Is The Lack Of Legal Jobs Epidemic Spreading To Canada?

Published October 15, 2013

man at ralley protesting

Let’s pretend you’re a young child who has always wanted to be a lawyer. You grew up reading legal research,¬†conducting mock trials in your basement convicting your family pets of wrongdoing. You took debate all through middle and high school and now, as high school comes to an end, you are about to take off to university with high hopes of achieving your lifelong dream; you will major in pre-law.

Your highly calibrated brain is still misfiring… it cannot help but think of one interesting fact: 12% of graduates with law degrees cannot find an articling assignment and have tens of thousands of dollars of debt only to end up chasing pitbulls as an animal cop or doing some other legal job a bit lower on the totem pole.

You start to wonder if maybe you couldn’t satisfy your legal itch by doing something exciting like being a crime scene investigator, even though it doesn’t pay as much,¬†instead of continuing to beat the dead horse that is the dream of becoming a lawyer. Many, many of Canada’s youth face these exact circumstances. It’s a matter of dreams vs. reality and will vs. the weight of student loan debt.

The legal profession in the whole of North America has some issues with placing it’s newly-minted lawyers hot off the press. In Canada, the articling issue arises and in the USA there just simply aren’t enough jobs. It’s like a lottery system almost… you pay a huge amount to play in the form of law school tuition with no guarantees. If a budding lawyer can graduate in the top 25% of their class, they have a real shot at a great career. However, the other 75% aren’t so lucky. They will, most likely and if they are lucky, end up working for $55,000 per year at some small law firm doing boring paperwork and wishing they had enough money to go out once a month after paying their student loan debt service.

They will look at their paralegals, making only about 75% as much, and be jealous because they live better. They will never, however, admit they made a mistake. Nobody pays $200k for something and then openly regrets it. No.. the intangibles of a great education, life-long friends, and the ability to think critically will comfort them as they lay crying in their freezing bed while their power gets shut off. While slightly dramatic, this has a point: legal degrees, for the majority of people, do not have a very good ROI in comparison to other degrees.

How can we fix the issue? Well, I have only read one decent solution: we raise the bar (pardon the pun!). Law schools need to put caps on their classes, raise admission requirements, and tell people that just because you can pay for something doesn’t mean you should. However, my cynical side says this will never happen. School is becoming a huge business, and they are making way too much to start turning away customers. The Canadian education system isn’t perfect, however it could definitely be worse. At least the undergraduate programs are affordable… right?


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