Fort McMurray, Alta.
Technically, it’s not a city — it’s part of Wood Buffalo, a municipality in northeastern Alberta. But, as the central hub of the oil sands, Fort Mac stands on its own as an economic powerhouse. Since 2005, its economy has grown by an average of 6.5 percent each year, almost quadrupling the national average. Between 2006 and 2013, its population mushroomed to 77,000 from 47,000 as skilled workers flocked to the region.
So far, though, the lawyer population remains small, says Mark Baril, partner at Stringam Denecky LLP’s Fort McMurray office. He says firms can barely keep up with the demand in family and criminal law — areas that see a boost when population spikes. “There is no shortage of work.”
St. John’s, Nfld.
Not just a blue-collar fishing town, this coastal city is a hotbed of oil and gas development. “Newfoundland used to be a have-not province, but in the last few years it’s just caught on fire,” says Lynn Iding, manager of professional development programs at McInnes Cooper LLP, one of the largest firms in Atlantic Canada. Thanks to a surge in offshore drilling, St. John’s boasts one of the most rapidly expanding economies in the country. “Firms are growing,” explains Iding. “There’s tons of work in energy and natural resources.”
Plus, Iding says any lawyer who heads east will be struck by the natural beauty. “You can’t drive for more than five minutes without coming across an ocean, a lake or a park.”
Like the other two cities on this list, Saskatoon is on the upswing due to a white-hot resource market. Countries around the world, including China, are paying big bucks for oil, precious metals and potash from across Saskatchewan. Last year, the city’s economy expanded by 6.7 percent — faster than any other mid-sized city in the country.
Many resource companies, large and small, are based in Saskatoon and they hire local firms, says Troy Baril, an associate at Miller Thomson LLP’s Saskatoon office. Young lawyers, he says, should take note: if you want a career in corporate law, you don’t have to practise in Vancouver or Toronto. “We have a commercial team here — and they’re busy.”
Beyond these three cities, find out why Thunder Bay is on the cusp of an economic boom.
Illustrations by Isabel Foo
This story appears in our 2014 national Student Issue.