Can I Get My Money Back by sdaferv


									Can I Get My Money Back?

Youve probably heard it said that one should learn to pick their battles. Im sure its meant to be a
wise admonition designed to prevent you from engaging in activities that might create more
frustration and aggravation than you really intend to undertake. What it doesnt say is exactly how
much research you should do before you pick a battle. The "learning" curve is often only
possible after youve initiated "the battle." After three years of law school and few prospects for
employment, I find myself remembering that I was counseled by friends to simply enjoy my
early retirement and invest the money I eventually spent on law school. As of this writing, that
advice might have prevented the ongoing battle I appear to be losing. Three months after
graduation, the only insight I have with respect to law firms is that they are not the most
accommodating nor inviting institutions to 50 year old disabled law graduates needing to article.
In fact, they may be the least accommodating institutions I have encountered in my 12 years of
having multiple sclerosis.

Articling can be a demanding endeavour for the extremely motivated. One must be prepared to
devote long hours and numerous lost weekends in an effort to rise above the merely competent.
People in my age group may be reluctant to need to prove anything in particular by punching 60
or more hours a week with a firm, relying instead on an otherwise strong resume whose depth
and experience might likely create a niche into which they can fit.

One problem Ive encountered in that area is the difference in value resume experience means to
an articling committee as compared to a more senior partner with a firm. Generally, articling
committees in larger firms are looking for candidates willing, and likely able, to punch those
hours mentioned earlier, almost as a demonstration of the clerks commitment to what has gone
before. Senior partners may want the same thing, but the few I have spoken to also made specific
references to a long list of resume experiences they consider as valuable. The articling
committees have largely ignored those experiences, even to the point where I felt the need to be
somehow apologetic for having had such a varied career. During my third year interviews, I went
so far as to shave ten years off my work history, and consequently enjoyed the best interviews I
had during the three year interviewing process. A senior partner I spoke with expressed the view
that my resume was the strongest he had seen, and he couldnt understand why I wouldnt be hired
on that basis. He also went on to say that he was not involved in the hiring process, leaving that
endeavour in the hands of the articling committee. It appeared to be the law firm equivalent of,
"dont call us, well call you."

These and a myriad of other interview experiences have led me to question whether or not my
biggest barrier isnt my age, as opposed to a physical disability that restricts my movements. I
cant answer that one. It does appear ironic to me that law firms can seem to get away with a
substantial degree of either age or disability discrimination, or both. Unfortunately, raising the
"discrimination" cry would only tend to put people on the defensive, and its nearly impossible to
prove. Consequently, one would be well advised to avoid raising a claim that could get their butt
sued for defamation. I can say I was asked by a large Halifax firm the following question: "So,
tell us why we should hire someone your age?" It was the only time I ever felt the urge to play
the age card by beginning my response with, "Well, son....." I didnt get the job.

Trying to secure an articling position is only the end result of the law school process, as well as
the next step in passing and being called before the Bar. There doesnt seem to be a process for
people like myself who are willing, able and ready to practice, once the Bar courses are
completed and the exam is successfully passed. You have to article to get into the Bar courses,
and you need to pass the exam. The problem is, if theres some sort of fraternal mentality to
actually securing an articling position, older and/or disabled students are operating from a
distinct disadvantage by not being in a position to meet any traditional and seemingly fraternal
mindset of what constitutes a suitable articling clerk. Again, the very institution is its own irony.
Here is a profession that educates and encourages its practitioners to seek out and redress the
wrongs in our society, yet they appear to do so in a traditional and tried manner that is very much
closed to older and disabled students. My bottom line at this juncture is that learning this lesson
cost me $48,000 and three years of my time. It is neither time nor money well spent, wouldnt
you say?

There are separate articles I could do on the LSAT experience, the evaluation process at law
school, and indeed, the entire culture of law school and their seemingly firm-driven operation.
Together, an illumination of these aspects of law school training from the perspective of those of
us subjected to its ironies might do more to correct the apparent inequalities existing in the
attempts to become practitioners than letting the system try to correct itself. Law seems to have
just as many people engaged in its practice intent on maintaining the status quo as any other
profession. It should, in my opinion, be leading the way in breaking down attitudinal barriers,
rather than being no different, nor better, than any other aspect of our society.

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