In 2007, as a second-year student at Osgoode Hall, Konata Lake landed a summer job at the New York City office of Milbank LLP, one of the top corporate-law firms in the world.
It was the legal equivalent of a golden ticket. The competition for summer jobs in the American capital of commerce and business is notoriously fierce: an extremely small number of second-year students secure such plum positions.
Lake loved his job in New York. His fellow students at Milbank were a compelling group, high achievers from all over the world. The work on his plate — research projects, sitting in on calls — wasn’t too difficult and was often educational. And his compensation was stratospheric. (The city’s top firms currently pay their students a pro-rated salary of US$190,000, more than double the income of students on Bay Street.) The firm pampered its student cohort, hoping to lure a sizeable portion back as associates. “As a summer student,” says Lake, “you often feel like you’re at the top of the food chain.” He was hired back as an associate, but, after one year, he moved to the New York office of Torys LLP. Not long after, he transferred to the firm’s office in Toronto, where his wife was completing her medical residency. He’s now a partner.
But New York is a tale of two cities. Annamaria Enenajor, for instance, had a more mixed experience. In 2011, as a 3L at McGill University, she summered at Ropes & Gray LLP, another one of the city’s top-tier corporate firms. At first, it went well: the firm was welcoming and she was given meaningful pro bono work. But she also worked extraordinarily long hours. There was plenty of tedious document review to complete. And she felt uncomfortable with much of American culture. Her office was located in a Manhattan skyscraper that also housed Fox News. “I didn’t admire the American Constitution,” she says, “as much as I admire the Canadian one.”
Enenajor later joined the firm as an associate, but she didn’t last long in the role. Within two years, she had moved back to Toronto. And today, she’s a partner at Ruby Shiller Enenajor DiGiuseppe, a top criminal-defence firm. “I’m happy to be contributing to my own society and country.”