Labour and employment law: An exciting and ever-evolving area
Labour and employment law refers to the vast array of laws governing the employment relationship for both unionized employees (labour law) and non-union employees (employment law).
L&E lawyers are involved in topical issues with far-reaching legal and social ramifications. It is a truly exciting area of practice, given the breadth of issues, the opportunities for advocacy, and the scope to shape Canadian workplaces.
Another benefit of practising management side labour and employment law is that it typically involves developing ongoing and stable relationships with clients.
L&E lawyers also have unique access to workplaces and businesses. Our lawyers have toured and learned the operational details of everything from paper mills to automotive manufacturers, postal facilities, schools and stage production companies.
Working with employers to create better workplaces
Working with management allows lawyers to have a direct impact on working lives.
Labour and employment law encompasses everything from basic employment entitlements, such as overtime and holiday pay, to workplace injuries and fatalities, human rights issues, and union organizing and representation.
As well, we are regularly involved in:
- Helping employers draft and implement policies and procedures to ensure employees work in safe environments, free from harassment.
- Training managers on best practices as well as how best to comply with applicable legislative and contractual obligations, including collective agreements.
- Working on innovative initiatives such as employee buyouts and alternative work arrangements like work from home programs.
Management-side L&E law is advocacy-focused
Management-side labour law is a litigation-focused legal practice that is fast-moving, challenging and extremely rewarding.
Labour and employment lawyers litigate more regularly than lawyers in virtually any other practice area, including traditional civil litigation. Our lawyers regularly appear before the courts and administrative tribunals, often with multiple hearings each week.
We are also regularly involved in negotiations and alternative dispute resolution. In fact, management-side labour lawyers have greater involvement in negotiations than their union-side counterparts. Employers regularly retain us to represent them in the collective bargaining and other negotiations. By contrast, unions typically have internal staff conduct negotiations.
What we look for in a student: Strong academics, interest in advocacy and L&E law
We are interested in meeting students who have a strong academic background and who are keen to develop expertise in the specialized area of L&E law.
While we consider it an asset to have taken labour and employment-related courses at law school, we are impressed by those who have demonstrated their ability to handle demanding courses of any type. An interest in and aptitude for advocacy is necessary.
As students work closely with various members of our firm and often deal directly with clients, we also attach importance to an individual’s interpersonal skills and versatility; students should be comfortable in both formal and informal settings.
The firm welcomes and encourages applications from people with disabilities. Accommodations are available upon request for candidates taking part in all aspects of the selection process.
Broad, hands-on exposure to the practice of law
Our students are naturally involved in researching the law, which often includes novel and topical points. However, they also participate in many of the practical and necessary aspects of practice, such as meeting with clients, interviewing witnesses, and assuming responsibility for the preparatory work required for a hearing or trial.
Our students are regularly involved in cases from beginning to end. We strongly encourage them to attend and assist at the hearings of matters they have helped prepare.
Through this hands-on approach, our students come to appreciate the practical and legal aspects of practising L&E law and they gain a real understanding of how their research and preparatory work affects the cases our firm handles. Moreover, they share the sense of achievement that comes with seeing a matter through to a successful conclusion.
Summer Students: A stepping stone to articling
For the past few years, we have hired summer students, then chosen our articling students from our summer student cohort. Our summer students enjoy the same kind of experience as our articling students – interesting work, exposure to many aspects of labour and employment law, and hands-on learning.
Articling Student Rotation
In light of our broad and diverse L&E practice, we use a rotation system to ensure articling students are exposed to all aspects of L&E law. This includes Labour Board proceedings, arbitrations, negotiations, and individual employment law matters such as wrongful dismissal suits and matters before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.
Each articling student’s year is divided into rotations of three to four-months each. During each rotation, the student is assigned to a group of partners. This allows every partner an opportunity to work with and get to know with each student.
To ensure all summer and articling students have a positive experience throughout their time with the firm, we have a Student Recruitment and Articling Committee, made up of three of the firm’s partners. This Committee has general oversight and responsibility for our Student Program.
Each articling student is assigned a mentor from among the firm’s partners. Mentors:
- Act as a resource and confidante.
- Help monitor the student’s workload to ensure the student is gaining exposure to all practice areas and is not being under or over-utilized.
- Are available to meet with students throughout the articling term to answer any questions, discuss their experience, and provide feedback on their performance.
Mentors also participate in a formal review of our students’ work midway through the articling term. The main purpose of this review is to identify types of work that the student should be exposed to in order to round out the articling experience.
Our firm encourages an open-door policy. Students may turn to associates and partners to answer questions and provide guidance and advice throughout their articling term.
Each of our articling students has their own office, and each is assigned a legal assistant. As part of their orientation, students are trained on how to best use the wide variety of available in-house library and online resources. To help develop our students’ knowledge of L&E law, we also hold regular seminars throughout the year on important labour topics.
In recognition of the firm’s high standards, our firm’s policy is to provide salaries and benefits that are competitive with those provided by the major GTA law firms. Articling students are covered by an excellent extended health care plan, as well as a group life insurance plan. Articling students can also take advantage of our firm’s fitness subsidy.
Our firm is committed to growing from within. In the last decade, without exception, we have hired one or more of our three to four articling students as associate lawyers. We are also proud of the fact that most of the students who have not joined our firm have successfully pursued a career elsewhere in the field of L&E law.