Klarissa Jeiel: Where Law Meets Design

Should I Participate in the Law Student Recruit?

Not sure whether or not to participate in the law student recruit? This article discusses the pros and cons of participating to help you decide!

This is an article in a series of articles called Your Ultimate Guide to Law Student Recruitment. Don’t forget to read the previous article here: The Law Student Recruitment Process

Introduction

If you’ve read my previous article on The Law Student Recruitment Process and you’re still on the fence about whether or not to participate in the law student recruit, then you’re in the right place. This article will go through the pros i.e. the reasons why you might want to participate in the law student recruit, along with the cons or downsides of participating, to help you decide on what to do.

Reasons to Participate in the Law Student Recruit

Now before we get into the details, a little reminder that you don’t have to participate in the recruit if you don’t want to. It will not hurt your chances of getting a job in the future by any means.

There are several reasons why someone might want to do the law student recruit:

  1. To secure an articling position
  2. To make $$$
  3. To get practical legal experience
  4. To figure out what area(s) of law they’re interested in
  5. To be more appealing to firms

There are many more, I’m sure. For example, some students may want to participate in the recruit to expand their network or simply because everyone else is doing it. And the list could go on and on but these are some of the most common ones that really highlight the benefits of participating in the 1L recruit or any other law student recruit. Let’s dive deeper into each one.

Securing an Articling Position

The ultimate goal of most students participating in the recruit (at least in Alberta and Canada in general) is to secure an articling position. Even for the 1L or 2L recruits, where students are competing for a summer position, many summer positions lead to articles as law firms will often invite summer students back for articling.

Related: What is an Articling Student in Alberta?

This is why participating in the recruit is so appealing to many. If you do the recruit and land a summer job, that’s one way to *potentially* secure an articling position. I say potentially here because there’s never a guarantee that a firm will hire you back as an articling student.

Maybe you performed so poorly during your time as a summer student (which is not likely but could happen) or the firm simply does not have the means to hire you back i.e. they hired five summer students and only have the capacity to re-hire two. When law firms talk about their “hire back” rate, this is one of the things they mean (the rate at which summer students are invited back to article with the firm). The other “hire back” rate being the rate that they hire articling students back as associates after finishing their articling term. So if your goal in participating in the recruit is to secure an articling position, make sure to pay attention to the hire back rate of the law firms you’re interest in applying to.

Making Money

For many, making money is the primary reason to participate in the law student recruit. If you secure a summer position or an articling position through the recruit, it means you get paid over the summer or after you graduate. It should mean you get paid, at least. Although I have heard unfortunately that there are unpaid articling positions out there – watch out for these as you really shouldn’t take on an unpaid articling position. But generally, summer and articling positions secured through a formal law student recruit pay quite well so this is one of the main motivations to participate in the recruit.

Getting Practical Legal Experience

By participating in the 1L recruit or 2L recruit and securing a summer job, you’ll likely work at a law firm or other similar office (e.g. if you go the government route). This is a great way to gain practical legal experience and develop the skills you need to succeed in law. You’ll get to conduct research, write legal memos, sit in on client interviews/meetings, do document review, etc. And of course, the entire purpose of your articling year is for you to gain practical legal experience so the same can be said for the 3L or articling recruit.

Figuring Out What Area(s) of Law You’re Interested In

If you don’t quite know what you want to do yet or which area(s) of the law you’d like to practice in, participating in the recruit could be beneficial to you. If you land a position, you’ll get exposure to some of the different practice area(s) of the law firm that you get hired in. Even if you don’t, just talking to all of the different firm representatives and lawyers during the recruit about their areas of practice and their experience in those areas could provide you with some insights on whether those areas are of interest to you.

Appealing to Firms

Some students may want to participate in the law student recruit to appeal to firms. This mostly applies to the 1L and 2L recruits. If you secure a summer position through either of these recruits, even if you don’t get hired back as an articling student, it could make you more attractive to other law firms because you would have actual legal skills and experience. This would then increase your chances of getting an articling or other legal position elsewhere.

