By Sheryl Smolkin
Read this article and comments at Moneyville.ca
At the end of my first year at law school, like all students I needed a job to cover my summer expenses and save for the next year’s tuition. But I also wanted to do something related to my future career as a lawyer that would look good on my resume when I was applying for articling positions.
My father approached our MP and then Speaker of the House, Lucien Lamoureaux and I was delighted when that led to an offer from the Sheriff’s office in the Ministry of the Attorney General.
At least, I was delighted until I found out what the job entailed.
The Sheriff’s office is responsible for evictions and serving court documents like divorce petitions and subpoenas. Needless to say, our clients were not happy people, either on the phone or in person. And by osmosis, my co-workers seemed to be equally miserable.
One of my duties was to set up a spreadsheet recording when documents come into the office, when they were served and other pertinent information. In the prehistoric days before computers, that meant using a wide carriage typewriter with unwieldy over-sized ledger sheets.
I am not, and never was a good typist. Without the benefit of spell check, I was doomed. While hunting and pecking at about five words a minute I made an inordinate number of mistakes and the sorry product of my labours usually ended up liberally embellished with white out. By the end of the summer my supervisor was at her wits end trying to figure out what to do with me. Somehow I managed not to get fired, and I was very relieved to head back to school in the fall.
As it got close to the end of second year, memories of the previous summer’s faded. I waited in vain for a letter from the AG’s office inviting me back. More than anything else my pride was on the line, as summer students were always rehired. I eventually got up the nerve and called my former supervisor to ask where my offer letter was. She finally took my call and told me that I wouldn’t be rehired because I was “unsuitable” for the job.
For about five minutes after I got off the telephone I was offended. Then I realized she was right. Within days I was offered a summer job doing research for a family law professor at York University, which turned out to be the best summer job I ever had.
When I graduated from law school, I had a $9,000 student loan to repay. On applications for articling jobs I dutifully reported that I had been employed by the Ministry of the Attorney General. But needless to say I did not say exactly what I did, or ask my former supervisor for a reference.