Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Where do you rank 'mentorship' in law firm selection?

During our first week of training, a line from one of the presenters really stood out to me: “We like to pride ourselves on being like a teaching hospital.” As soon as I heard this line I envisioned the six of us articling students were like characters from Grey’s Anatomy on their first day of their surgical residency, but instead of cutting people open, we got to draft statements of defence.

My mentor emailed,
  "I have an idea..."

One of the most mysterious aspects of the articling program is the role of the “Articling Principal.” The law society requires that one lawyer act as a principal to every articling student. On the first day of articling, we were each assigned a lawyer within the firm who would act as a mentor to us throughout the year. During my initial meeting with my principal, we discussed some of the challenges that I was anticipating, and he gave me advice on how to navigate my way around the firm. After this initial meeting, I knew that this was a relationship that would prove valuable to me over the course of my articling term. My principal and I have met on several occasions now, mainly as a “check-in” system to talk about my experience and some of the challenges that I face. He has offered me support and guidance on how to deal with these issues and has been diligent in following up with “how are things going?” emails.

His most recent email stated, “I have an idea.” That idea turned out to be giving me my “own” file, meaning that I would be responsible for the progress of the file (which he would oversee, of course). Throughout this process, I have been challenged to think for myself, come up with answers in short periods of time, and really become well acquainted with managing files properly and how to work in the client’s best interest.

Some may rank mentorship low on their list of priorities when looking for an articling position, however, through the determination of my articling principal to educate me and ensure that I am getting the most out of my articling experience, I can wholeheartedly say good mentorship is invaluable.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Utilizing my advocacy skills in court

My first motion was scheduled months in advance and the day finally arrived. It was booked at the Newmarket Superior Court, a court that was unfamiliar to me. I am not a shy person, but the anticipation of speaking in open court made me nervous. I was consoled by my learned peers who assured me that I was lucky to be arguing a Wagg motion as my very first.

I was scheduled to speak before the Honourable Justice Di Luca...

A Wagg motion is brought under Rule 30.10 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. The purpose of the motion is to obtain relevant documents that are in the possession, control, or power of a party who is not part of the litigation. These motions typically arise in motor vehicle accident claims and are used to obtain the records of police departments and/or the Ministry of the Attorney General.

Since Wagg motions are procedural, they are rarely opposed. That made my task easier. So long as I was prepared, nothing could go wrong…

On December 21, I arrived at court with ample time to spare. I wanted to ensure that I could find out where I needed to go and fill out any necessary forms all without breaking a sweat. I was scheduled to speak before the Honourable Justice Di Luca – lucky for me I was first on the docket.

Justice Di Luca had several questions for me, but everything went smoothly. I was able to obtain the Order, which I subsequently had issued and entered. Mission accomplished.

This motion marked the beginning of an era for me. Not to sound dramatic, but what I find challenging as a student will soon become the new norm. I will no longer worry about the proper way to introduce myself, or how to address the judge or master; I will not hesitate to use proper legal jargon, and I will no longer be confused by the layout of the Newmarket Superior Court.

On to the next!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Let's Settle This!

It has been two months since my unexpected arrival at MB, and partaking in mediation has been by far the most intriguing learning experience for me. It is interesting to observe the social, economic and tactical angles of mediation…

the best settlement is one where both parties concede a little to get the deal done...


Preparation

As is the case when preparing for trial, it is of dire importance to be well prepared for your mediation. Drafting a quality brief after a thorough review of your file is an essential step of the mediation process. Your goal is to bring as much ammunition to the mediation. With good knowledge of the facts and the law, you will be able to present your case from a position of strength and obtain the best possible settlement for your client.

Candour

Often times this is the first real chance to evaluate your opponent’s file on a subjective basis and evaluate your chances of success at trial. Therefore, being open and honest allows for no one to be left in the dark. In addition, it is counter-productive when you are not open, and it is usually construed as a weakness in your case.

Patience

Getting a case to mediation is a process. Starting from a properly drafted mediation brief to the opening statements, to back and forth on unreasonable offers, it all takes time. It is important to remain focused on the objectives of mediation, to settle.

Compromise

Since our first day of law school, we have been drilled with the notion that there is no certainty at trial. For this reason, it is important to evaluate your risk and come to mediation with the intention, and willingness to compromise in relation to your level of risk assessed. In fact, the best settlement is one where both parties concede a little to get the deal done.

jannoon028 - compliments of freedigitalphotosIn Summary

Becoming good at mediation comes with practice, by observing others in mediation and by asking experienced lawyers questions. Finally, it is critical to be a great listener at a mediation. You can often achieve a better result for your client by listening instead of talking.

I cannot wait to develop my own style and to continue learning about the multiple angles of mediation.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Pre-Trial Conferences: Down to the Wire

Television shows like The Good Wife or Suits often glamourize the life of  the lawyer, and make it seem like trials are an everyday occurrence. Many of these legal dramas showcase a different trial in each episode. The reality, though, is very different. The scarcity of judicial resources, coupled with the financial burden and the extraordinary length of time spent litigating matters means that the legal system is inclined to push for settlement before trial. However, there are times when matters simply cannot be resolved. It is then that lawyers must take on the task that we see so often on television, and proceed to trial, complete with witnesses, robes, and sometimes even juries.

