Monday, June 7, 2010

What I Didn't Learn in Law School

I am going to let you in on a wee little secret. They don't teach you much in law school. [Note to my dear law school readers - except for Administrative Law. That one is valuable so pay attention.] You read hundreds (thousands?) of cases and participate in mock trials, but you are completely ill prepared for the first time after graduation that one of your friends asks you a real legal question.

You feel like a deer in headlights and it is so obvious. "Is this contract enforceable? Well, lets see here. Did everybody provide appropriate consideration? A peppercorn perhaps? Well, let's just wait to see what happens when the next Peerless comes in and then we'll talk, okay?"

The following issue has come up twice: If somebody fires someone, does the fire-er (real legal term) have to pay unemployment? The first time I was asked this was at a board meeting, having been elected to the board for my vast legal knowledge and experience. I dunno know, but I don't think so. How does that even make sense? (What are all those damn taxes for that are taken out of paychecks?) But everybody on the board was fairly certain that you do have to pay some sort of unemployment. So I went home and Googled the crap out of the issue. To little avail. Then I asked the HR department. They didn't know. No, of course not. (I've yet to determine what HR departments actually do besides purchase goal development software.) It ended up that the entity for which I was a board member dissolved (I don't think for anything I did) so the issue just kind of went away.

Except the same issue came up last week - sorta. On, Ms. Lancaster was saying that if she fired her assistant she would have to pay unemployment. Now, I know she wasn't even attempting to make any sort of legal statement. It was said in jest. But it got me thinking - I still don't know that answer to that question. Do you suppose Sallie Mae would give me a refund?


  1. In Ontario...if you get fired you get nothing. If you get laid off you get EI (employment insurance) for almost a year provided you have 20 full time weeks in the year leading up to your layoff. If you quit you get nothing.

    Employers dont have to pay EI...the government does. But we all pay into it when we work above the table.

  2. That's just as true of my experiences from UK law school too. While they equip you beautifully to give a plenary and thought-provoking critique of an area of law, in the event that someone comes up, puts you on the spot requesting legal advice, you tend to be far less well-placed to spurt out your spiel with confidence.

  3. My impression is that if you get fired for misconduct you likely do NOT qualify for unemployment. But, if you can demonstrate that you were fired without just cause ("wrongful termination") then you can be eligible. Maybe?