Complete Guide to Articling Positions in Canada

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Articling is a crucial step for aspiring lawyers in Canada, serving as a bridge between law school and becoming a licensed legal professional. This comprehensive guide will provide you with valuable insights into the articling process, helping you navigate the application process, choose the right law firm, and maximize your articling experience.

Understanding the Articling Process

Articling is a 10-month period of practical training under the supervision of a licensed lawyer or law firm. To be eligible for articling, candidates must have completed a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from an accredited Canadian law school or have obtained a Certificate of Qualification from the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) for internationally trained lawyers. The articling term typically begins in June or September, following the completion of law school.

Choosing the Right Law Firm

Selecting the right law firm for your articling term is a critical decision that can shape your career trajectory. Consider factors such as the firm’s practice areas, client base, culture, and values. The “Seven Sisters” law firms, which include Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, Goodmans LLP, McCarthy Tétrault LLP, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, Stikeman Elliott LLP, and Torys LLP, are renowned for their prestige and high-profile corporate work. However, there are many other notable firms in Canada, such as Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Fasken LLP, and Gowling WLG, that offer excellent articling opportunities.

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Navigating the Application Process

The articling application process follows a structured timeline set by the Law Society of Ontario. Key dates to remember include the Earliest Application Deadline (usually in June or July), Interview Week (usually in August), and Offer Day (usually in September). Prepare a strong application package, including a tailored cover letter, resume, transcripts, and reference letters. Demonstrate your skills, experiences, and genuine interest in the firm through your application materials.

Exploring Different Legal Fields

Articling students can gain exposure to various legal fields, each with its own pros and cons. In corporate law, you’ll work on high-profile transactions and develop skills in contract drafting and negotiation. However, the workload can be demanding, with long hours and limited work-life balance. Litigation offers the opportunity to hone your advocacy skills and work on intellectually challenging cases but can be stressful and unpredictable. Intellectual property law allows you to work with innovative clients and cutting-edge technologies but may require a technical background and provide limited exposure to other areas of law.

In intellectual property law, for example, firms like Smart & Biggar and Bereskin & Parr LLP are well-known for their expertise. Most of the major ‘Seven Sisters’ firms named outlined above are particularly known for either their commercial prowess, litigation teams, or a mixture of both.

Preparing for Articling Interviews

When preparing for articling interviews, it’s essential to research the law firm thoroughly. Review the firm’s website, recent news and publications, and any notable cases or transactions they’ve been involved in. This knowledge will help you demonstrate your genuine interest in the firm and ask informed questions during the interview.

Common interview questions may include:

– Why did you choose to pursue a career in law?

– What attracted you to our firm?

– How have your past experiences prepared you for articling?

– Describe a challenging situation you faced and how you overcame it.

– What are your long-term career goals?

Be prepared to provide specific examples demonstrating your problem-solving, teamwork, and communication skills. Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to structure your responses and highlight your achievements.

You should ensure that you’re ready for a broad range of possible questions – using a question bank will simplify the process.

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What to Expect During Articling

During your articling term, you’ll work closely with lawyers and gain exposure to various aspects of legal practice. Typical tasks may include:

– Conducting legal research and drafting memoranda

– Assisting with document review and due diligence

– Drafting contracts, agreements, and court documents

– Attending client meetings and court proceedings

– Participating in negotiations and settlements

Your articling experience will be shaped by the firm’s culture, practice areas, and the lawyers you work with. Seek out mentorship and feedback from your colleagues to help you grow and develop your skills. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification when needed.

Work-life balance during articling can be challenging, with long hours and demanding workloads. However, many firms offer support systems and resources to help articling students manage stress and maintain well-being. Take advantage of these resources and communicate openly with your mentors about any concerns or challenges you face.

Maximizing Your Articling Experience

To make the most of your articling term, set clear goals for yourself and create a plan to achieve them. Consider what skills you want to develop, which practice areas you want to explore, and what connections you hope to make. Regularly review your progress and seek feedback from your mentors to stay on track.

Engage in professional development opportunities offered by your firm or external organizations. Attend training sessions, workshops, and conferences to expand your knowledge and skills. These experiences can also help you build your network and connect with other legal professionals.

Networking is a crucial aspect of building your legal career. Attend firm events, join legal associations, and participate in community initiatives. Build relationships with your colleagues, clients, and other legal professionals. These connections can lead to valuable mentorship, career opportunities, and referrals in the future.

Life After Articling

Once you’ve completed your articling term, you’ll need to focus on the next steps in your legal career. This includes passing the bar exams and fulfilling any additional licensing requirements set by your provincial law society. Prepare thoroughly for these exams, using study materials and resources provided by your law society or articling firm.

After becoming a licensed lawyer, you may have the opportunity to continue working at your articling firm as an associate. This can provide stability and the chance to deepen your skills and expertise within the firm. However, keep an open mind to other career paths as well. You may explore opportunities in-house at a corporation, within government agencies, or at non-profit organizations. Consider your interests, values, and long-term goals when making career decisions.


Articling is a pivotal stage in your journey to becoming a licensed lawyer in Canada. By understanding the articling process, choosing the right law firm, and maximizing your articling experience, you can set yourself up for a successful and fulfilling legal career.

Remember to approach the articling process with diligence, professionalism, and a growth mindset. Seek out mentorship, take advantage of learning opportunities, and build meaningful connections within the legal community. Your articling term will lay the foundation for your future as a legal professional, so make the most of this valuable experience.

As you navigate the challenges and triumphs of articling, stay true to your passions and values. Embrace the opportunities for growth and learning, and don’t be afraid to seek support when needed. With dedication and perseverance, you’ll emerge from your articling term ready to make a positive impact in the legal profession and beyond.

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