Recruitment Special Feature: Bay Street Hiring Is Down. Like, Way Down.

Cory Bettel (2L) and Scott Dallen (2L)

The dream is over.

In 2015, Toronto had its warmest winter in years. The United States Supreme Court affirmed same-sex marriage. Kanye West announced his intention to run for office in 2020. And Bay Street hiring was up to its highest level in years, finally recovering from the reported hiring “bloodbath” of 2013.

In contrast, 2016 has been objectively awful. Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States. Brangelina is officially defunct. Davie Bowie, Prince and, worst of all, Harambe are all dead… And Bay Street hiring numbers have taken another significant dip.

Total hiring on Bay Street has fallen sharply to its lowest level since 2013. Roughly 375 students were hired this year, compared to 420 in 2015, 398 in 2014, and 352 in 2013. After three years of hiring increases, employment has declined.

These figures include returning 1L hires, who make up an increasing proportion of Fall Recruitment hires, which masks the extent to which people who participated in this year’s process were unable to obtain an offer.

Though hiring remained steady at Queen’s, Osgoode and Ottawa, employment stumbled at U of T Law (down 12%), Western (down 14%) and Windsor (down 18%). This downward trajectory is exacerbated by rising tuition rates and class sizes at many Ontario law schools. U of T Law, for instance, is once again expected to raise tuition by the maximum allowable increase of 5%.

The 2016 Fall Recruitment Special relies on data from two sources: 1) data from the firms about how many students they hired from which schools, and 2) our own internal survey sent to everyone at U of T Law who was eligible to complete the OCI process. Though some firms have not returned our requests for their 2016 hiring information, the number of law firms included in this information is still relatively consistent with our prior reporting on recruitment. Our internal survey had an 84% response rate, making its results statistically reliable.

As always, there are inherent limits to our data collection. We do not have data about how many students from each school actually participate in Toronto recruitment or comparable data related to employment in other provinces.

This year, we wanted to speak to the importance of grades in the hiring process at U of T Law, in particular to dispel the myth that students are required to minimize the number of courses in which they receive a Pass with Merit grade in to land a job on Bay Street. Though a more comprehensive analysis will be published in February, our findings are that grades are a relevant, but not fully determinant, factor in the 2L recruitment process.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete our survey. We appreciate the time you put into it, and hope that everyone who finds this helpful in the recruitment process next year will carry it forward. We look forward to supplying you with a full recruitment special in February, complete with further analysis. For now: let’s all cross our fingers, pray for Harambe, and hope for a better 2017.

Second Year Summer Hiring Data

View the chart on Google Sheets.

Survey Data

The Ultra Vires high level statistics analysis team (UVHLSAT) will have more data analysis to share in a few months. For now, here are some of the most important numbers:

Recruitment facts:

    • 64% of respondents accepted a position through the recruitment process
    • 52% of respondents said they did not do any “networking” with the firm where they accepted a job, prior to OCIs
    • Although 53% of respondents said they could not identify a single Seven Sister law firm before attending law school, 35% said this was a significant factor in deciding where to work
    • 32% of respondents said they were brought to tears at some point during the process
    • 69% of respondents said they were not surprised by the offers they got, based on how their interviews went
    • Only 8.5% of respondents said that they outright lied about their level of commitment to a firm during the recruitment process
    • The firm which received the highest number of applications was Blakes, with 112 applications

Saying “first choice”:

61% of respondents said they told the firm from which they accepted an offer that the firm was their first choice. Only 4% of respondents told more than one firm that the firm was their first choice.

Firm Acceptances

  • 64% of respondents accepted positions at large full-service firms
  • 17% of respondents accepted positions at boutique firms
  • 10% of respondents accepted positions at government offices
  • 7% of respondents accepted positions at mid-sized firms
  • 2% of respondents accepted positions with other employers

Number of Offers

  •   Zero – 34%
  •   One – 29%
  •   Two – 24%
  •   Three – 11%
  •   Four – 4%

In Your Own Words

These are responses selected from our online survey. These particular responses were selected in an attempt to show as many different viewpoints as possible. Responses may have been lightly edited for clarity.

Did any employers make you feel uncomfortable?

  • Multiple employers made me feel uncomfortable during the in-firm process by pressuring me to say ‘first choice.’ They also asked who else I was interviewing with and who I was having dinners with.
  • My (male) interviewer started an answer with “not to sound paternalistic” after a question about the firm’s gender ratio.
  • Interviewer told me that we shouldn’t worry about having diversity initiatives in Canada because no one would even think about being racist here.
  • Male interviewers staring at chest and thighs during interviews.
  • I was asked how much I would like to see my (future) children.
  • At a cocktail party a partner told me a racist joke about a racial group with which I identify. He was not aware, at the time, of my identity.
  • One interviewer made a comment about how it’s a shame I’m not a visible minority.
  • When I described my experiences working with disadvantaged people at DLS, one interviewer essentially said ‘bring out the violins for those people, am I right?’
  • One employer told me it was nice that I didn’t have an accent despite immigrating here as a child.
  • A male partner told me that ‘You’ll need a thick skin to succeed here, especially as a woman.’

