Summer 2018 Recruitment: Hiring is Up, Trust is Not

Chloe Magee (2L)

Alarm goes off. I check my phoneit’s Wednesday morning, 8 a.m. Head is pounding. I take a look around my room for cluesblazer on the chair, shoes by the door, business cards strewn all over my desk. Fuzzy memories begin to resurfacehand-shaking, head-nodding, smiling… lots of smiling. This was no hangover folks: this was Day Three of the Toronto Recruit.

To everyone else who went through the wringer this year: Congratulations on getting through it. It was a uniquely exhausting week, a sentiment that is repeatedly expressed in the survey responses below. I hope everyone found something to take away from the experience, whether it was a free coffee, a connection, a job, or the knowledge that you can now make it through anything. To anyone feeling disappointed, you’re not alone.

According to last year’s Recruitment Special Feature, 2016 was “objectively awful” on a number of fronts. Recruitment week was a particularly disappointing time for some: on Tuesday of that week, Trump was elected into office; by Thursday, hiring on Bay Street was at its lowest level since 2013. By many standards, 2016 was not a great year.

As for this year, Trump is still President. And there are many other valid reasons to complain about 2017. Fortunately, the hiring numbers from this year’s recruit are not one of them. Roughly 428 students were hired this year (including returning 1L hires), compared to 375 in 2016. Hiring increased by about 7% at U of T specifically, and also increased at Osgoode, Western, and Queens, while remaining constant at McGill, Windsor, and Dalhousie.

We will be publishing a much more comprehensive hiring report in January. For the time being, we have assembled the following preview containing preliminary hiring statistics and qualitative feedback from students about the process. To everyone who took the time to fill out our survey, we thank you.

Finally, a word of caution to any readers considering participating in next year’s recruit: please take the responses you read with a grain of salt. Although student feedback can be quite helpful, everyone experiences the process differently. There is no single or “best” way to go about it.

The Numbers

In Your Own Words

The following is a compilation of selected responses from our survey. We have made an effort to represent as many different viewpoints as possible.

Is there anything you didn’t want your interviewers to know about you?

  • That I don’t work very hard or like the law very much.
  • That I didn’t really want to work for them.
  • My mental health condition.
  • My moral and political beliefs.
  • Relationship status.
  • That I have tattoos.
  • That I don’t drink alcohol.
  • That I had very few OCI’s; they were the only in-firm I had.
  • LOL.
  • I had a nervous fart in the hallway and it stank up the whole place. I was worried I might be pointed out as the culprit.
  • I felt, going in, that interviewers had a preconceived notion of the people that they wanted in their firms/agencies and that I had to adhere to that as best I could to be considered. I also felt the need to be very sociable and not come across as introverted, as this is a personality trait that is not promoted as desirable in the profession. Being of mixed race was not something that I could hide, but I did question whether or not it had an impact on my chances of being offered a summer position. This was especially true in light of the “Black on Bay Street” article that was recently published in the Globe and Mail.

Did any of the employers you interviewed with ask you inappropriate questions or make you feel uncomfortable? If yes, please explain.