...the parties agreed that a pre-trial conference might be the best route towards agreement on some issues...

For the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to assist with one of the upcoming trials at our firm. The case was complex, with multiple parties and many issues in contention. In fact, the trial was originally scheduled to go on for several weeks! With the start date looming, and with the knowledge that a protracted trial would not be in anyone’s best interests, the parties agreed that a pre-trial conference might be the best route towards agreement on some issues, if not a final resolution.

Pre-trial conferences are one of the last few opportunities for parties to sit down and attempt to reach a settlement before proceeding to trial. In many ways, a pre-trial conference is like a mediation, only in a more formal court setting. A judge will offer his or her candid advice on the prospects of success for the parties at trial, and suggest opportunities for resolving the dispute. More often than not, matters will be resolved at these pre-trial conferences.

Having worked on this file beforehand, I knew that an actual settlement was unlikely. This would be the second pre-trial conference after the first had failed. The parties had strikingly different positions on the legal and factual issues. Nevertheless, I still jumped at the opportunity to attend the conference and see how things would end up.

Mr. Justice Todd L. Archibald
On the exact same day as this second conference, our firm held a client seminar on pre-trial conferences.  The attendees were very fortunate to be joined by Justice Archibald, who provided his personal insights on how these conferences are run, and how parties should approach such conferences. As luck would have it, both the mock pre-trial and the actual pre-trial conference were led by the same judge!

While at the seminar, Justice Archibald shared his thought process when presiding over a pre-trial conference. At the very beginning, His Honour would speak to counsel to obtain a lay of the land. This would afford him an opportunity to gauge the matter and the parties’ respective positions. This also allows counsel to be candid about their positions without the added pressure of having their clients present. Justice Archibald then holds individual caucuses with each party and their counsel. He attempts to be as honest as he can be, and tell each party where they stand; where their positions are strong, and where it may be a better idea to back down. By being forthright in his opinions, Justice Archibald has been able to settle a vast majority of the cases put before him. In fact, he was similarly able to quickly settle the mock pre-trial conference held at the seminar in a record 60 minutes! (But he did stipulate that these proceedings would, in fact, take a day or two to get all parties to this stage.)

MB's Transportation Mock Pre-Trial
Having heard all of this at the seminar, I was eager to see how Justice Archibald would be like in a real pre-trial conference. It quickly became clear that everything he shared was true. From his approach to speaking with the various parties, to his incredible ability to quickly cut to the chase, Justice Archibald showcased all the methods he discussed when managing this conference. And, just like at the seminar, Justice Archibald was able to settle this real legal case too.

So, unlike those legal dramas I mentioned earlier, I won’t get the opportunity to watch this case unfold under the auspices of a courtroom. But, what matters most is that everyone involved obtained results that led to a just and final settlement.

Go to MB’s Mock Pre-Trial Handouts page to read the Mockuments: Fact Summary, Pre-Trial Memos, and the Case Summary.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Reflecting: An Articling Must

During our articles so far, we have been so busy with new experiences, learning new concepts, research, and deadlines that it is hard to believe we are almost three months in. The time has simply flown by!

I schedule a few minutes into my busy schedule to reflect on my experiences and Milestones.

Articling is the period where you are allowed to learn, explore, ask questions and make mistakes (in drafts only!) It is all part of the learning process. Therefore, it is important to stop, take a breather, and reflect on how far we have already come as articling students.

I personally like to take this breather every two weeks. I schedule a few minutes into my busy schedule to reflect on my experiences over the past 14 days and make a list of my accomplishments and what I have learned.

This list of accomplishments varies week by week and consists of milestones as small as learning what a “proof of loss” document is and why it is a key document in insurance defence, to larger milestones such as being assigned carriage of my first small claims file and drafting my first mediation brief.

These lists are a great tool to measure how far I have come from the first weeks of articling until now. For me, these lists are a proud reminder of how much I have learned about litigation and the practice of law in general so far. They are also great indicators of how my confidence is slowly growing. With each reporting letter and research memo, I can see myself becoming more confident in my researching and writing abilities.

compliments of freedigitaldesigns
It is even interesting to compare a current list from the previous list. You wouldn’t believe how much learning is packed into a short period of time! For example, in the last 14 days, I have had the opportunity to speak directly to clients, to draft my first (and second) mediation brief, and how to prepare for my first settlement conference.

I also like to use this exercise to set new goals for myself. I do this by reflecting on assignments and situations that I have found particularly challenging in order to identify areas where I would like to improve. Articling is a learning process and I have learned that it is important to target my own personal weaknesses so that I can set goals for myself.

