24 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 78 PART 1 JANUARY 2020
Many students hear horror stories about the articling workload. They
often expect to be shut in at the office during their articling term. They
anticipate being at the bottom rung of the workplace ladder. That said, students
are not necessarily overly stressed about working hard if the work
itself is not demoralizing on a day-to-day basis. After many years of academic
study students welcome the practical legal world.
However, students will also benefit from a principal who can assist them
in making sense of the difference between the theory of law versus the
actual practice. The mentoring relationship helps provide context—a
roadmap during a stressful time.
Articles vary widely, but many students understand the commencement
of their actual legal career will be more stressful than law school. Students are
best served when their stress comes more from their lack of familiarity with
processes and practices than from poor mentorship from their principal.
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN ACTING OR CONSIDERING TO ACT AS A
Understanding the Fundamental Obligations of a Principal
Principals and prospective principals should always keep in mind the importance
of mentoring the student such that the student will eventually become
a positive and contributing member of the profession. Though these words
may seem facile, many senior lawyers interviewed for this article remember
distinct moments of their articling career, often over two decades ago, where
their principal instilled values that they still remember today and that form
an integral and substantive part of their professional and personal lives.
It cannot be overstated that the student is not simply at the beginning
phase of a “job” so much as entering a profession that is an important part
of civil society. More specifically, the student will eventually become a junior
lawyer and eventually a senior lawyer. The student may become a
judge. Possibly, the student will find law is not for them.
Students’ experiences at the start of their career will quite possibly colour
their perceptions and foundational beliefs about what the profession means
to them and to other lawyers, the court and the public.
In sum, a principal helps shape the student’s future. Consequently, principals
must approach their role with humility and an appreciation for their
responsibility to start the student’s career off positively. As one lawyer
advised, “If things go off the rails, the student’s career can go with it.”
The Basics: Experience and Time
Prospective principals must thoroughly consider whether they have the
experience and time necessary to properly guide the student.