Ultra Vires


2Ls Comment on the Toronto Recruit

In your own words: comments and feedback on the recruitment process from our 2L survey

Ultra Vires conducted an anonymous survey of the 2L class about the Toronto Recruit. We have summarized their responses to the long-form questions, below. A more detailed breakdown is forthcoming in the January issue.


Why did you decide not to participate in the 2019 Toronto second year recruit?

Among the students who disclosed their reasons for not participating in the recruit, the two most common reasons were having already secured a summer job, and having no interest in the process or the result.


  • “The OCIs seem like an unnecessary strain and competition at an already stressful time. I had no interest in participating in what seemed like a factory for law students.”
  • “The recruit is meant for only very narrow paths. I dislike how the CDO makes it seem like the be-all and end-all.”

What advice would you give to someone participating in the process next year?

Students generally advised that next year’s students approach the process cynically, knowing that the process is weird and arbitrary, but also knowing that it can go well if you trust your instincts and take steps to reduce your stress level.

Best tips:

  • “Carry cash to pay the amazing taxi cab drivers who will get you where you need to be. Know that the firms talk to each other. Ask an upper-year for their thank you email threads to have an example of how to write yours. Carry a backup-battery and charger for your phone.”
  • “Write a memorable cover letter. Have innumerable questions up the back of your sleeve. Make jokes and appear relaxed rather than gushing about the firm as though you desperately need a job.”
  • “Eat. Drink gatorade/coconut water to keep hydrated. Don’t have too much coffee. Don’t be afraid to ask to use the washroom. Learn the PATH. Talk to an upper-year. Have someone to message updates to and bounce ideas off of—probably an upper year would help with that as well.”
  • “Be with people for calls. It’s nice to already be drunk, and to have someone to hug.”
  • “Trust your gut”

Do you have any comments on networking?

The student response to networking was ambivalent. Some students found the process very important for information-gathering, learning firm culture, or showing interest. Other students hated networking and found it useless at best. Still others could not make up their mind.


  • “Networking is neither important nor unimportant I think.”
  • “Networking is valuable to show interest and it did help me land OCIs, I think. I don’t know how much I learned though.”
  • “You have to ball hard! Especially if you didn’t go to Upper Canada College, are introverted, have average grades, and are helplessly middle-class.”
  • “It isn’t about the networking, it’s about learning where you want to work so you can be informed. Informed candidates are more confident and impressive. It’s not about the connections as much as what it does for you personally.”
  • “Networking made literally no difference whether I got an OCI from a firm or not. In fact, most of the firms that offered me OCI’s were firms I did not network with.”

Do you have any comments on the CDO’s services during the recruitment process?

Student perception of the CDO in this process is generally very positive. A common sentiment was regret at having underused the CDO’s services. However, some students had issues with organizational decisions made by the CDO, including the timing of certain information sessions and the organization of information on the CDO’s website. Others found that the CDO was either insufficiently critical of applicants’ materials, or too focused on corporate law career paths.


  • “Thank you for all that you do.”
  • “There is a lot of quality information available. Better organization would be helpful. I discovered some excellent documents late in the game.”
  • “Keep in mind that they are balancing students’ interests against their own in maintaining relationships with the firms. That isn’t a bad thing, since a good relationship with firms make it easier to U of T students to find a job, but don’t think that they are solely giving advice based on what’s best for you.”
  • “The CDO was very helpful, but it can only help as much as one asks it to. If one does not realize that one should be consulting its staff in person, in addition to simply reading the CDO’s literature, then one may be at a disadvantage in the sense that one may not know one’s own blind spots.”
  • “I wish they would give us more specifics on firms beyond general comments for the process. I felt like I knew the general information from UTLC and the rest of the services were not super helpful.”
  • “They were fine but I think the fear-mongering re first choice has got to stop.* I would not credit any of my success to them though. I had help from other mentors with cover letters/resumes—the CDO was generally useless on that front.”

*This comment refers to the advice that candidates should only disclose to a firm that the firm is their first choice of employer, on one occasion.