It is both nerve-wracking and exciting to see what the next seven months have in store for us. Spending some time to reflect on accomplishments, and articling milestones and measuring your success through weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly intervals is a great way to keep tabs on how far you’ve come and how far you have to go. You will be amazed to see how much you have already learned!

Friday, 30 September 2016

Life Outside the Office

With two months into my articling term, instead of writing about some of the amazing experiences I have had thus far, I have decided to write about something that has allowed me to make the most of these experiences—and it is not related to work! In fact, it has to do with “life” outside the office.

there are many benefits associated with taking part in activities outside of work...


Yes, the topic of work-life balance may seem a bit cliché, but, in my defence, it is something that is far too often preached but seldom practiced. Fortunately, at MB, with effective time management, it is a totally achievable feat.

Outside of work, I regularly participate in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), spend time with my friends and family, and still try to make it to the gym at 6:30 a.m. on a daily basis with Mahdi, another articling student (still trying to get the others on board). At the same time, I have been successful in managing my workload and the stress that is associated with articling.

Admittedly, these activities have bettered my experiences at work. For one, I feel that I am much more productive while I am at the office. Additionally, I feel more energized throughout the day, which allows me to stay focused while working on a task.

Many other individuals at MB participate in interesting activities outside the firm. The perk of this is the unique blend added to the firm’s overall culture. Here are a few samples below:

Elsa
Michael Kennedy (Partner)

Other than being in a band up until the summer of 2015, when he is not in the office, Michael likes to spend time with his friends, snowboard throughout the winter and spend time with Elsa. Michael believes that as a successful lawyer, there will always be more work than one has time for and that the key is to learn to prioritize.

Eric Turkienicz (Associate)

Eric has been writing and performing comedy for over 10 years and has done performances in Chicago, Montreal, and across Ontario. In 2012, Eric was part of a group that was nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award. Today, Eric is a regular contributing writer to a satirical online newspaper. He says that these experiences outside the office let him explore creative expression in other areas, which coincidentally help him master the skills that come up regularly as a litigator!

Shayan and Cheyenne
Sandy Mark Lee (Legal Assistant)

When Sandy is not in the office, she selflessly makes it her mission to volunteer and give back to the community! Ultimately, she decided to combine her love for dogs and working with the elderly. So naturally, she picked St. John Ambulance. She and her beloved Cheyenne (yes, I said “Cheyenne”) visit at long-term care homes, Bridgepoint Rehab Hospital, university, and colleges, attend fundraisers and soon they will be part of a team visiting travelers at Toronto Pearson Airport. Sandy says that the work she does outside the firm helps her with meeting the daily demands of her job at MB.

Although working at a law firm is challenging and fast-paced, there are many benefits associated with taking part in activities outside of work. However, it is undeniable that there will be times where you will have to make sacrifices due to the nature and the demands of the job. Just remember, there are 365 days in a year and 24 hours in a day, you can definitely spare a few hours on you!

Friday, 9 September 2016

Preparing for the Fastest 17 Minutes of your Life - OCI Interviews

On-Campus Interviews (OCIs) for the firm’s summer student program are around the corner. Here are some tips from the articling students that will help you succeed.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation - When You’re Done, Prepare Again...

Preparation

You’ve picked out your favourite interview gear. You’ve practiced your firm handshake. You’ve practiced saying: Hello, my name is [insert], it’s great to meet you.  What’s next? Learning about the firm!

The importance of learning about the firm and how it differs from other firms you will be meeting during OCIs, and the ways in which the firm’s interest match up with your own preferences will be key. Undoubtedly, one of the first questions you will be asked will be: what made you interested in our firm? Or more informally, so why us? Knowing how to navigate this question will set you apart from the other candidates.

How do you learn about the firm? Check out the firm’s website to learn about the areas that the firm primarily practices in. From there look at the recent cases the firm has been involved in. Make sure to look at the recent publications section of the firm’s website to gain a glimpse of the substantive areas the firm practices in and to gain insight into future developments of the law from the vantage point of the firm’s lawyers.

Once you’ve done your homework and learned as much as you could from the firm’s website, email an articling student with a few questions you may have about the firm. Feels like ages ago, but when I went through this process, I met for coffee with an articling student who gave me greater insights into the firm. Most articling students have done the same and would be more than willing to return the favour, just remember to pay it forward when you are an articling student.

During the Interview: The Fastest 17 mins of Your Life

image courtesy of digitalart
The interview process will last approximately 17-18 minutes. Flows very naturally and in no time the buzzer will ring and you’ll be off to your next interview. Tips to make sure you make the most of your time with the firm?

Have a checklist of things you want to discuss. These will be aspects of your life - be it personal or academic that could not accurately be displayed in your cover letter or resume. Most importantly, and this cannot be stressed enough, be your authentic self. If you have a set of unique interests, make sure to share it. The firm is always interested in meeting interesting individuals and interests are what make particular candidates memorable. No one forgets meeting the student who rides equestrian.


Post-Interview

Send a personalized thank you email to each person you interviewed with.

Best of luck!