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Reflecting on Key Takeaways From ‘Life After Hireback’

06 Jul 2023 8:00 AM | Sandra Buhain (Administrator)

On June 28th YWL hosted one of our signature annual events, ‘Life After Hireback’. This year’s panel included our very own Sandra Buhain (In-House Counsel at Desjardins), Monica Goyal (Director of Legal Innovation and Lawyer at Caravel Law), Madori Sakamoto (Manager, Professional Recruiting at BLG) and Cheryl Biehler (Assistant Director, Recruitment and Student Development at Fasken). Panelists and participants had an open and honest discussion about how to navigate life after hireback and the first year of practice. I have gathered a few key points from our speakers to share with you here.

I wasn’t hired back – What is the first thing I should be doing?

Receiving some not so great news can be really disappointing and disheartening. It’s ok to take some time to process and accept that outcome. You should also use that time to reflect on your articling experience and do some self-evaluation in terms of better understanding what you liked and enjoyed about an employer or area of law and, just as importantly, what you didn’t like or would have changed. 

Rejection is often an opportunity to pursue a path better suited to you. Maybe the office culture wasn’t a great fit. Maybe you would rather practice in a different area of law. Or maybe you would excel in a different work environment. Now is the time to take stock of what’s going to work for you in your next career move. See the many opportunities that lie ahead of you once you start looking!

I’m starting as a First Year Associate. How can I make the most of this year?

You still have a lot to learn as a first year but potentially more control over your work than you did as an articling student. Use this time to ask partners and senior associates if you can sit in on things like mediations or cross examinations if you want more exposure to facets of practice you didn’t encounter while articling. While it is important to make time for committees and volunteering, your work product should be your number one priority and this is the time to build those foundational skills.

I’m thinking about changing my area of practice. How can I make the switch without any experience?

After articling and in your first year of practice, employers are less concerned with specific knowledge as they are with the soft and transferable skills you bring to the table. Drafting, managing timelines and workflows, research skills, communication and negotiation are all examples of skills you have probably developed that can be leveraged across a wide variety of practice areas.

If there is nothing on your resume or transcripts that provides evidence of your interest or aptitude in the area of law you wish to pursue, consider speaking with someone currently in that area and ask them to identify gaps in your experience and how to best fill those gaps. Ask them what they love about their job and what they wish was different. Be mindful of our habit of glamourizing certain areas of law—you may discover the work is not what you imagined it was.  

How do I network and build my brand?  

Networking will often start at your place of work. Foster the connections you made during articling and don’t forget about your law school classmates. Leverage those closer connections and ask to be put in touch with someone they know in an area of law or firm you are interested in. Connect on LinkedIn, attend networking and continuing legal education events and find volunteer opportunities. 

Your brand is best defined as how or what others think of you. In this way, your brand is often synonymous with reputation. Think about how your actions now will affect your reputation at your current employer and the reputation you would like to have for future employers and clients. Being true to yourself and showing others your authentic self is much more memorable and commendable than trying to fit a mold. Your brand can also be built on what others associate you with. Repost articles of interest, write a blog for a practice group or speak about a topic – these are all great ways to build your knowledge and reputation as an expert in your chosen area of law.  

Whether you are currently looking for your next role or not, remember to be kind to yourself and others around you. Congratulate yourself for the huge accomplishment of becoming a licensed lawyer! Almost no one has it figured out one year (or even 10) into practice, so give yourself some grace and compassion. If you are in a position to assist your colleagues and past classmates, consider how you can help connect others in your network. Finally, don’t forget to make some time for your physical and mental health, and enjoy the summer!

Marie obtained her Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Toronto and worked for a few years in financial services and investments before returning to school to obtain her J.D. from Western. She is currently completing her articles at a boutique estate litigation firm in downtown Toronto and expects to be called to the Bar in June 2023. During law school Marie was a member of the Western Business Law Clinic assisting local start-ups, Western's In Vino Veritas wine tasting club and participated in several moots and competitions including coaching the Walsh Family Law Moot in her third year. Outside of work Marie enjoys cooking, skiing, travelling and volunteering with Second Harvest.

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