What were some of the most important factors in which offer you accepted?

  • Feeling good about the people, the type of work, the firm’s reputation for work-life balance.
  • Not proud of it, but prestige.
  • The manner in which I was treated in the process.
  • Range of practice areas; commitment to retention of women; firm culture.
  • Early experience, courtroom experience, size of the firm, mentorship and networking, mobility, firm culture.

How did you find the CDO’s services during the recruitment process?

  • I cannot thank them enough! I just really can’t.
  • It was heavily in favor of those who were being recruited, and did not focus much on students (50% of us) who were left behind in the recruitment process. I feel as though that they did not put enough into making students not hired during the OCI process feel like there was hope beyond the process and to help connect them there.
  • The CDO was disingenuous about the behaviour of employers in the process. They led us to believe the firms would be honest and sincere in how they conducted their hirings and we should be honest in return. It is understandable from their position they want to maintain good relations with the firms, but I think they lulled us into a false sense of security when this process should actually be done in a cynical and pragmatic way. Firms lie to students all the time and I wish someone had told me honestly in all the panels I went to that I should lie to them too.
  • You guys are the most incredible and underappreciated service I’ve ever come across. Everyone should be using your services all the time.
  • The fact that the faculty has now hired a “Personal and Wellness Coordinator” speaks volumes to the lack of resources offered by the CDO. Don’t tell me to calm down – help me find a job.
  • It’s obvious that they really care about the students. I was really impressed with how much effort they put into the whole OCI process.

Are you satisfied with the outcome of the process?

  • Would have preferred getting a job.
  • More content than satisfied.
  • Absolutely not.
  • A lingering feeling of being slimy… It won’t wash away.
  • Partially. The night before call day I had a small panic about what I should do if I got an offer. I think that I knew that the firms weren’t right for me, but I genuinely did not see any alternatives. I feel better now. Still anxious about jobs, etc. But better.
  • Yes. Very!
  • Yes! I realize this is largely because I received an offer, but the process itself was not as nerve-racking as I had expected.
  • Mixed feelings – received a job but not at the firm I was hoping for.
  • Yes. I am free now. No firms own my soul.
  • I wasn’t planning to participate in the process at all so the outcome was not determinative of my plans for the future.

Having gone through the process, how do you feel now?

  • Relieved
  • Tired
  • Good
  • Like I need to find a job
  • Meh
  • Terrible
  • Bitter
  • Fantastic
  • Fucked
  • Violated. Belittled. Not respected.
  • Excellent
  • Unemployable
  • Exhausted and manipulated.
  • Like someone pulled the rug out from under my feet.
  • Very happy, and a little anxious about whether I made the right decision.
  • Like I just got hit by a bus.
  • Sad.
  • Over the moon.
  • Extremely relieved that it’s over and that I didn’t exit empty handed.
  • I feel good about the result. I was treated fairly throughout the process. But I do think that it could be improved.
  • It’s all opaque, gimmicky bullshit.
  • Dead inside.
  • Energized.
  • Like I should’ve gotten better marks in 1L.
  • Disheartened.

What is something you didn’t want your employers to know about you?

  • That I wasn’t really interested in working at their offices.
  • Marital status.
  • My desperation.
  • How uncommitted I was to working at a law firm beyond articles.
  • I don’t drink alcohol.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • That I’m a completely different person than the one they were speaking to.
  • That I really don’t want to work 12 hour days, 6 days a week, no matter how ‘fun’ the firm is.
  • I’m lazy.
  • Passion for admiralty law.
  • No. I was honest throughout the process about who I was and what I wanted in a firm.
  • I think corporate law is so, so boring. I’m pretty sure they could tell though.
  • I like to sleep.
  • That I don’t want to be a lawyer for the rest of my life. Or even for half of it.
  • That I was diagnosed with A.D.D.
  • My anxiety; my uncertainty around whether I wanted to practice litigation over the long-term
  • That I forgot to put on deodorant.
  • I’m uncomfortable with lack of ethnic diversity in the legal field.
  • The sheer extent of my disorganization and procrastination.

What would you change about the recruitment process?

