You’re hired!

Exclusive Precedent data reveals healthy hireback numbers for 2012
Exclusive Precedent data reveals healthy hireback numbers for 2012

HBWNo news is good news when it comes to hireback 2012. The numbers this year did not change much from last. Overall, a reassuring 75 percent of articling students were hired back by the 18 Toronto law offices that hire the most students. That compares to 78 percent in 2011.

Top of the pack was Torys LLP, which took on a full 95 percent of its class. Only one student opted out at Torys and one was not hired back. (We exclude opt-outs when we do the math.)

The Department of Justice had similar numbers, with one not hired and one opting out for a hefty 93 percent hireback rate. Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP and Bennett Jones LLP fill out the rest of the top five with hireback percentages of 90, 89 and 87 respectively.

Healthy hireback numbers like these show the industry is stable. In contrast, back in 2009 when the economy was stumbling, the 18 firms we surveyed collectively hired back just 67 percent of their students. However, Toronto lawyer coach Paulette Pommells cautions against reading too much into general hireback data. “The thing that you don’t get in these numbers is how well the specific practice areas are doing,” she says. “I think each firm has its story.”

They don’t reveal, for instance, the philosophy that drives the articling and hiring practices of some of our top firms. While some firms see articling as unrelated to their associate hires, others view their students as associates-in-training and take on roughly as many students as they think they’ll need to hire. For instance, when seeking out articling students, hireback leader Torys invests “a lot of time, money and energy in recruiting them,” says Deborah Dalfen, the firm’s director of legal recruitment and student development. “And our goal is to have them here for
the long term.”

And the numbers also conceal our one bit of bad news: articling is somewhat on the wane. Many large firms — including Stikeman Elliott LLP, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, Fasken Martineau Dumoulin LLP and Osler — offered fewer articling positions in 2011-2012 than they did four years prior. Overall, articling positions at large firms fell five percent between 2008-09 (349 students) and 2011-12 (330 students). But that’s a dip, not a plummet, and is further evidence that the profession has its imperfections, but is thriving.

More hireback facts
Our research on Toronto’s hireback numbers revealed some interesting trends:

Osler kills guaranteed hireback
Osler was the last firm to hang on to guaranteed hirebacks, but the policy finally got cut in 2011, impacting this year’s batch of articling students. “We realized we didn’t actually need it,” says Mary abbott, chair of the student committee. “We realized that if we were disciplined in our hiring and ensured that we hired the right people we would still continue to have a very strong hireback.”

Opt-outs drop
Students who “just say no” to associate jobs fell dramatically at large offices this year — just 18 articling students took their names out of the hat, compared with 31 in 2011 and 38 in 2010.

Firebacks endure
Our numbers do have their limits. nothing on our chart indicates whether these newly hired lawyers will still be around in six months. Beware the “fireback.”