Are you wondering what an articling student’s salary is in Canada? This article breaks down what salary and other benefits you can expect as an articling student. Summer students can expect a similar salary because law firms tend to use the same pay scale for both groups.
What is an Articling Student’s Salary?
Articling students earn between $nil up to an upper level of approximately $2,250/week ($117,000 annualized). The wide range in salaries can be attributed to the lack of regulations governing articling salaries and the sheer number of parties entering into articling contracts each year (in Ontario in 2019, there were 2,682 articling students, so lots of opportunity for different salaries).
The larger firms on Bay Street in Toronto tend to pay the most. The majority of larger Toronto firms pay $1,700/week, with a few firms paying more. The highest paying firm in Toronto pays its articling students $2,250/week, although this firm is an outlier.
The law firm paying articling students $2,250/week is an outlier. Most articling students in Ontario earn an annual salary between $20,000 and $40,000.
The top law firms in Ottawa pay articling students around $980/week ($51,000 annualized). In Montreal, the top law firms pay upwards of $1,700/week ($88,400 annualized). The top Calgary and Vancouver law firms pay around $1,250/week ($65,000 annualized).
Most law firms post their articling salaries on NALP. Note that annual salaries need to be pro rated because articling is less than 12 months.
The salaries mentioned above are at the high end of the salary scale. They are not representative. While data on average salaries can be hard to come by, the Law Society of Ontario reported that, in 2017, approximately two-thirds (68%) of Ontario’s articling students earned an annual salary of more than $40,000. Broken down, that works out to 36% articling students earning between $40,000 and $60,000 annually and 32% earning more than $60,000 annually. Twelve percent of articling students reported a salary below $20,000, and 4% of students reported a salary of $nil. Note that the Law Society of Ontario has reportedly banned unpaid articling terms.
Other Forms of Compensation
The raw salaries that law firms pay don’t tell the full story. Many firms, especially the largest firms, pay (i) summer students a tuition bonus after finishing their summer term; and (ii) a stipend to incoming articling students while they study for the bar exam. These extra payments are not factored into the raw salary that firms advertise, but they can add up to several thousand dollars.
Many law firms also cover the cost of the lawyer licensing process, including the costs of any bar exams and barrister robes.
Finally, some law firms provide articling students with health and dental benefits. Gym memberships and cell phone stipends are also common.
What Are the Costs of Articling?
To get a full picture of how much you’ll make as an articling student, you’ll want to calculate your income after deducting for fixed costs, taxes, and other necessary expenses.
As an articling student, your fixed costs can add up. The Law Society of Ontario, for example, charges all candidates who complete an articling program an “Articling Program Fee”. As of the date of this post, the Articling Program Fee is $2,800. This does not include the fee to apply to the lawyer licensing process ($160), the cost of the barrister licensing exam ($750), the cost of the solicitor exam ($750), the cost to re-write an exam ($600), the call to the bar fee ($165), and the cost of robes to wear to the call to the bar (variable), among other fees. Some law firms will cover these fees, but many don’t.
Other fixed costs include your rent and debt repayments. Some people also consider savings and contributions to retirement plans to be fixed costs.
Thankfully, you’re unlikely to get a large tax bill while articling because you likely have tuition tax credits.
You might be surprised at how quickly fixed costs, taxes, and other deductions can add up. Once you factor in these costs, it doesn’t take long for your articling salary to quickly shrink.