  • Some asked me where else I was interviewing, which did not feel great.
  • Lots of pressure to say, “You’re my first choice.”
  • Not at all. Absolute beauties.
  • One firm asked me what my other top choices were and proceeded to say negative things about them.
  • Many questions about my religious beliefs because I attended a Christian college.
  • One firm asked me for my five- and ten-year plans and I just wanted to answer, “In ten years I want to be the commissioner of the NFL,” but figured that was not what they were looking for.
  • I’m 99% sure a senior partner at one firm referred to my prior education and career experience as “kinky.”
  • A white man from a firm told me that diversity is important “BUT, at the end of the day, they just want to hire smart people.”
  • One employer asked me what I thought of the controversy regarding Robert E. Lee statutes in the U.S.
  • One (white) partner at a litigation boutique made some weird comments about Hadiya Roderique’s article in the Globe, and he seemed to not understand what racism is. He described the issue discussed in the article as an issue every lawyer faces (universal pressure to fit in) and said he knew what she meant because he didn’t like wearing suits but felt pressure to wear them anyway.
  • “Can you tell me about the worst moment of your life?”
  • They asked which neighbourhood I live in and asked me to explain how I am fluent in Mandarin, e.g., if I attended Saturday school or if it is the language I speak at home.
  • One firm said, as a “joke,” that they were trying to keep me in the interview as long as possible so that I wouldn’t be able to see other firms. It was uncomfortable in the context of them trying to gauge whether I would accept an offer.
  • One of my interviewers was putting excessive pressure on me to convey that I was going to accept a job offer with them if they offered me a position. I never caved, and still ultimately received a job offer (which I rejected), but I felt that the firm was overstepping its mandate by pursuing me so aggressively. The firm asked me which other firm was my first choice so that they could tell me why I should choose them instead. Needless to say, I did not tell them which other firm was my first choice. One hour before the Wednesday blackout period, the firm called me and told me that they were concerned I wasn’t going to accept an offer. I was forced to openly tell them that they were not my first choice, which should have been ascertainable by my prior interactions with the firm, in which I refused to tell them that they were my first choice.
  • Two of my interviewers engaged in a lengthy political debate while I smiled and nodded.

Is there any advice you would give to someone participating in the process next year?

  • Network a lot, approach everything as cynically as possible. Find a time machine and don’t go to law school if you can help it.
  • Be yourself. If you don’t feel like you can be yourself in a firm/office, then it isn’t the place for you. There will be many more amazing opportunities in the articling recruit, so don’t feel like you have to be someone you’re not or else you won’t get a job.
  • Take advantage of all the free food and drinks at open houses, receptions, dinners, etc.
  • If you are looking for a split, tell the recruiter during OCIs, but then try and avoid the subject during interviews with individual lawyers. Some will know and bring it up, but it really hijacks the conversation and can be a buzz kill for selling your interest in a Toronto firm which you’ll very likely not be returning to.
  • Prepare some “thank you” emails in advance. I was up until 1 a.m. both nights sending these out.
  • Don’t feel bound to any firm. It’s all a game to them. They will lead you on and then leave you hanging when offer time comes. Play the game and look out for yourself.
  • Interrogate upper-years at firms you’re interested in about their experiences and recommendations. Try to talk to upper-years who really know you if you can.
  • It’s pretty awful. You have to be aware of how to read signals that places are interested in you and when they are not, to make the best use of your time. It’s really difficult. Also, talk a lot during government interviews, especially when they are writing down what you are saying. Get those extra points!
  • Don’t. But if you do, be prepared to be treated badly and with palpable disrespect. Some people come out on top of the process, but the horror stories are true and can and do happen to anyone. Don’t expect to be treated with basic respect and consideration just because you’re a bright, decent, personable, and highly capable human being who has proved yourself to be worthy of the job and made it right to the end of the process. Don’t think that any of the firms are different or that they won’t pull shady shit on you. Don’t think that they won’t string you along, all but promise you a job, and then gaslight you two hours later after call time. The process is a bloodbath and has very little to do with you as a candidate. The firms are better at this game than you are and don’t care who they screw over if it gets them what they want. Approach them with the same caution you would use with a known sociopath and steel yourself for whatever outcome materializes. Above all, always behave with integrity and don’t compromise your own values. Lead by example. We are the future of these firms and we will increasingly have the power to hold them to a higher standard, but only if we choose to wield it.
  • OCIs are not the only option for getting summer positions. This cannot be stressed enough, especially for people who are not interested in Bay Street employment. There are many firms that put out advertisements after the fall process. Furthermore, as I have been told by many practicing lawyers, 2L summer recruitment does not determine the path your career will follow. Not getting “the perfect job” will not mean that your law career is over. Students need to challenge the CDO to do more to help them discover job opportunities that fit their interests and not mainly advertise the conveyor belt to Bay Street.
  • It’s an inherently stressful process. Don’t make it any more stressful than it needs to be by worrying about things you can’t control.
  • Be open to changing your mind about firms. Have a few questions you ask to all the firms so you can really compare them. Ask for specifics if you feel like you’re not getting honest answers.
  • There is a large degree of randomness to the process and certain elements of it are beyond your control. Recognizing this may help avoid disappointment or frustration when certain outcomes may not make sense.
  • Understand the politics as much as the interview process itself (e.g., saying who your #1 is, scheduling dinners, personal thank you notes, Monday vs. Tuesday interviews).
  • Remember to carve out time to rest! If you do twelve hours of interviews, you will not perform as well at the end of the day. I wish I taken less in-firms so I could have given each one my all.
  • Check for fucking typos.

