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  • Writer's pictureThomas Law

Unlocking the Hidden Job Market: Thomas Law's Journey to EY Law LLP

Hello! Please introduce yourself.

Hi! My name is Thomas Law, and I graduated from the University of Ottawa Common Law program in June 2023. I am currently an articling student at EY Law LLP, where I hope to learn from industry leaders in corporate and commercial law. I am also interested in municipal and land use planning law and public-private partnerships.

Law school is truly what you make of it. One of the highlights of my law school experience was my time serving on the executive team of Elephant in the Room, a student-run club focused on de-stigmatizing mental illness and improving the accessibility of on-campus mental health support. Law school is tough enough as it is without the crippling effects of mental illness, and it was incredibly fulfilling to work with my colleagues to support the mental health of fellow students.

What motivated you to pursue a career in law?

When I was young, the last thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a lawyer. I had always heard about how stressful it was to practice law. However, when it became apparent at age 9 that my dream of playing in the NHL wasn’t going to pan out, I had to re-assess my future plans.

I first became interested in pursuing a career in law during a grade 12 class on politics and current events. I distinctly remember one class in February 2014 in which my teacher walked into the room, put on a newscast from the night before, and showed us footage of the Russian invasion of Crimea and the death and destruction that came along with it. I can recall wondering how such wanton and indiscriminate aggression was to be stopped. My plan of becoming an international lawyer who would rub shoulders with heads of state and Huma Abedin was short-lived. It was during my undergraduate degree in political science at Western University that I discovered a love of the intersection between politics, business, and the law, steeling my resolve to pursue a law degree.

If my memory serves, I applied to law school with a 3.70 cGPA and an LSAT score of 164. I remember wanting to attend law school in a bustling city. I applied to every law school in Ontario, in addition to UBC and McGill. I received my acceptance letter from the University of Ottawa in January of my fourth year at Western and was instructed that I had until early April to accept the offer. By the time April rolled around, I had yet to hear from the other schools that I had applied to, but the University of Ottawa was one of my top choices, so I accepted the offer and never looked back.

What was your experience like in law school?

In a word, 1L was tumultuous. As if the usual academic demands of 1L were not enough, in March 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world as we knew it. My 2L year was conducted entirely over Zoom. I, like many of my peers, were hit hard by the drastic changes that the pandemic threw upon us. For several reasons, both personal and for want of at least one full year of law school to be spent in-person, I made the decision to defer my 3L year.

During my sabbatical from law school, I began working in the office of Member of Parliament Adam van Koeverden. I had known MP van Koeverden for several years, and when he heard that I had opted to defer my 3L year, he suggested that I work as his Manager of Community Affairs. My primary responsibility in this position was to advocate on behalf of constituents in the provision of federal services. The highlight of this experience was assisting dozens of Ukrainian nationals displaced by Russian aggression to find homes in Milton. I’ll never forget a phone call I had with a man in Kyiv during the early stages of the war. He was telling me about how, every night, he could hear the missiles overheard and how desperately he wanted to join his family in Canada. When I resumed my studies in the fall of 2022, I continued part-time in my role with MP van Koeverden.

My favourite memory in law school was my participation in the two hockey arbitration competitions with my brilliant partner, Jordon White. Jordon and I are both hockey fanatics, and we had the time of our lives pouring over player statistics and crafting arguments to be used in the mock arbitrations held before NHL executives and player agents. Our hard work paid off, as we finished in third place in the 2022 Hockey Arbitration of Canada and first place in the 2022 New England Hockey Arbitration Competition, including winning the awards for best-written submissions and oral arguments in the latter competition.

2020 Nelligan O'Brien Payne 1L Moot

How did you find your articling position?

There is no single correct way to find an articling position. Some of my peers found jobs through the 1L recruit, many found jobs in the 2L recruit, and more still found jobs during 3L. Personally, I did not participate in either the 1L or the 2L recruit. Although I threw my hat in the ring for the articling recruit just prior to the start of 3L and obtained several interviews, I was unsuccessful. I found my articling position at EY Law LLP through good old-fashioned networking and accepted the articling offer in February of 3L.

Despite the fact that it wasn’t a traditional law-related job, my role in the office of MP van Koeverden provided me with invaluable experiences. In this position, I interpreted federal statutes such as the Income Tax Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and used my knowledge of administrative law to advise constituents about the options available to them in their dealings with federal agencies. The time I spent meeting with and advising constituents and advocating on their behalf with government departments gave me unparalleled client management and advocacy experience.

You need not stress if you did not succeed in the structured recruits. There are many, many jobs available through the “hidden job market”; i.e., positions that may not be posted on your school’s job board or on viRecruitPortal. Don’t be afraid to contact lawyers whose practice area interests you! Even if a job offer is not immediately extended to you, your coffee chat counterpart might know of another firm that practices in your area of interest and is looking to hire a student. It never hurts to expand your network.

If you could give one piece of advice to prospective or current law students to help them succeed, what would it be?

If I could give one piece of advice to prospective or current law students, it would be to not get lost in the chaos and stress of law school and the job hunt. There are a plethora of career pathways for a law degree holder; use your network and the resources at your disposal in law school to learn more about whatever field(s) of law might be of interest to you. Nothing bad has ever come from a coffee chat!

Use your time in law school to learn, and not just about who bears liability for the consumption of a soft drink with a snail inside the bottle. In law school, you are surrounded by extraordinarily bright colleagues and professors, the vast majority of whom want to see you succeed. Don’t approach law school as if it is a zero-sum game. Develop meaningful and friendly relationships with your peers!

2023 UOttawa Law Convocation

What are your future career plans going forward, and how can our readers connect with you in the future?

Going forward, I am excited to learn as much as I can about corporate and commercial law during my articles. Although I probably should refrain from doing so for my own sanity, I envision my continued participation in the world of politics. We all have our vices.

I encourage law students to reach out to me if there is ever any help I can provide. I can be reached on LinkedIn at this link and on Twitter (X?) under the handle @ThomasLaw97.


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