Best Jobs

Canada’s Best Jobs 2014: Lawyer

Just get through your first year


Lawyer Gillian M. Tuck Kutarna, right, with client Jennifer Kerr-Hlusko, seen in a file photo. (Colin McConnell/Toronto Star/Getty)

Median Salary: $79,997
Change in salary (2007–2013): +14%
Total employees: 49,600

The legal profession is undergoing some disruptive changes at the moment. The number of graduating law students has increasingly outstripped available articling positions in recent years, and the breakup of prominent Bay Street firm Heenan Blaikie has insiders wondering which will be the next big firm to fall. At the same time smaller, nimbler business models are blossoming, which means slightly less certainty in the job hunt, but often more flexibility and some sorely-needed improvements to work-life balance. Specializations have proliferated, with lawyers devoting themselves full time to niches like tax, competition, intellectual property and immigration law.

How to qualify: Law students are increasingly combining the traditional law school degree with another more specialized degree, such as an MBA, to be able to better apply the law to a specialized niche. In the largest job market, Ontario, the main regulatory body recently loosened the rules on articling, the apprenticeship process that has always been the final hurdle on the way to a job.

Money: A freshly-minted law associate can expect a median salary of $66,000, according to Canadian Lawyer’s 2013 salary survey, and take about five years to break six figures. But incomes vary quite a lot based on specialization and the size and specialization of the firm you land with.

Opportunity: Specialization pays right now, especially for those with backgrounds in litigation and corporate law, and energy-sector employment remains high.

What it’s like: Mitch Frazer, a partner at Torys LLP in Toronto, says the first year of being a lawyer is the worst. “There’s never a distinction between a lawyer that’s been practising for a minute or 20 years—you’re expected to step up and do the job. You’ll learn more in that year than you will in your entire career—but I’d never want to be a first-year lawyer again.”

jobs by Indeed job search