What, if anything, would you change about the recruitment process?

  • Everything.
  • Midday PFOs can PFO.
  • I think this process is beyond stressful overall. I would like to see more standardized questions and less emphasis on culture fit.
  • I hated the schmoozy reception but, meh, that’s law, I guess.
  • It’s arduous, but I think it needs to be in order to give students enough time to network and think through their options.
  • More transparency through the process would be nice. I would really appreciate it if ALL firms sent out rejections and intent-to-calls so you know immediately where you stand.
  • I’d love to see the firms actually follow LSUC rules, both the letter and the spirit. I also wish the CDO would equip us better for the process and stand in our corner. Firms should be held accountable for how they treat students.
  • The New York process is very spread out time-wise and I think that this greatly benefits students to allow for you to maximize your time and effort with each employer. I understand that spreading out the process would also spread out the stress, but most people were stressed from July through to November anyways. Allowing for the infirm interviewers to take place over the course of a month (or even two weeks) would allow for more opportunity to spend equal amounts of time with each firm. I hated my four o’clock on Monday in-firm and declined a second round, but I think that is at least half because they were my fourth of the day and I was exhausted. Similarly, you send messages to firms when you skip their receptions or dinners in favour of others, but in a spread-out process there would be enough time to meet with everyone fairly. Furthermore, getting an offer and having to accept right away is crazy. A spread-out process would allow you to return to the firm, offer in hand, and really distinguish between places. Firms wouldn’t like it because they have to spend longer courting students, thus necessitating more money and effort, but I believe it would be greatly beneficial to all students.
  • Have employers give out offers at 5 p.m. and bar anyone from accepting for twenty-four hours. Force people to really think about their options without any pressure to accept. It’s a major life decision and should not be taken lightly.
  • Allow employers to make offers before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, especially when you have indicated first choice on Monday and have gotten strong signals in return. It wastes everyone’s time and resources having to wait.
  • Dispel the myth that grades are everything (though they definitely get your foot in the door). If you can’t connect with people and have great conversations with interviewers, your chances are shot. I was successful despite average grades because I knew how to maneuver social situations effectively.
  • Something needs to change in order to highlight the options out there apart from the Big Law jobs. I pretty much blindly applied to government positions and thankfully it worked out fantastically for me. But it could have gone very differently and I would have gone down a path that I have always known isn’t right for me. Yes, this is U of T Law, which is a bit of a feeder for Bay Street, but I maintain that many of my peers feel as I do: Bay Street just isn’t where they want to be. It’s the same old story that we’re warned about, but it seems as though it replicates itself every year. I’m tired of our collective tacit acceptance that you have to apply to the big firms just for the sake of not missing out on potential hiring opportunities. I know there are people stronger than I who opted out of the entire process for exactly that reason. But for some reason I didn’t, and that could have ended badly for me.
  • Thank you emails: get rid of them.

