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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


The letter of the law

By David Chilton
Special to the Toronto Sun

By mid April, well over half of the graduating students in Lesley Wagner's law clerk program at Durham College had full-time jobs lined up. At that rate this year's employment figure will mirror last year's when 90% of the Durham students had found full-time jobs by the time they graduated.

Durham is just one of the six colleges in the GTA that offers the Institute of Law Clerks of Ontario program that leads to the ILCO certificate. The other colleges are George Brown, Seneca, Centennial and Humber in Toronto and Sheridan in Brampton and Oakville.

Only three-year course

Wagner, a professor and co-ordinator at Durham, says her program is the only three-year course in the province, with mostly unpaid job placements playing a major role in the prospective law clerk's training -- and hiring.

"We have two placements. One is in second year, which is two weeks straight and that usually happens between March and April. Our second placement is in third year and they're obligated to do 280 hours (40 days) and that is every Thursday and Friday."

As well as the full-time program, Durham also offers the chance to study part time, Wagner says. And here it gets complicated for all colleges, and would-be law clerks, because some offer full-time study, part-time study, programs that confer a diploma from the college, programs that result in ILCO certification and fellowship courses that lead to ILCO certification and a diploma. Tuition also varies, with one year full time costing about $1,800.

Irrespective of the program students choose, they should know employers are asking increasingly for the ILCO certificate, which has four required areas of study: litigation, estates, real estate and corporate law.

Something further to consider are entrance requirements. Depending on the program, students are expected to have a high school diploma or mature student standing, or from one to three years' experience in a legal environment.

None of these complications should faze prospective students. After all, one of the requirements of being a law clerk is an attention to detail. Another is a good grasp of reading and writing English since they will be handling significant volumes of paper.
  • Law clerk training is available at colleges across the GTA.
  • Programs vary from college to college and students should check college calendars thoroughly.
  • Law clerks can be considered "assistant lawyers."
  • Once trained, law clerks can work in most areas of the law.
  • The profession is overwhelmingly female.
  • A rough salary guide for Toronto and the suburbs would be about $28,000 to $40,000 a year.

  • An easy way to think of law clerks is as "assistant lawyers." As long as they work under the supervision of a lawyer they can conduct real estate transactions, draw up contracts, handle landlord and tenant disputes, provide property assessments, assist duty counsel, interview witnesses and so on.

    Regardless of the program they choose, student law clerks are overwhelmingly female. Patti Ann Sullivan, professor and program co-ordinator at Centennial, puts the female to male ratio at more than three to one.

    One of those women is Katie Legree, a third-year student at Durham who already has a job lined up with a downtown law firm when she graduates.

    Legree says she knew from high school she was interested in law but didn't want to be a lawyer and had no interest in going to university. Law clerking fit the bill, says Legree, who chose Durham because of the program. "I was quite happy to have three years," she says. "It's a lot of work. It's really a lot of work."

    How much Legree and her fellow graduates will earn depends on where they work. Wagner says there's better pay and more opportunity in Toronto, and Sullivan points out salaries are frequently proportionate to the law clerk's value to the lawyer; however, a rough salary guide for Toronto and the suburbs would be about $28,000 to $40,000 a year.

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