We have all been on the receiving end of unsolicited, vaguely undermining, or completely cringeworthy career advice at some point in our professional progress. From the questionable to the objectionable, we asked members to share the worst advice they ever received – and, thankfully, disregarded!
Don’t Follow Your Dreams!
“My own Dad told me not to go to law school! He said that there were thousands of lawyers graduating in Ontario every year, and so it would be impossible to find a job. While that may be coming to fruition now, I was fortunate approximately 15 years ago to have found a great ‘entry level’ job in the fantastic field of family law upon being called.”
- Christine Vanderschoot, Vanderschoot Family Law, OBA Family Law Section Executive
Play it Safe!
“Someone in high school, who did not know me very well, once told me as general advice to make sure I have a back-up plan because becoming a lawyer is hard. I told them that I would do no such thing, because I didn’t want to give myself the opportunity, or a reason, not to make it.”
- Mana Khami, Harrison Pensa LLP, OBA Alternative Dispute Resolution Section Executive
“Major in sciences in university – it will be helpful no matter what career you go into, so you can’t go wrong.”
- Julie E. DeWolf, PhD Candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School, OBA SOGIC Section Executive
Set Your Sights Lower!
"’For articling, take what you can get.’ I would never advise someone to take this advice. I'm glad I didn't.”
- Matthew Gordon, SV Law, OBA Alternative Dispute Resolution Section Executive
Get Your Priorities Out of Order!
“When I was an articling student, I was told to have children within the first five years of practicing, rather than waiting, because my hourly rate was lower and so it wouldn’t impact the partners as much.”
- Anonymous (and not working at the firm that dispensed that advice)
Keep Your Options Closed!
“I went to law school quite some time ago. When I was in the process of applying for articling positions, a law professor suggested that I focus on family law firms. At that point, I had never taken a family law course. The sense I had was that the professor thought that as a woman I might be more suited to this area of practice. I did not follow through on the advice. It took me awhile to find my niche, but I have never looked back. “
- Laura Pettigrew, Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario, OBA Public Sector Lawyers Executive
“The worst piece of career advice I have ever received did not come from a colleague or mentor but rather a client who said to me during a client meeting, ‘I am the client, you have to do whatever I want.’ Needless to say, that client-lawyer relationship ended soon afterwards. A lawyer’s reputation, ethics and professionalism should never be valued lower than one client relationship.”
- Nandi A. O. Deterville, Deterville Law Office, OBA Women Lawyers Forum Executive
Never Speak Up!
“The worst career advice that I received is to never discuss the challenges that I have faced in my legal career nor what I see as problems in the legal profession. I am happy, however, that I ignored that advice because it's been empowering to share my journey as it has led to exciting and interesting opportunities.”
- Samantha Peters, Black Femme Legal, OBA Constitutional, Civil Liberties and Human Rights Law Section Executive
Keep it Uncivil!
“The worst piece of career advice I ever received was: ‘Never apologize.’”
- Ian Aversa, Aird & Berlis LLP, OBA Insolvency Law Executive
“When I was an articling student, one of my mentors told me, ‘You’re not supposed to make friends in law. Everyone is an opponent.’ Three years into my legal practice, I’m happy to say that I use every opportunity to get on good terms with opposing counsel: not only does it make the file more pleasant, but it makes ultimate resolution an easier goal to reach.”
- Dan Fridmar, Fridmar Professional Corporation, OBA Sole, Small Firm and General Practice Section Executive