My Concern

I’m worried about getting a job

The grading curve, OCIs, articling positions . . . there’s a lot to worry about along the pathway from first-year law school to the call to the bar. In fact, all of these things might well have been on your mind since before you even arrived on campus. You probably came to law school with a goal that has something to do with a job, but focusing on your endgame without regard for the many other measures of success can make for a pretty anxious, lonely and potentially disappointing experience along the way.

How much do grades matter?

You probably spend a lot of time thinking about grades — and, yes, there are firms and processes that use narrow filters, such as grades, to recruit summer and articling students. If you’ve received any disappointing grades, you may feel embarrassed or upset with yourself. You may even begin to disproportionately focus on your disappointing grades, feeling that they are more reflective of your potential than your other grades or experiences. You may also fear that these grades mean you will not be able to achieve your goals. Perhaps you’ve found yourself pulling back and choosing not to participate or apply for new opportunities out of fear of another disappointing result that you believe will negatively impact your career.

Here are some things to consider:

Remind yourself that some career paths don’t depend on grades. Many employers have holistic recruitment and selection processes. Even larger firms, which are known to recruit primarily on the basis of classroom performance, make exceptions. Instead of focusing on grades alone, direct your energy to taking courses that match your interests. A directed research paper or a focused experiential learning opportunity, for example, demonstrates a genuine interest in certain practice areas and may also earn you a strong recommendation letter from your professor.

While academic achievement is a big part of what earned you admission to law school, it’s worth remembering that this journey is also about learning the law you enjoy and expanding your sense of self. The letter grades on your transcript are only one measure of the lessons learned and the kind of lawyer you will become.

I don’t know how to handle OCIs

Because law school is a big investment, it’s understandable that many students immerse themselves in navigating the job search. OCIs are one of the most talked-about subjects among law students, which means it’s easy to become consumed by the process, even in first year. You may feel that if you don’t get an OCI job, it can have an impact on your articling prospects. OCIs are very public, so you may feel social pressure to perform well. If you don’t end up getting a job through this process, you may feel embarrassed or that you are not cut out for the law profession. Alternatively, if you know this process is not for you but feel compelled to participate anyway, it can reinforce fears about the professional culture and direct energy away from more fulfilling opportunities.

Here are some things to consider:

It’s important not to let the OCI recruitment make you lose sight of the many opportunities available. Remember: The majority of students do not get jobs through OCIs. Still, don’t assume your chances are slim and then don’t apply. If this is the pathway you want, keep your goal in perspective and go for it. You should also remember that many students choose not to participate in OCIs for a variety of reasons. You may opt-out because you’re just getting the hang of law school and would rather focus on your course work or it could be because the recruiting firms don’t match your interests.

Whatever your choice and the outcome, keep in mind that students who either do not get OCI jobs or who have opted out of the process are often able to find rewarding summer law and articling positions.

What if I don’t get an articling position?

Articling is a requirement to become a lawyer in Ontario, so it’s natural to feel stress about landing a position. These feelings may become magnified if you didn’t secure a second-year summer position. Worry can radiate into all aspects of your school performance, personal relationships and overall well-being. If you’re looking for an articling position in your third year, you may experience an even greater sense of anxiety. You may find yourself avoiding situations where people ask about your plans, and feeling embarrassed when they come to light.

Here are some things to consider:

When pursuing an articling position, it is important to remember that the process is a lot bigger than the OCIs. There are many more positions available for articling than there were during OCI recruitment. That being said, many students still have to look for an articling job during third year. If you are in that position, do not worry. You are most definitely not alone. Students from all over Ontario have managed to secure articling positions they were happy with in the latter parts of their law school education. Often, a thoughtful and sometimes lengthy search process can lead to a job that is a better fit for you and will lead to a rewarding experience.

For students who have not secured an articling job and wish to get licensed as soon as possible, the Law Society has created the Law Practice Program (LPP). Starting in September 2014, students can opt for the LPP, which includes a four-month training course and a four-month work placement. Details are still unfolding, but you should know there are now options for getting licensed that do not include articling.