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

Students’ most common frustration was the prohibition on firms signalling their intention to make an offer. Many students would prefer the New York style of recruiting process. Other than these two common threads, while students generally did not like the process, they disliked it for opposite reasons.


  • “I wish employers could speak openly about their intentions before 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday. The places that made me offers said everything […] but it just made things complicated and stressful in the meantime.”
  • “I would make it more like the New York system. Our system is absolutely ridiculous. Even though I ended up with a job out of the process I also drove myself ill and I don’t know if it was worth it.”
  • “More time is needed. I wanted to an in-firm with everyone but couldn’t! And all offers should not be accepted until 9:00 a.m. the next morning.”
  • “I would prefer it all to take place on Monday and Tuesday and have all of Wednesday as a blackout period to make a decision.”
  • “In-firms moved so fast. It was insane and I didn’t know which firm to choose in the end. Not sure if it would be better to stretch it over more time though.”

What did you not want your interviewers to know about you?

Many students did not want their interviewers to know the specifics of their marital status, personal life, or politics. Others did not want their interviewers to know that they were not really interested in working with the employer or intended to leave the job after a short time.


  • “I didn’t actually want to work for them.”
  • “I don’t plan on working with them for very long.”
  • “How much of an anxious person I am.”
  • “How introverted I was in real life.”
  • “I was exhausted and just wanted a job.”
  • “When asked about what I thought the biggest challenge for me would be as a young lawyer, my immediate thought was ‘striking a work-life balance’.”

Did any firms make you feel uncomfortable?

Generally, uncomfortable firm conduct related to (1) violating or skirting LSO rules, (2) potentially or unquestionably bigoted behaviour, and (3) generally strange or abrasive behaviour.

Note that, of the over 100 survey responses, only 17 students responded to this question. It is not possible to determine whether there were few uncomfortable moments, or whether students were unwilling to call out inappropriate firm conduct.


  • “Sexist comments at a reception.”
  • “As someone from a different country, several partners from a very old and prestigious firm would jot down secretive notes or give me weird pauses and looks whenever I mentioned any government agency or my experiences in my home country. This happened even in the context of a discussion of international trade law. It has got to be the single most peculiar experience in the entire recruit.”
  • “There were age-related questions, and quite a few questions about family income. In both cases, I’m in a slightly atypical situation that gives rise to those though.”

Do you have any comments on receptions, lunches, or dinners?

Students generally thought that dinners were a confusing part of the process. At best, they were difficult to prepare for and to navigate, and at worst, they were the most obvious example of gauging a candidate’s “fit.” However, the general consensus was that such events were a necessary part of the interview process, and that declining to attend any such event hurts one’s chances of receiving an offer.


  • “I think it is incredibly hard to prepare students for these events and it isn’t easy to tell exactly how candidates are being evaluated at them.”
  • “I don’t think it was necessarily the choice of activity (dinner, reception, lunch) that made a difference, but how much face time you got with the employer. For the firm I ended up at, I did not give them the supposed all-important dinner. I went to their lunch on the Tuesday, their reception on Tuesday, and [that day, they] asked [me] to come back […]. It was the face time that got me the offer I think, rather than the specifics of what time I was giving them.”
  • “Not a big fan of them at all, they favour a specific subset of students over others. They also reduce the amount of free time a student has to reflect during the three days which is crucial.”
  • “I think something important that isn’t talked about enough is how much more difficult the process is for non-white students, particularly non-white female students. It isn’t a surprise that the legal profession, at least on Bay Street, is a male-dominated industry. I think we all know that and that fact is given some attention, maybe not sufficient attention, but at least some. I don’t think much attention is given at all to an even more disproportionate statistic. The lawyers working on Bay Street are predominantly white. I’m talking about a 50:1 ratio of whites to non-whites. Maybe I’m being too generous actually… it’s probably worse than that. So why does this matter? I don’t think firms blatantly discriminate. Maybe some lawyers do, who knows, but two very significant factors at the interview stage is the candidate’s level of comfort as well as their cultural knowledge. We all know how important ‘fit’ is to firms. One of the lawyers at a dinner I attended said himself that it’s all about ‘connection’ in terms of who gets hired.”
  • “Free drinks are great. Too many free drinks is not.”

