News: What’s behind the shrinking pool of Bay Street articling jobs?

For students, the hireback stats look pretty scary. Back in 2009, Precedent surveyed the Toronto law offices that hired the most articling students to find out how many they hired back as first-year associates. Each year, we ask again and report those numbers online in our Hireback Watch. Over the last year, the number of articling jobs at the 16 offices that traditionally hire the most students fell from 297 to 282. Worse still, those numbers don’t include students from Heenan Blaikie LLP, which collapsed in February and, of course, won’t be hiring students in the future.

“If I were a law student looking for work on Bay Street, I would not find any of this encouraging,” says Jordan Furlong, legal consultant at Edge International. For the past 40 years, he explains, clients have blindly paid big legal fees for the work of students, at least in part. Now, that era is over: clients want lower costs, and they don’t think students, who spend most of their time completing routine legal tasks, are worth the money. For that reason, Furlong predicts that the number of articling gigs on Bay Street will continue to decline. “Firms everywhere are coming to the belated realization that they, not their clients, have to pay for student training.”

But the shrinking articling pool is only half the story: the proportion of articling students hired back is on the rise. This year, those 16 offices hired back 78 percent of students, up from 73 percent a year ago. In fact, the total number of students hired back remains steady, with 200 making the cut this year, compared to 204 in 2013.

A consistent influx of junior associates “means that firms are still looking to identify and invest in young talent,” says Adam Lepofsky, president and founder of the legal recruiting firm RainMaker Group. Despite the fall of Heenan Blaikie, stable hireback numbers indicate that firms “are optimistic about the next few years.”

Beyond hireback numbers, Lepofsky hopes recent growth in the American legal market — New York and California, in particular — will spill over into Canada within a year. “I’m getting demands from clients in the States that I haven’t gotten in a long time,” he says. “And generally our economy will follow the U.S. economy, especially in the business of law.”

The demand for legal work is hardly drying up, says Furlong. But that demand is not for junior lawyers — it’s for seasoned partners. As firms cut articling jobs, he says they’ll hire fewer first-years. The hireback rate could stay high, but Furlong expects the number of new lawyers on Bay Street to decline. “Firms are still overlawyered.” 


Bay Street looks bearish

In 2009, Blakes, Davies, McCarthys, Osler and Stikemans took on the most articling students at their Toronto offices. Since then, they’ve shed a combined 47 jobs, but the hireback rate at those firms has jumped up by 10 percent.

Toronto Articling Jobs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The biggest players, then and now

Toronto offices with the most students in 2009
Osler — 33
Stikemans — 33
Blakes — 29
McCarthys — 28
Davies — 22

Toronto offices with the most students in 2014
Blakes — 29
Torys — 25
Stikemans, Norton Rose — 20
BLG, McCarthys, Cassels — 19 


For a detailed rundown of all the numbers, check out our Hireback Watch 2014 chart.

The Circuit: Precedent Setter Awards 2014


What: Precedent Setter Awards 2014
Where: Stratus Restaurant, 79 Wellington St. W.
When: June 11, 2014


Last week, more than 120 lawyers and guests packed into Stratus restaurant in Toronto to recognize this year’s Precedent Setter Award winners. Held atop the TD Tower in the downtown core, our annual event brought guests together to mingle and meet our winners, in their first 10 years of practice, are blazing new trails in the profession.

During the evening, Melissa Kluger, publisher and editor of Precedent, presented the winners with a framed version of their photographs from the magazine. Unique to this year, Kluger also handed out commemorative pins to this year’s crop of top lawyers and the past winners in attendance. To see Precedent Setters both old and new come together made the evening all the more special.

We’d also like to extend a big thank-you to our presenting sponsor RainMaker Group and our event sponsors the Cambridge Group of Clubs, Deloitte, Laurel Hill Advisory Group, and Harcourts.

Congratulations once again to all our winners:

Paul-Erik VeelPaul-Erik Veel
Associate, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP
Read Paul-Erik’s profile

 

 

Alexi WoodAlexi Wood
Associate, Davis LLP
Read Alexi’s profile

 

 

Andrea GonsalvesAndrea Gonsalves
Partner, Stockwoods LLP Barristers
Read Andrea’s profile

 

 

Nikiforos IatrouNikiforos Iatrou
Partner, WeirFoulds LLP
Read Niki’s profile

 

 

Ronan LevyRonan Levy
Corporate Counsel, Cognition LLP
Read Ronan’s profile

 

 


Event photography by Yvonne Bambrick