The competition for Bay Street summer jobs has become fiercer than ever. Our latest Summer Job Watch data shows the lowest hiring numbers from Toronto’s largest law firms in 10 years: collectively, they’ve hired 21 fewer summer students than last year, falling from 278 to 257, reaching a new low.
This doesn’t surprise Adam Lepofsky, however. “Law firms are running their leanest numbers ever, and will continue to do so until they get more business,” says the president at legal recruitment firm Rainmaker Group.
Jordan Furlong, principal at the legal consulting firm Law21, and a former lawyer, says two firms in particular have caught his attention: Torys, which slashed nine positions this year, and Blake, Cassels & Graydon, which cut 15. “These are significant drops,” he says. Had they held steady, the total number of summer jobs would’ve been 281, similar to last year’s results. “The question is,” says Furlong, “are they outliers or harbingers?” The Torys and Blakes job cuts could signal additional scale-downs in other firms’ summer programs. But we won’t know until next year’s numbers come in.
There is, however, much to glean from the larger trend, which Furlong says isn’t difficult to spot. He’s alluding to the loss of 83 summer positions since 2008. “Firms are going to get smaller in the future,” he says, “because it’s harder to sell the hours of associates, who have few skills out of articling.” Instead, firms will use technology and outsourcing to complete much of the work — such as document review and due diligence — that have been historically assigned to young lawyers and students.
This sounds like bad news to students, but Furlong sees it as part of the profession’s transformation: fewer firm jobs for future lawyers, but more pathways to a legal career. For example, Furlong believes it will be easier to open your own practice, work as a flex-time lawyer, and jump into tech-enabled positions in the field of law that didn’t exist before. “We’re still at the early stages of the transformation,” he says, “but law students today are going to have a more engaging, dynamic and interesting career than earlier generations.”