During law school, I always wondered what the differences would be between being a law student and articling. Below are my observations so far:
There’s a lot of talk in law school about workload during articling. My experience is that it varies. It’s not as bad as the rumours many of us have heard; just like with school, there are ebbs and flows.
Rather than having “exam crunches,” the articling equivalent is receiving a large assignment with a short turnaround time. Some assignments require me to devote a lot of time over several days while balancing other assignments as they come up. Other assignments may not require more than a 15-minute phone call to complete.
"Like law school, your articling workload will require you to work slightly more than an average 9 to 5 day."
But if it gets in the way of the important things in life you may need to work on time management strategies.
The other factor that may affect workload is that you’re often doing something for the first time. In law school, however, with at least 3+ years of school under your belt, you’ll know how to study for an exam and write a paper.
For me, the biggest adjustment between articling and law school is scheduling. As hard as you try to stick to a schedule, it is impossible to perfectly schedule your days during articling.
In law school, students receive a syllabus on day 1, which allows you to plan your day-to-day for the semester.
As an articling student, when you receive an assignment, you get a deadline and can work from there. The challenge is, as you work and plan to meet that deadline, you may (and I have) receive rush assignments that a lawyer would like done for the same or next day. Obviously, you need to stop what you’re doing and work on that rush assignment, but this comes at the expense of your schedule.
The way I get around this is by scheduling my deadlines earlier than what the lawyer asked for and being honest with the assigning lawyer about my scheduling constraints upfront.
At law school, there is a lot of support: friends, classmates, upper-year students, Professors, academic advisors, Deans, dedicated support staff, etc. Though they mostly have different titles, there is a lot of support available while working as an articling student too. For questions and concerns that come up, I’ll reach out to any of the following people: my articling colleagues, our Student Director, my firm-assigned mentor, junior associates, lawyers I have previously worked for and of course, the assigning lawyer.
Overall, while there are some differences, my law school experience prepared me well, and I’ve been enjoying my time as an Articling Student! It’s been a wonderful learning experience. Every day brings a new and exciting opportunity.