If we build it they will come. How to Attract Young Ontario Lawyers to Practice in Rural Communities
Adapted from Mark Baker’s Article “If we build it, they will come”, which was featured on the Canadian Bar Association website. Mark is an Ontario Personal Injury Lawyer and Specialist in Civil Litigation. Ferguson Barristers LLP founded the Ontario Referring Lawyer Network to deliver personal injury law services and civil litigation expertise to 35 communities across rural Ontario.
Ontario Injury Lawyer Engages Osgoode Hall Law Students
At this year’s Osgoode Hall Law School’s job fair, I conducted research on one of the largest issues that small law firms and rural communities are currently facing; the inability to draw in young lawyers that have recently graduated. This issue has been building because of many factors, I decided to draw conclusive information from the students to see what their opinions are on the reasons behind this trend.
Not surprisingly, a key issue for many is the debt load a student is operating under on graduation. Of those willing to give up some of the city salary, job security was a key element in deciding to move out of an urban area.
Ontario Law Students Weigh in On Ontario Rural Law Practice Pros and Cons
When the students gave their opinions on the matter, I found many different views on the matter. One student made the excellent point that no one he knew of has really worked out the extent to which the (assumed) lower cost of living in a rural area offsets the (expected) lower income. While this isn’t much help to a small firm in an urban area, it’s likely worth exploring the reality of this theory in a more rural area.
A few felt that quality of life would be higher, because of the opportunity for a better work-life balance. Another student hoped that a benefit of working in a small firm would be the access to more senior counsel, with the opportunity that presented for mentoring and support. A deterrent to leaving a city noted by some was the perceived lack of a social life caused by the lack of urban culture in a rural society. However, several of the students pointed out that a smaller area practice may appeal more to young counsel with a new family, both for cost of living and quality of living. A student in his final year pointed out that upper year students were looking for a steady commitment in terms of work and salary to start their career. First year students, however, might be more willing to explore opportunities further afield.
How Solo and Small Law Firms Can Attract Young Lawyers in Ontario
If one of the key issues for many students is fear of the unknown. A possible solution to explore could be to see if local bar associations (or law societies) could craft a similar initiative with an eye to first year students in mind. A couple of students I put this idea to late in the day seemed to find this appealing. The logistics of such an arrangement are beyond the scope of this article, but in my opinion worth considering. It would at least give students considering such a move a taste of what it would be like at a time when the commitment for all would be short term.
The answers I received were a very small sample of the excellent answers we would receive if we approached students for feedback in a more organized fashion. This is a group that is of necessity considering the future and the choices open to them. By nature and by training, they will be weighing the information given them in making a decision. The task for those of us working to draw young counsel to smaller and rural practice will be attracting their attention while providing the information and career opportunities they are seeking.
Mark Baker is an Ontario Personal Injury Lawyer and Specialist in Civil Litigation.
Ferguson Barristers LLP founded the Ontario Referring Lawyer Network to deliver personal injury law services and civil litigation expertise to 35 communities across rural Ontario.