Ultra Vires


LSO Procedures? More like Poorly Followed Guidelines

Employers need to do better

The weekend before in-firms, I found myself at Walmart looking for a cheap hair straightener powerful enough to subdue my usually voluminous curls. The rows of titanium plates promising no frizz and more shine were overwhelming, bringing me back to the days I used to straighten my hair every morning before school just to look like everyone else. I settled on one quickly; I could hardly justify spending much on something I would likely only use once.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love every coil and curl on my head, but I also love the thought of being employed. I couldn’t take any chances. Sure, I love my natural hair, but flipping through the pages of law firm websites and finding almost exclusively sleek, shiny, straight hair had me worried. Would I stand out for the wrong reason? Could a firm overlook me for a summer position because they subconsciously thought my hair was unprofessional? That’s the problem with the recruitment process: firms have all the power. Things like whether every hair on my head is perfectly styled could impact my summer job prospects. The Law Society of Ontario (LSO) rules are one of the only mechanisms in place to give students a fighting chance, but they do little to curb bad behavior.

The culture surrounding the recruitment process is toxic, hyper-competitive, and unethical. One would think that the procedures set out by the LSO would result in an equitable process, where the power differential between firms and law students is somewhat mitigated. But the procedures might as well be loose guidelines. While most (not all) firms followed these procedures in letter, the spirit of the procedures was another story. While there are formal mechanisms to make a complaint, the legal community is small, and the cloak of anonymity promised by the powers that be does little to alleviate students’ concerns about privacy.

So, what exactly did firms do that was so bad?

B.3 A firm that communicates its intention to interview a student must subsequently do so, unless the student has advised the firm that the student does not want to participate in the interview. Students must notify a firm of their intention to accept or decline an interview within 24 hours of being offered a time and date for an interview.

This procedure seems comical on its face. What kind of firm would send an intent to call email, and then fail to call to schedule an in-firm interview with a prospective student? Trick question; the answer is a firm that participated in the 2022 summer recruitment process. Aside from being a blatant LSO procedure violation, this practice is inconsiderate and disorganized.

B.7 Throughout the recruitment process, firms shall not put undue pressure on students to accept an offer of employment or to reveal their intention to do so.

First choice language needs to go. Numerous students reported feeling unduly pressured to use first choice language during the recruit, myself included. Phrases like “where are you at with your decision” and “does our firm rank in your top two” are inappropriate attempts to discern whether students would accept an offer of employment. Additionally, when students resisted using first choice language, they reported feeling the tone of the interview shift. The spirit of B.7 is clearly not being respected and first choice language is how firms are getting around playing by the rules.

While firms might rarely ask directly, ambiguous statements coupled with excessive phone calls result in stressed-out students that do not feel empowered to make autonomous decisions about their employment prospects. This can’t be what the LSO envisioned for summer student recruiting.

C.8 Unless otherwise set out in this Part, the communication of offers of employment shall not be made before 5:00 p.m. on November 3, 2021.

Multiple students reported receiving offers before 5:00 pm on Call Day. Not only is this a direct violation of C.8, but it is extremely unfair to students who are making their own decisions about how to best allocate their time. If I knew that firms were handing out offers before Call Day like Halloween candy, I would think twice about how to fit these firms in my interview schedule (if at all).

With firms pressuring students to use first choice language, scheduling interviews that they proceeded to skip, and sending out offers before 5:00 pm on Call Day, it is no wonder that the recruit causes significant stress and uncertainty in the lives of law students across the province. As if school-related stressors aren’t enough, the rigorous process takes a toll on students’ health and wellbeing. One student contracted a bacterial lung infection immediately before in-firm week and many lost their voices due to vocal strain. Despite these health issues, no accomodations were made. 

Firms have a duty to ensure that they are not exacerbating an already stressful process. Let’s leave undue pressure, “gaming”, and ghosting qualified candidates on day three of interviews in 2021. It’s childish and unfair. We are all adults here, so let’s find a way to come together as a legal community to make the recruitment process one we can all be proud of. 

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