  • Get rid of the cooling off period – have the firms make offers at 5 pm on Wednesday.
  • The first choice situation. It felt like it was hard to get offers from some firms if you didn’t feel comfortable telling them they were your first choice or that you would accept an offer from them – so in that way it doesn’t feel like students are protected by “the process”.
  • I would eliminate the social events (e.g. meals, cocktail receptions). I found them to be really tiring after a long day of interviews.
  • The CDO needs to stop buying into 23-year-old, stressed-out, indebted law students’ tendency to be risk-averse, and do more to encourage people to pursue public interest and government.
  • I think firms should be able to explicitly tell you that they are making you an offer by day 2. The offers I received were made very obvious to me by mid-afternoon on day 2, and the rules aren’t fooling anyone.
  • I think a computerized “matching system” — like they do for medical students choosing medical schools — would really take this pressure off and would make the system more fair overall.
  • I wish there was a better balance of power between students and employers. We’re advised not to tell multiple firms that they’re our first choice but employers have no problem leading students on with no intention of giving those students offers. A lot of my friends felt burned and manipulated in this process. Not only were some firms’ actions unfair, but quite frankly, they were unethical. I think the Law Society should do better in regulating firms’ actions, rather than giving us a useless 5pm blackout period.
  • Mandatory PFOs. Silence is unbearable.

What do you think about the new “cooling off period” from Wednesday at 5 pm to Thursday at 8 am?

Responses to this question were overwhelmingly negative. A representative response: “It’s so stupid. It has zero benefits and only drawbacks. Instead, we should get offers at 5PM on Wednesdays and then not be allowed to accept them until Thursday at 8AM.”

Did you witness any employers breaking the LSUC guidelines?

  • Yes. My top two firms heavily indicated that they would be giving an offer by the afternoon of Wednesday; they got around the ‘offer’ issue by using terms like “don’t worry about tomorrow, you’re completely set,” “our position is not likely to change,” “you can sleep well,” and “we’ll be seeing you here soon again.” There was so much pressure to tell firms where else I was interviewing at that I told a majority of my in-firms who they were competing with.
  • No direct rule-breaking. The kind of grey area stuff seemed to be more for students’ benefit – trying to make sure they weren’t stressing all of Wednesday night.
  • Not explicitly, but every firm that I got an offer from hinted very heavily that I would be receiving an offer. However, no one asked me if I was their first choice and I didn’t feel pressure to do so.
  • Not in my experience.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

  • I should have gone to a “weaker” school and gotten higher grades against less impressive competition
  • You can go through this entire process and feel extremely confident that you will get a job, or feel like one firm really tried to sell their firm to you, yet get no calls on Call Day. It breaks you and makes you feel absolutely terrible. If I could go back and do it again knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn’t do it at all.
  • I’m just glad it’s done, socializing for 15 hours a day for 2 straight days is exhausting.
  • I think U of T uniquely prepares its students for this process. I was at tables with other students from other schools, and they struggled a lot more.
  • The firms are vicious and they don’t care about you. Don’t think they are like real people and worry about upsetting anyone. They are multi-million dollar companies whose main business is putting on a face. They will lie to you like it is nothing, for the most marginal of benefits. If you want the job fight tooth and nail. Email people and demand to know what they think. But remember there is more to law than just Bay street.
  • This question feels like you’re trying to get me to say “first choice.”
  • At the end of our first interview, one of the big firms asked me to come back for a second interview and we scheduled a time on Tuesday. Then that night they called me and told me they had decided I wasn’t moving on in the process and that they were canceling my second interview. I know they have to do a lot of scheduling, but I think that’s pretty shitty.
  • I think releasing this survey so soon after offers is rather insensitive to people that might be upset because they did not get what they wanted out of the process.
  • These firms are vicious; the place I said the words ‘first choice’ to played me like a puppet. Keep your options open and watch out for yourself. If I had played my cards even slightly differently, I would not have walked away with a job. Friends of mine who walked away with jobs with 1 in-firm or 2 were incredibly strategic; it is so important to seem wanted. I’d highly suggest name-dropping a few other places that are ‘pursuing’ you, during the right moment, of course. In simpler words – on Monday and Tuesday, you should give off the vibe that you’re in high demand; by Wednesday, seal the deal and reciprocate as much as possible. Have a back-up plan if you can.

