Blog post by Jean-Marc Metrailler

January marks of the beginning of the summer student recruit for most London law firms, including Harrison Pensa. Whether you are applying for a summer position or for an articling position, many of you should be prepared to answer:

“So, why London?”

Why do they ask?

This is a question not unique to London, and one you will probably have to answer if applying to a law firm in any mid-sized city.

It makes sense why so many firms want to gauge your commitment to geography. Summer students, articling students, and sometimes even junior associates, are generally not seen as short-term investments for law firms.

Instead, law firms are in it for the long haul: They put a lot of initial resources into training us and helping us build connections, with the idea that we will eventually become self-sustaining contributors to the firm’s business. A law firm, thus, can be understandably frustrated when a student accepts initial training and resources, when that same student has no intention of staying.

Demonstrating Commitment

Growing up elsewhere will not bar you from being hired in London, and nor will being born and raised here guarantee you a position. Instead, you should be able to demonstrate a strong connection with the city, regardless of where you grew up.

As someone who personally did not grow up in London, I was asked “why London?” many times during my own recruitment process. The following are some tips that worked for me in demonstrating my connection and commitment to the city:

  1. The Western Connection: Having gone to the University of Western Ontario, either for undergraduate degree or for law school, means that you have had a chance to thoroughly experience living in the city. This allows you to honestly say you enjoy being here.
  2. Family/Friends: Don’t be afraid to get personal. If you have family, friends, or a significant-other already living in the city, mention it in your interview or even your cover letter. Having personal connections to the city can show you are committed to staying.
  3. Getting Involved: Getting involved in the city, outside of school or work, shows that you have “skin in the game” and are more likely to stay. Volunteering with local charitable organizations, politics, or even recreational leagues, will be viewed favourably by any London firm.
  4. Why you don’t want to go back: If you grew up elsewhere, you should be able to explain why you don’t want to go back to your hometown. Being from a small town with few legal career opportunities, as an example, can help demonstrate to a firm that you’re not just going to move back the minute you complete your articles.
  5. Unique Practice Areas: Sometimes the firm or the practice alone can be a reason to stay in the city. Consider whether the firm offers any type of work that is not readily available in other places (Hint: this applies to Harrison Pensa!). If you can demonstrate an interest a unique practice area, it can be another legitimate reason why you’d prefer to work in London.

Don’t “fake it”

It’s important to note that these aren’t strategies for “faking it.” If you don’t want to stay in London, it’s going to be obvious. Furthermore, it is in your own best interest to summer or article (and build the important relationships that come with those experiences) in a city where you actually intend to practice.

These tips are for those, who like me, did not grow up in London but have a genuine desire to work here. Many firms, understandably, may not simply take your word for it. Employing the above strategies, however, should help you demonstrate your genuine desire to stay in this great city. Good luck!