Legal Services Articling Program

Articling at the Department of Justice

The Department of Justice is committed to developing our articling clerks into lawyers with the skills to excel in the practice of law. Our Articling Program provides clerks with a unique opportunity to gain experience in the traditional areas of practice and an insight into the role of the Attorney General in the legal and legislative process.

Clerks with the Department of Justice don’t just do research. As an articled clerk, you will go to court, work directly with clients and assist in the legislative process. The work at the Department of Justice is dynamic and it is an interesting workplace. However, we are also committed to ensuring that all of our employees have time for family and social life.

The Department provides legal advice and representation to all of the departments and agencies of government and many Crown corporations. While we are divided into 11 small speciality teams, the Legal Services Division is largely comprised of two distinct practice areas: litigation and solicitor work. During the articling year, there is an opportunity to work with both litigators and solicitors, and our rotation system is flexible.

Our litigation cases run the gamut. They include the types of files you will see on a regular basis in private sector law firms, such as collections, personal injury cases, property disputes, labour relations and construction litigation. But litigation work with the Legal Services Division also provides the opportunity to work on cases that arise less commonly in the private sector.

For example, those with an interest in constitutional law may find greater opportunities to practice in that area. While private sector firms are involved in constitutional matters, this will depend on having clients with these sorts of issues. The Crown is regularly a party to these cases, and frequently intervenes in constitutional cases of national importance.

The same is true for other areas, such as environmental law, where having a client like the Department of Environment will sometimes involve litigation over actions taken by the Department, as the regulatory authority under the Environment Act. It may also sometimes involve litigation in administrative proceedings, such as environmental assessments that proceed to public hearings. You will see these cases in the private sector, but having the Department of Environment as a client produces more frequent opportunities.

Our work is often high stakes and high profile. An example of this was our participation in a private panel process with the federal government relating to federal-provincial agreements over the offshore, which secured hundreds of millions of dollars for Nova Scotians. Legal Services litigators were also recently involved in the Hyde Inquiry, and responding to class actions, such the claim brought by Cape Breton residents who have lived near the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites. These are but a few examples. For more, simply open the newspaper. You will frequently see our cases there.

Articling with our solicitor teams means assisting clients with a wide range of transactions which are common to both the private and public sectors, including providing legal advice on contracts, real property, statutory interpretation, commercial transactions and construction law.

In addition to covering these traditional areas of the practice of law, solicitor services lawyers and students assist with drafting legislation and following it through the legislative process until it has been proclaimed in force. Solicitor services provides legal advice on all submissions to Executive Council (Cabinet), which is government’s main decision-making body. Students will also help lawyers draft regulations and follow them through the approval process. Departmental lawyers develop a thorough working knowledge of government policy and procedure, including such issues as Crown privilege, administrative decision-making and the work of the Legislative Assembly.

Legal Services lawyers are also currently participating in tripartite negotiations on aboriginal issues, and provide legal advice to negotiators and staff on a wide variety of aboriginal issues.

The Articling Program also includes a rotation with the Public Prosecution Service, providing clerks an opportunity to participate in the practice of criminal law at all levels and to see the practice from the unique viewpoint of Crown attorneys.

Articled clerks and students at the Department are provided with very hands-on experience, meeting with clients, appearing in court and drafting correspondence and memoranda. As a student at the Department of Justice you will gain exposure to all areas of law, but will have the flexibility to focus on areas that have a particular interest to you.

Clerks and students have told us that they enjoy the wide variety of work, and the independence afforded them. At the same time, they have ongoing interaction with more experienced counsel, and an open-door atmosphere prevails.