Thursday, 17 August 2017

Summer Student 2018 Positions - Deadline August 21, 2017

The application process...

We participate in the Toronto on-campus interview (OCI) process for summer student recruitment, and then hire our articling students from our pool of summer students. The relevant dates are set by the Law Society of Upper Canada. See details on our student How to Apply page.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Summer Student in Motion (Court)

My interest in litigation was first sparked by my experiences mooting in law school. So, this summer when I was asked if I would like to personally go to court to bring a motion I was very excited to have the opportunity to experience the “real thing”. In this blog entry, I wanted to highlight some of the takeaways of what was one of the most exciting parts of my summer experience.


Unlike what you see on TV, litigators do not spend all of their time in court.

Putting Pen to Paper
Unlike what you see on TV, litigators do not spend all of their time in court. In fact, some of the most interesting aspects of the litigation process involve formulating arguments and drafting legal documents. So, before I could bring the motion I had the opportunity to actually draft it. Being able to draft the materials I would be submitting to the court was also a very helpful way to prepare.

Getting Ready: Mentorship and Self-Prep
The lawyer supervising me on this task sat down with me to answer my questions and go over what had happened on the file to date, and what I should expect when I went to court. He very kindly answered my dozen or so questions about everything from court decorum to what floor the courtroom would be on.

Even after all of that preparation, I still woke up early on the day to go over all of my materials, make sure I knew where all my documents were located in my binder, and prepare responses to the list of possible questions I’d be asked. I also printed off all of the possible legislation I could be drilled-on.

https://www.vexels.com/vectors/preview/124650/businesswoman-running-late-illustration
The Big Moment
I arrived early to court and waited for the courtroom to be unlocked, then I filled out the requisite forms and waited for my turn. I was glad that I had participated in so many moots in school because it definitely helped tame my nerves!

When it was my turn to speak I answered the Master’s questions and gave my reasons where necessary. Court, it turns out, at least at this level, was less about the Master trying to trick you with difficult questions (like in moot court) than it was about the Master trying to figure out why you were there. I was still very happy I had spent (so much) time preparing for questions because it made me feel poised and confident!

In the end, our order was signed and I was left with an amazing experience! I can’t wait until the next time I’m able to step-up to the podium!

Monday, 31 July 2017

Critical... Thinking Allowed

Remember in elementary school when your teacher taught you that every student learns best through a specific teaching style? Some students were visual learners, some auditory learners, some kinesthetic learners, and so on. Of course, I was stubborn and didn’t believe in this sort of thing so I declared myself to be a “just show me how to find the answer” type of learner. Yeah, I was that kid. Years later, as a summer student, the concept of teaching styles has become relevant once again – but this time I can appreciate the lesson.

The concept of teaching styles has become relevant once again....

At McCague Borlack, we students are given a diverse set of assignments, most of which we didn’t have a chance to experience in law school. Fortunately, we have a team of lawyers who are happy to help us continuously improve our work. Naturally, each lawyer has their own teaching style and preferred method to show us how we can increase the quality of our work. Here are some of the teaching styles that we have experienced so far:

The Socratic Method:

Whenever I felt uncertain about a task, I would ask the assigning lawyer for clarification. Below is an example of how this conversation would go with a Socratic mentor:

Me: “In this letter I’m drafting, should I include XYZ?”

Lawyer: “Do you think the letter would benefit from XYZ?”

Me: “Well here are the benefits of adding XYZ.”

Lawyer: “Are there any drawbacks?”

Me: “I don’t think so.”

Lawyer: *Smiles*

Although this exchange may seem odd, the Socratic Method allows students to work through any issues on their own. Consequently, we develop a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter than if we were just given the solution.

This method has helped build confidence in my work and has shown me that I already have the answers to most of my questions. But if I am still unsure, a lawyer will review my work when I am finished to ensure that we have a good product.

