Biglaw, Canada, Job Searches

Lawyer Tops ‘Best Jobs’ List — Wait, What?

Well lookie here. After years of being labeled as the “unhappiest job” and “worse than a nail technician,” “lawyer” has finally been named in a survey as the best job out there. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

Cue the trumpets.

There’s just one snag….

You’ll have to be willing to get paid in Loonies.

Canadian Business just released its roundup of the best jobs available and apparently up in the land of flapping heads and beady little eyes being a lawyer is not only not so awful, it’s affirmatively the best career path around. Indeed, attorneys beat out the customary top jobs in America like Software Engineer and Pharmacist, and who doesn’t want to be a pharmacist? Working in the back of a Walgreen’s is where it’s at.

What sort of methodology recommends a legal job in this day and age?

To build the list of Canada’s 100 Best Jobs, we used data from Statistics Canada, including jobs that had experienced employment growth over the past five years, had a minimum median salary of $60,000 and employed at least 5,000 people. Rankings are based on four criteria: employment growth (25%), median compensation (based on a 40-hour workweek) in 2013 (40%), the change in median compensation from 2007–08 to 2012–13 (10%), and projected demand for those jobs using data from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (25%). To account for variations in employment levels, the growth category factors in the percentage change over one, three and five years (three- and five-year rates get 10 percentage points; the one-year change gets five). A few broad non-specific job categories were eliminated.

The employment growth statistic (as well as the change in median compensation since 2007-08) reflects how the brutal recession that plagued the American legal sector largely ignored Canada. Just like most Americans do.

“Canadian law firms, however, have come out of the recession stronger, without significant damages to their bottom lines and employment contractions experienced by their US counterparts,” adds [IBISWorld industry analyst Anna] Son. “Canadian law firms tend not to focus on a single practice area and instead diversify their law practices.” Many law firms found shelter in countercyclical work, as the weakened economy forced many businesses to seek legal advice related to restructuring, bankruptcy and insolvency.

The most devastating law firm collapse in the country, Heenan Blaikie, is the exception that proves the rule. Heenan’s collapse was a snowball rather than a flood, where relatively modest financial troubles triggered partner defections that only deepened the firm’s trouble. Perhaps Heenan could have recovered, perhaps not, but the point remains that across Canada the financial pressures on firms remained modest compared to their American counterparts.

The data from Human Resources and Social Development Canada (which was actually renamed Employment and Social Development Canada this year) may reveal the biggest difference between Canada and America. The ESDC projects that there will be more than one available job per job seeker in the legal sector by 2020. Seriously? Compare that to the U.S., where the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be around 73,600 openings over the next six years and 147,200 job seekers as seen here.

If Canadian Business is right about all those jobs going unfilled, U.S. law school graduates may want to buy winter coats and cultivate a love of hockey.

Canada’s Best Jobs 2014 [Canadian Business]
Law Firms in Canada Industry Market Research Report Now Available from IBISWorld [PR Web]
Where are the Heenan Blaikie lawyers now? [Precedent]

Earlier: Unhappiest Job in America? Take a Guess
The 2014 U.S. News Job Rankings: Being A Lawyer Is Worse Than Being A Nail Technician
The State Of Law School In One Comprehensive Graphic
Another ‘Storied’ Biglaw Firm Fails, Inciting Panic In The Legal Industry

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