“National and multinational financial institutions can have between 100- and 300-member legal departments,” says Carrie Heller, founder of the Heller Group, a Toronto-based recruitment agency.

What may be more surprising is that large financial institutions can be attractive for junior lawyers who want to concentrate on a practice. “Financial institutions have become very specialized, offering everything from careers in general corporate commercial law and securities to IT, wealth management and insurance,” says Heller.

But the institutions also offer non-traditional legal roles. “Lawyers at financial institutions are moving into roles as diverse as regulatory compliance, risk management, policy, governance, employee relations and derivative document preparation,” Heller says. “There’s a great deal of mobility there.”

In a job market where articling positions are hard to come by, Heller says that there is a “real need” for junior-level associates, both in traditional and non-traditional roles. Large financial institutions, especially banks, often take on articling students, some of whom are retained.

That being said, law firm experience isn’t always a precondition for hiring junior lawyers. “Some of the banks prefer candidates who have industry experience in-house,” Heller says. “Many like to see candidates with a combination of in-house and law firm experience, but they’re hard to come by at the junior level.”

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