In one of the most notable up-ticks in recruitment this hireback season, the Toronto office of the mid-size litigation firm McCague Borlack LLP has hired back nine of its 11 articling students, a number on par with some of largest firms in the city.
The Toronto offices of Bennett Jones LLP and Dentons Canada LLP, for instance, hired back 11 articling students this spring — yet those offices, each of which employ about 170 lawyers, are more than four times the size of McCague Borlack’s 41-lawyer office.
Once those nine students return to McCague Borlack, which specializes in insurance defence, first-year lawyers will make up nearly 20 percent of the Toronto office.
The surge in hiring — last year, the firm hired back five of its six students — has nothing to do with business being up or down, says Howard Borlack, one of the firm’s founding partners. “We hire based solely on talent and we had a great class this year,” he adds. “If we’d had 20 students who were great, we’d have hired 20.”
Borlack also insists that there’s no downside to stacking his firm with so many rookie lawyers. “All those people will have summered and articled with us,” he says. “I like to think we’re really good at training. So when they come out as lawyers, I think they can do what other firms’ second- and third-year associates can do.”
If anything, he says, it gives the firm a competitive edge: those junior associates will have low billable rates, so clients can get quality service for a lighter legal bill.
Looking ahead to next hireback season, Borlack has no plans to hire a certain number of associates. Once again, he says, that decision will come down to the performance of each articling student.
In the meantime, he says he’ll have no trouble finding work for his fleet of first-year lawyers.
“If I’m Apple, and I have the best phone, my business will be successful,” he explains. “So if I have the best people, then my firm is going to be successful. It’s the same philosophy.”