Closing thoughts

  • I got straight Ps and got the exact job I wanted. Don’t screen yourself out of something if it’s what you really want.
  • My reflection on the OCI process: I feel emotionally assaulted, naive, humiliated, and undervalued.
  • I never thought it would be as bad as everyone said it would be. In fact, it was much, much worse.
  • The LSUC rules are a joke and only disadvantage students. The rules are broken all the time. A firm told me through relatively clear language before the in-firm stage that I had an offer if I accepted their in-firm and they did in fact give me an offer at the end of the day. Any rule that the firm doesn’t like, they can get around. This “strictly” regulated process only creates a system where anxious, stressed, and exhausted students are forced to make major life decisions in an extremely short time window.
  • I love the firm I’m at. I am so thrilled. Just about everything else was shameful. LSUC could do a lot better, most of the firms could do a lot better, and, above all, the law school could do a hell of a lot better.
    By telling me a career in private practice was unlikely, the CDO discouraged me from fully interacting with them.
  • My biggest cause of stress was fearing the judgment from peers at law school. That was a very alarming realization because my friends have always been a crucial support system, not a source of anxiety. I had to keep reminding myself that anyone who would judge my eventual job choice was not worth my time. Having my support network infiltrated by toxic, competitive behaviour is not what I needed. Some of my role models at the school did not get a job through the process and I’ll always respect them and value their advice over a judgmental “Seven Sister-ite.”
  • I’ve been thinking a lot about our school’s yield on admissions. We have a 95+% yield in Ontario, yet firms allocate at most eighty slots for OCIs to us. That means a bunch of talented people choose to come to the most competitive law school in Canada and firms do not account for that. Overall, I’ve realized the ceiling at U of T is incredibly high, as evidenced by our placements in New York. But the floor is much, much lower than it was represented during the admissions process. The school itself doesn’t do much to help. It just benefits from a student body made up of type A high achievers who would work hard to get a job regardless of where they went to school. Coming here was a terrible investment.
  • I thought that U of T program prestige would open more doors than it did. I had hoped that my unusual background would not get me laughed out of the recruit. I’m used up, I’m deep in debt, I’m not well, and the walls are closing in. I feel defeated; everything I’ve done in life to better myself has led me to a broken promise. This one was just the most expensive of those.
  • I heard about what happened with BLG last year, and also heard that things would be different this year. They were not different. I was manipulated, played, and lied to by BLG, and it cost me an offer from another firm. Throughout the three days, everyone made a point of coming up to me and telling me how much positive feedback they were hearing about me and how much everyone loved meeting me. On the first day, I received a personal note from recruitment about how they received nothing but “strong feedback” about me. I was invited to come back the second day for an interview and a dinner. On the second day, I received the same positive treatment. They also had me come back in the afternoon to meet with lawyers, so I ended up seeing them three times in one day. When I spoke to other lawyers involved in recruitment after the process, I realized that what BLG was doing was tying up my time. I didn’t receive information about my dinner, where it was or when it would be, till twenty minutes after the lawyers were already there. I had to run out of my apartment and hail a cab, and I felt absolutely terrible about being late, even though I had tried a dozen times to find the information throughout the day. Although they were profusely apologetic about not communicating the information to me in a timely way, I don’t know if this was a sign of disorganization or lack of care on their part towards me. On the third day, I went back for a lunch that was set up for their “top candidates.” We were reminded about this numerous times throughout the lunch. I did not think once throughout the three days that they were lying about their intentions. I was torn between them and another firm during the process, who had also been very clear in signalling their intentions towards me, but I was caught up in the thick web BLG spun around me, so I ultimately gave up the opportunity from the other firm. BLG did not make me an offer. They did not give me a reason for what happened. Believing them cost me a job. Going into law school I didn’t want to end up on Bay Street or be a part of that corporate cutthroat culture. But like everyone else, I followed the motions and did it anyway“just in case.” So I got all the heartbreak and pain of going through the recruitment process and not ending up with a joband I hadn’t even wanted it to begin with.
  • It’s a sprint. It’s two and a half days. It’s hard. It’s tiring. Be like Nikejust do it.