Thinking Out Loud

When it comes to editing our work, some lawyers sit down with us and walk through the needed changes. The lawyers utilizing this method begin by explaining why certain parts of a document should be revised. Then, they “think out load” so that I can understand the thought process that helped them generate their solution. This method allows students to understand exactly why specific changes were made and what key points should be applied to the completion of the next assignment.

jambulboy
Track Changes

Sometimes the work I produce has minor errors so the revisions don’t require a long explanation. It can be a case where there is just a better way to phrase what needs to be said, or the structure of the document should be modified for clarity. Since these changes are simpler and easy for the lawyers to identify, they will use Microsoft Word’s “track changes” feature while they make their revisions. This method provides a visual comparison between my original draft and the revised version. It also requires me to analyze the changes to come to my own conclusions as to why the changes were made. However, if I can’t figure out why a particular change was made I can always get clarification from the assigning lawyer. There is certainly an art to drafting documents. By reviewing other lawyers’ completed product, I am able to better understand where to set the bar for my own progress.

Conclusion

Mistakes are part of the learning curve. The lawyers are happy to mentor the students and help us understand how we can continue to improve our work. And we appreciate it, no matter the style.


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Can You Keep a Secret?

How was work? What did you do today? Did you get any interesting files?

I stare at my parents blankly, as my mind races to find an acceptable answer that adequately balances my obligation to protect the firm’s sensitive information and the need to appease my family’s boundless interest in my budding legal career.

   ...discussing work
outside 
the office...


On one hand, I completely understand their curiosity. After all, they have been emotionally and financially invested in my journey to get called to the bar since the moment I picked up my first LSAT prep book.

Nonetheless, I am restricted by section 3.3-1 of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits lawyers from discussing their files unless authorized under certain circumstances. The commentary extrapolates on this rule by advising against “shop talk” with others and suggesting that gossip is unbecoming of the legal profession, even if a client is not specifically identified during the conversation.

Fine, I would respond. I met with some lawyers. We discussed a file. I drafted some documents. It was clear from their defeated expressions that my answer left something to be desired.

So, I decided to meet with Theresa Hartley, a partner at McCague Borlack LLP, who graciously made time to speak with me about client confidentiality. With hopes of shining a small light on one of the grayest areas of law, I used my conversation with Theresa to create some helpful tips to keep in mind when discussing work outside the office:

Never mention a client by name.
It almost goes without saying that identifying your clients to others breaches confidentiality. Even if the client is a large, renowned corporation that presumably retains several other lawyers on all sorts of different matters, you should never name drop in a conversation outside of work.

Use General and Vague Descriptors when discussing your work.
You should never describe a client in such a way that they are identifiable. This guideline is also applicable to the fact patterns in your file, as describing a situation in enough detail can inadvertently reveal a client’s identity.

Be Discrete with your conversations.

You should never cite “it’s public record” as an excuse to openly discuss files with anyone. Clients appreciate our discretion when handling their cases. Also, be selective as to where your work-related conversations take place. If you are surrounded by many people (like in an elevator or the food court), the conversation should stop. This guideline should be kept in mind for those who choose to work while commuting on the bus or subway; you never know which of your fellow passengers are looking over your shoulder (and into your business!).

Firm-Client Confidentiality. 
It’s usually acceptable to discuss files with other co-workers at the firm. In fact, many lawyers will describe cases to their peers when developing a legal strategy. The privileged relationship typically exists between the client and the other legal professionals at the firm. However, there is one important caveat to keep in mind: when the file has a confidentiality screen. A screen is usually established when there are conflicts of interest or if there exists an incentive to keep the media at bay. If ever assigned to such a file, you should refrain from discussing with those who do not have access.

