our area of focus, business law, two areas of practice that look set to grow are class actions and energy law. Our recent student issue looked at these two areas in our annual “Art of the Deal” and “Art of the Case” features, giving a behind-the-scenes look at a recent significant energy deal, and a blow-by-blow of a typical class action.

Our Editor-in-Chief, Jean Cumming, also summarized, in the same issue, the feedback we received from associates at business law firms in our survey for students:

“Be smart and tough and think for yourself.” So wrote one associate lawyer who completed the Lexpert Student and Associate Recruitment Guide Survey when prompted for “advice for law students aspiring to article at the firm.” This one-line, triple recommendation effectively summarizes the advice from the majority of respondents in our survey.

Lexpert surveyed students from the large firms and profiled areas of practice where these firms tend to do work. Granted, a large firm is not where every law student wants to be, but there is hope in lots of other growing areas as well – whether it is in small communities where lawyers are few and far between, or working in-house at a corporation or a non-profit.

The number of jobs out there for law students is no doubt less than what it was a few years ago – but there is hope in the hard times too. We hope to provide a little more hope to all those law students working hard to find work.

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