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What law students need to know about the Course aux stages

If you haven’t heard, it’s time to start thinking about this year’s Course aux stages.

What’s the Course aux stages, you ask? You must not be a second-year law student in Quebec! The Course aux stages is the official recruitment period for articling positions in Quebec.

In order to become a licensed lawyer in Quebec, you must graduate from law school, pass the bar exam, and then “article” by working under the supervision of an experienced lawyer for six months. The competition for articling positions is intense, especially because a permanent position at the same firm where you articled is often an implicit part of the package.

Before the Course aux stages process began, student recruitment resembled a chaotic arms race between the largest firms as they tried to hire top students as early as possible, sometimes even during the first year of law school. In the early ’90s, Quebec’s largest law firms signed an agreement called the Entente de recrutement which created the Course aux stages by defining a universal application period and restricting recruitment to only those students who have obtained at least 36 law school credits.

Not for the faint of heart, the Course aux stages begins months before the application deadline. Cocktails, open houses and special lunchtime lectures ramp up in the fall to give candidates a chance to meet and hopefully charm Montreal’s largest law firms. If your cover letter, curriculum vitae and transcript earn you one or many interviews in February, you’ll be facing multiple rounds of interviews with additional events like dinners and cocktail parties sprinkled in.

Goldwater, Dubé joined the Course aux stages in 2017 and we remain the only firm specializing in family law to participate. In our experience, the Course aux stages is a great way to meet top law students from across Quebec, share our firm’s unique perspective and, of course, recruit future articling students. For more on the course aux stages process, check out Me Daniel Goldwater’s interviews with current law students on the topic on Viva Voce.

Every law firm has its own priorities and preferences when it comes to recruitment. Like sorting young witches and wizards into fictional houses at Hogwarts, some firms prize students with the highest grades, while others are looking for substantial work experience or a unique volunteering background. At Goldwater, Dubé, we select students with a willingness to work hard, an ability to work with people in distress and a demonstrated passion for family law.

The Course aux stages isn’t all fun and games. Law students tend to be competitive overachievers who are accustomed to being the best and getting what they want, and the Course aux stages is a direct challenge to that identity. You’ll likely overhear your peers gushing about their interviews while you’re still hoping for a call back from a firm, or feel doubt about your chances when a friend casually mentions her 4.0 GPA. Our advice is to focus on the things you can control: research each firm you are considering, carefully write and re-write your cover letters and for heaven’s sake prepare for your interviews.

Whether or not your phone rings in the morning on the magic date when candidates are hired, keep in perspective that participating in the Course aux stages is a testament to your hard work and tenacity. Many successful lawyers did not obtain their first-choice articling positions through the Course aux stages process and they still went on to achieve great success. Perseverance even in the face of disappointment is the mark of a great lawyer.

Interested in articling at Goldwater, Dubé? Keep an eye out for us at the Journée carrière interfacultaire that takes place every January across Quebec’s law schools. For other articling positions, check the École du barreau website for openings or contact your university’s career centre for resources.

Photo: Tim Gouw // Unsplash