    To the firms that manipulated, played, and outright lied to my friends and I: we remember. Over the next few years we will start from the ground up – as students working in tiny hidden offices, the sweatshops that power these Bay Street mammoths. But one day, maybe seven years from now, maybe ten, maybe fifteen, I will become partner. At a firm down the street from yours. At a firm where my word is respected. And trust me when I say that I will remember the way that your team treated me, I will remember the exaggerations and lies that you fed me while looking me in the eyes, I will remember the way that you nonchalantly played me because I was only a student and you thought that your disrespect wouldn’t cost you anything. I will remember that relying on your words nearly cost me a job, because to you keeping a wait-list candidate hanging around was more important than your firm’s reputation and integrity. And when I see you on the opposing side, litigating a multi-million dollar deal gone sour that your firm’s reputation depends on: I will do everything in my power to win.
  • From OCI’s to in-firms, I thought our class was thoughtful and kind throughout. Everyone seems to genuinely want one another to succeed, and the atmosphere was really not as tense or competitive as it could have been.
  • I’m happy with how it turned out, I felt that the breaches of the LSUC rules I encountered were all done in good faith. The employers that said they would offer me a job did, and the employers that asked where I stood (I think) genuinely wanted to help me decide. T
  • Dealing with the American election in the middle of the process was rough. I didn’t cry about the process itself, but I certainly cried about that, and it made for some very somber interviews on Wednesday.
  • There are some firms that are very professional in this process and that’s amazing. It made me feel great about where I’m going to work. Others are not. Simply. Some are aggressive and break the rules. Some will very clearly waste your time if you don’t schedule their first interview in the right slot, which is fuckin childish. These things should matter to people. If they did, maybe things would change. Unfortunately, the ends justify the means for some who are sure of what they want early, which makes those firms much less accessible to those who are trying to learn and figure things out during the process itself.
  • At every stage of the recruitment, try not to compare yourself to others. Just do your personal best!
  • Two firms really stick out to me from this process.

    I met with BLG, and they made me feel humiliated and embarrassed. They fooled me over and over again and I feel like a huge sucker for falling for it every time. At the end of my first day interview with them, I was sitting with my host when someone entered the room to tell my host how impressed everyone was with me and that they wanted me back tomorrow. I felt so happy. I knew infirms would be ok! It was only later on, reflecting back on the events after learning new pieces of information, that I was able to realize what had really happened. Like the twist in ‘The Prestige’. But instead of being cool, it just made me feel stupid for letting my optimism allow BLG to fool me so severely. It turns out this little ‘skit’ was conducted for the benefit of very first round interviewer. A special drama for the prospective candidates.

    My host emailed me and asked me who I would want to meet tomorrow. I had done a lot of research on BLG and was interested in a few different departments; I asked to talk to lawyers from those areas. My host said alright, he would set it up and email me back to confirm. But I didn’t hear back. Sucker than I am, I just assumed it was taking longer than expected. Only now do I realize how naive I was and I do feel embarrassed. But at the same time, why would I not trust them?

    As it would turn out, BLG was confirming with the people they liked and letting the rest of us flap in the wind. But since I did not know, on Tuesday morning I wrote to them to ask for confirmation, which I received. I was told to ask for someone other than my host when I arrived, but that did not seem too strange. When I arrived, I ending up having a short 20 minute chat with a lawyer who had nothing to do with my interests. As it turns out, they must have just foisted some random available lawyer on me because they had promised me a ‘second round’ and wanted to keep their illusion going. Once again though, my optimism blinded me from seeing how wrong this was. Only after I had talked to someone the next day who had been given a ‘real’ second round interview did I realize how badly I had been played.

    In the evening, I received an email telling me that they enjoyed meeting and they had enough information now to go forward. Cryptic for sure, but still deceitful. Why did they not just tell me?

    After putting it all together, I first felt like an idiot for missing all of the clues along the way. But then my second feeling was …why? Why did lying to us matter so much to them? Why not tell me they did not want a second interview with me rather than keeping their deception going, wasting my time and building up my hopes?

    I contrast this to the wonderful experience I had with Davies. After it became clear I was not a good fit, I received a respectful phone call to suggest I focus my efforts elsewhere. They respected my time. They treated me like a person. Later on in the week, I received a nice and encouraging email from their head recruiter wishing me luck on the process. These little gestures meant a lot to me. This firm did not feel a need to lie to me and lead me on. I would recommend them to anyone to apply for. I think it says a lot about their culture and way of doing business that they treat their candidates well.
  • Everything just felt very arbitrary and it really can be damaging to one’s self-worth. But thank you Ultra Vires for creating this survey for catharsis, and for the CDO for reminding us that this isn’t the end: there are many opportunities beyond this.
  • My only in-firm called me at 8:04 on Thursday and started their sentence with “Hi its ____: I’m not calling to make an offer, but to let you know you’re third on our list (hiring for 2 positions), and we’re just waiting for our second offer to get back to us. They then called back at 8:25 after I spent 20 mins in limbo to tell me the other student accepted so they could not make me an offer, and felt “really crummy” about it. Trust me, I felt “crummier” and would have much rather have received no call at all than one letting me know how close I had been to receiving an offer.
  • Survey was too long.