Lawyers in a Dangerous Time: PART I
Rob Laurie was born in Vancouver; spent part of his childhood in Houston, Texas; went to the University of British Columbia for undergrad; graduated with a degree in international relations and political science; and went to the University of Oxford for law school. He graduated from Oxford and was hired as a solicitor-trainee at the London office of the international firm, Ashurst LLP. He then spent a total of two years after UK articles working at the London office of the international giant, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, advising multinational corporations and investment banks on international project finance, M&A, structured products, redomiciliation and capital markets transactions, and at the London office of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP, as a corporate associate, specializing in international hedge fund formation and alternative investment vehicles. (Pretty impressive first few years of practice, wouldn’t you say?!)
After working long hours and accumulating diverse experience in the international market, he came back to his home town of Vancouver, to a bright future. He was taken on at a Big Law firm downtown where his prior experiences were recognized and valued, and he immediately began making effective use of his skills assisting corporate clients with challenging international legal issues. He took up yoga and started eating kale, like every good citizen of Vancouver, and he lived happily ever after...THE END.
The first paragraph is all true. To get a flavor of the inaccuracies of the second paragraph, read on through Rob’s words in the following paragraphs. (Don’t’ worry its not all bad – or at least, he’s been able to reflect back and see the good in it.)
Here’s what he really had to say about his experience returning home to Vancouver:
"I was grateful to get an articling position with a leading national firm with strong Vancouver roots. It is a great firm and I still have many friends, colleagues, and mentors there, who I turn to from time to time. The environment and ethos of the firm, however, was personally very frustrating because you could only advance on the firm’s schedule."
"I felt I was not really given credit for any of my past experience in England. I was proofreading work (prospectuses) I used to draft. It was such a waste, but I could appreciate the firm’s policy, especially in a tough market when there are already too many hogs (i.e. associates) at the trough who have put in years of time. A number of senior associates I worked for confessed they felt I had been given a raw deal, but then again I was just lucky in this market to get a top articling gig."
"Looking back I don’t think it was the best environment for me. Other international lawyers that obtained comparable experience at leading law firms like Dewey & LeBouef, Herbert Smith, Freshfields, Sherman & Sterling, and Latham & Walkins, have since told me they had a very different experience completing their BC articles. In short, they were treated like a lateral hire who needed to article, where I was thrown in the pit with the rest of the greenhorn students, which was kind of fun, but frustrating at the same time when all I wanted to do was get back to doing something comparable to what I loved doing in London."
"The NCA process, articling for a year and the BC PLTC program is in one respect the BIGGEST waste of time, if all you want to do is get back to practicing corporate, finance, and securities law. Now that I've done it, I’m glad I did, but I sometimes think that the three years would have perhaps been better spent elsewhere. I guess I am a sucker for family and quality of life considerations. After all, I was born in Vancouver – and I think I am now where I need to be. As they say, hindsight is 20/20, so who knows. I’m just glad that demon hell ride of an experience is done and I now have control over what I want to do next."
"To sum up the first three years of being home in Vancouver, I basically had to learn everything all over again, and have had to become a bit of a generalist. That is a double-edged sword and is very valuable in the ‘in-house’ practice arena as opposed to private practice where you can become very specialized very quickly. That too can be a danger that most young lawyers don’t fully appreciate. You may wake up in a few years and, like the song 'Once in a Lifetime' by the Talking Heads, 'you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?'"
"Sometimes articling really just felt like how I imagine a participant feels on a reality TV show like Big Brother or Survivor. You are competing for a prize, a “hire back” that, when you really think about it, may not even be where you want to be in the end. Like the contestants, you get so caught up in the competition that you stop seeing the wood for the trees."
Despite being able to look back now and also see the benefits of the whole thing, Rob told me that by the time he finished the required articling term in 2011, he was restless. VERY restless. “My father described it best,” he told me, “when he said I was like a ‘race horse kept in a barn too long’. If you are used to running and you can’t, you’ll start kicking gates and fences.”
Needless to say, it didn’t really work out for Rob in the Big Law firm he was at.
So what did he do? What kind of LIFE is he CREATING?
Don’t worry, his secrets will be revealed…next week in Lawyers in a Dangerous Time: PART II.
So stay tuned. And until then, I hope you get out there and ‘kick a few fences’.
p.s. Although the NCA process is mentioned only briefly in the quotes above, I would like to note that Rob can deliver quite the entertaining rant on the subject…future blog rant perhaps?