Reasons Not to Participate in the Law Student Recruit

As you can see from above, there are many reasons why you might want to participate in the law student recruit. That said, it’s not all positive. There are also drawbacks to participating in the recruit. Here are some of those drawbacks i.e. reasons not to participate in the recruit:

  1. Not all firms participate in the recruit
  2. Mostly big to mid-sized law firms participate in the recruit
  3. It’s extremely competitive
  4. It’s a LOT of work

Not All Firms Participate in the Law Student Recruit

Only some law firms participate in the formal recruit process. In fact, a majority of law firms don’t. By participating in the recruit, you may be limiting yourself to the select few firms doing the recruit. This is an opportunity cost. If you secure a summer or articling position through the recruit, you’re likely giving up the opportunity to seek out law firms outside of the recruit that might be a better fit for you. Not to say that you’re locked in forever. You’re always free to move to another firm but generally, it’s not ideal to, for example, reject an offer to come back as an articling student if you secure a summer position with a firm or switch firms in the middle of your articling year. It could be seen as a reputation issue. So that’s something to keep in mind.

Mostly Big to Mid-Sized Law Firms Participate in the Law Student Recruit

Since not all law firms participate in the recruit, you should consider what kind of law firm you want to work at. For the most part, only big to mid-sized law firms participate in the recruit. If you’ve got your heart set on working at a smaller firm, that might be a reason for you to not participate in the recruit.

The Law Student Recruit is Extremely Competitive

There are very VERY few positions available during the 1L and 2L recruits. There may be a bit more during the articling recruit but still compared to the amount of students vying for positions, not by much. That means the recruit is extremely competitive and ultimately, a majority of students will come out of it without a job. This is another drawback to the recruit and a reason that might put you off of participating in it.

The Law Student Recruit is a Lot of Work

If you’ve read my previous article on The Law Student Recruitment Process, you’ll know that there are many stages to the recruit and participating in it is no walk in the park. You need to write dozens of cover letters, prepare your resume, find references, network with summer/articling students and lawyers, do firm research, do interviews, do more interviews, etc. etc. Frankly, it is a LOT of work and it’s exhausting. It can also put you behind on your classes because you’re spending time doing recruit stuff instead of studying. If that doesn’t sound like something you want to or you’re prepared to deal with, then that’s yet another reason why you might not want to participate in the law student recruit.

There are many reasons to participate in law student recruitment. But there are also reasons why you might not want to. You should consider both before deciding whether to participate in the recruit or not. To make it easier for you, here’s a quick table summarizing the pros and cons I talked about above.

Pros of Participating in the RecruitCons of Participating in the Recruit
It can lead to an articling positionNot all firms participate
You can make money while in law school or as a recent grad if you secure a positionMost of the firms that participate are big or medium-sized firms
You can gain legal skills and experienceThere are very few positions available and it can be very competitive
It can help you figure out which area(s) of law you’re interested inIt’s a lot of work
It can make you more appealing to firms

This is not an exhaustive list of reasons. You may have your own reasons to or not to participate in the recruit that are not on this table. So do some self-reflection and figure out what’s important to you and what you want to get out of the recruit!

Conclusion

From someone who participated in all three recruits in law school (1L, 2L and articling), I personally recommend doing the recruit. Yes, it’s very competitive and yes, it’s a lot of work. But regardless of whether or not you get a summer or articling job, I think it’s worth it just for the experience itself. I did not land a summer position in my 1L or 2L year but I learned so much from just going through the entire law student recruitment process like how to write and re-write my cover letter and resume, network with others, answer interview questions, etc. And I think it’s served me.

Everything I learned during the 1L and 2L recruits helped prepare me for the articling recruit during which I managed to get multiple job offers. Even if you’re not planning on participating in the articling recruit, if you want to practice law, you will eventually have to apply to firms and go through the job hiring process. So you can treat the law student recruit as practice for that. But again, if you know in your heart that you don’t want to participate in the recruit, you don’t have to. I know a lot of students who have gotten jobs without participating in any of the recruits. In the end, the choice is up to you!

This is an article in a series of articles called Your Ultimate Guide to Law Student Recruitment.

Next Article: How to Do Law Firm Research

Previous article: The Law Student Recruitment Process

Start at the beginning: Law Student Recruitment