Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Minority Students & Public Interest Law

The fifth annual conference in Public Interest Law will be going on this weekend in Toronto. For bios of speakers and general info, check this out.

The Law Times recently published an article titled Rethinking 'Market Model" Might Break Open Articling. Here are some excepts:
[W]hile more articles have been available lately in, for example, public interest law, minority students “aren’t getting the articling positions in the [other] areas they want.”

And she said students themselves need to reach out to wider academic circles, for example by taking part in environmental or intellectual property law groups or organizing campus events.
Moreover, by not getting involved, “you also limit your connection” to more individuals in law, which can limit career advancement, she said.

Michelle Williams, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University, said representatives of a firm at a job fair told her that it only practised tax law yet a white student was told the firm had a range of practices.

On the realities of a practical job-seeking sort, Frank Walwyn, president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers and a partner at WeirFoulds LLP — one of the few black partners at any Bay St. firm — told a session that the same realities apply to minorities as apply to all articling applicants: the competition is stiff, resume honing is a must, and connections help.

Walwyn said his firm receives as many as 400 resumes for four or five positions and interviews up to 40 candidates. “The very first thing I look for are marks,” he said, since they show intellectual rigour, a chief attribute in a firm that refuses to be “compromised by mediocrity.”

He said personal letters also count, and they should be no more than one page. Knowing the firm’s practice areas, why a student wants to practise, and even what the candidate has achieved outside academics, in fields like the arts or athletics, are important, if they show “a history of commitment to perfection,” he said.


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