Do you have any closing thoughts?

Most students thought the process was bizarre and stressful, and in need of serious improvement. One theme in the responses was the importance of treating the process as a collaborative effort, and taking the time to relax, reflect, and share information with other students in an effort to overcome the informational asymmetry students face throughout the recruit. A few students found that the process helped give applicants a good idea of firm culture.


  • “I think finding a supportive group of friends is really key. Don’t be afraid of talking to your classmates, and I don’t think we should shy away from helping each other out as well. So much of law school revolves around law students competing against each other. The system works IF we compete. But the recruitment process, even with countervailing protections for students, is skewed against us and relies on us competing with one another. Firms have so much more power, and if students were to share information with one another, firms would have less of it. Talk to your friends, be open with them, come up with questions together, research the firms together—you and your friends will come out the other side all the better for it.”
  • “I would strongly encourage students to apply and interview selectively—it is much easier to turn down an employer before the in-firm week than it is to string them along after you’ve received a positive response (and in some cases a ‘soft offer’ in breach of LSO rules) from your first choice.”
  • “It’s a silly process that doesn’t really do a good job of matching people with positions. I’m lucky that I ended up somewhere great, but it could easily have gone the other way (I had my two top-choice firms giving me extremely strong signals, but only one ultimately offered me a position. It just reaffirmed for me that absolutely nothing is settled until your phone rings at 5:00 p.m.). One pleasant surprise was that at some of the firms I ended up not […] clicking with, I actually met a lot of great people who I hope to keep in touch with. So this process does help you build a network, which is nice. It also showed me how important it was to be friendly and professional to everyone, even a firm that you are rejecting or is rejecting you.”
  • “I am happy [with] where I ended up, but I wish I did the articling recruit instead. I felt pretty overwhelmed and not ready to commit to a firm, or being in Toronto. More voices from people who passed up OCIs and were successful in the articling recruit would be great to hear in advance.”
  • “This process is ridiculous and not designed to help students make an informed career decision.”
  • “The process is a disaster. It is baffling to me that the process has existed in this form for so long, when obvious alternatives exist in other major legal markets in North America. It is natural and understandable for Toronto lawyers to want new students to undergo the same useless hazing that they did, but at some point, a non-interested party needs to go in and fix things. The recruit should be about matching great students to great firms, not mind games and interest-signaling.”

How did interest in a legal career change?

Students had a range of reactions to this question, ranging from excitement at entering a legal career having met interesting people who do interesting work, to no change at all, to very explicit disgust at the prospect of becoming a lawyer.


  • “I got to meet a few of my law heroines, including some who have argued landmark equality cases at the Supreme Court. Even though the process was rough, I appreciated that and was inspired to join their ranks.”
  • “I was very impressed by the people I spoke with over the course of the week. I am excited to work with them.”
  • “No difference. Significantly less excited to work in Toronto though.”
  • “I wanted to be a business lawyer and that’s what I’m going to be.”
  • “I did not know very much about the different practice areas in a law firm or what a lawyer’s job looked like until I began networking.”
  • “Fuck lawyers.”

Are you satisfied with the recruit process?

Generally the response to this question was based on whether the student responding received an offer at the end of the process. That said, even some of those who received an offer were annoyed or harmed by the process.


  • “I was given very strong signals by one firm that they liked me, and while they never said anything directly I was under the impression they would likely give me an offer. This influenced how I conducted other interviews and acted towards other firms, and in the end I was left without an offer.”
  • “Did not get a job despite excellent marks.”
  • “I felt grateful to have met so many excellent lawyers. I was also pleased with how supportive all of my peers were and in turn hope that I supported them as well as we struggled through it together.”
  • “I ended up with my first choice and got to meet some truly wonderful people from many others.”
  • “Got a job at the expense of ruining some relationships. Time will tell if it’s worth it.”

This piece appeared in the November 28, 2018 print issue under the headline “In Your Own Words”.

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