Be Professional when conversing about encounters with opposing counsel.
It’s typically acceptable to tell others if you’ve met a certain “famous” (or infamous) lawyer, provided that not a single detail of the related file is mentioned. That said, be mindful in your stories about others. It’s unbecoming if you are criticizing counsel on a personal level (i.e. he’s a jerk; he got really cranky and started yelling), as opposed to politely commenting on their strategy (i.e. I felt that our client did not respond to his abrasiveness).
Remember – every situation is different. Trust your instincts, and use your judgment. As Theresa said to me, “if you’re unsure, ask!” Client confidentiality is fundamental to our profession and is not something to brush aside for the sake of a good “after work” story to tell family & friends.


Friday, 23 June 2017

Through the Looking Glass: The Reality of Working at a Litigation Law Firm

Almost any lawyer or summer law student will tell you that practicing law is very different than studying the law. I developed an interest in advocacy from my experiences in law school – among them, participating in moots and working in a legal clinic – but the truth is that I, like most law students, only had a vague idea of what the litigation process is really like. So, as I finish my fifth week at McCague Borlack, I find myself reflecting on the similarities and differences between theory and practice:

At one of the mediations I attended, I had the pleasure of hearing my research mentioned briefly.

Field Trips

In law school, you spend most of your time either in class or at the library poring over books. But this summer I have had the opportunity to attend examinations for discovery, mediations, motions, and other pre-trial appointments, which has easily been one of the most exciting aspects of being a summer student. Not only do you get a front-row seat to watch brilliant lawyers advocate for their respective clients, you also get to witness different strategies, techniques and styles of the different lawyers you have worked with – all of which is a huge learning opportunity as an aspiring litigator.

At one of the mediations I attended, I had the pleasure of hearing my research mentioned briefly. It was a very small part of the case, but a huge moment for me as a summer student!

The Human Element

In school, it can be easy to detach yourself when reading cases in class - especially when it’s an ancient tort case about ginger beer and a snail. At a law firm, however, it is very engaging to know that the file you are working on will have real life implications for a number of people. Nowhere has this been more apparent than at my first mediation where I heard our client and the opposing side speak passionately about their positions – something that a law textbook cannot offer.

This “human element” is a motivating factor which has helped all of us summer students do our best work.

Substantive Work

In law school, students focus on theory – but at a law firm, you have the chance to actually create legal documents. This summer has already been a huge learning experience. I could never have imagined that I, as a summer student, would have the opportunity to draft affidavits, pleadings, motions, and other documents that are part of the litigation process. Even more surprising is how much autonomy the firm gives us while working. This, paired with the guidance and feedback provided to the summer students, has allowed us to learn at an astounding pace.

Collegiality

In law school the first year is a real bonding experience – after the blood, sweat, and tears of 1L it’s hard not to feel close to those who have shared the same experience. Luckily, as a summer student, I’ve experienced the same comradery through the joint excitement, and even uncertainty, that I’ve shared with my fellow summer students.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Learning to Walk

One of the articling students affectionately calls us “baby lawyers”...

One of my fears during the recruitment process was that my summer and articling experiences wouldn’t prepare me for life post-call-to-the-bar. During OCIs, McCague Borlack LLP stood out from other firms. The promise of responsibility, opportunity, and support in the summer student program was backed up by endorsements from previous students and junior associates.

This was important to me because the thought of being a litigator, with full carriage of files, is intimidating. I want to be as prepared as possible for when that day comes, and the way to do that is to practice and learn as much as I can in the meantime.

Baby Steps

One of the articling students affectionately calls us “baby lawyers”, and now I understand what she means. We are baby lawyers—learning basic skills while being in an immersive and supportive environment. In the last 8 days, I have learned to crawl, and in some respects, I am already walking.

There is No “Typical” Day

There is no such thing as a typical day in the office. You never know what’s going to come through The List, or to you, personally. I realized this on my second day, when I had grand plans to sink my teeth into a very interesting file, but dropped everything to draft, serve, and file something urgent, instead.

Since then, no two days have been the same. In the last eight days, I have:
  • Drafted motion materials
  • Researched and drafted an article about legal developments in a niche area of law
  • Updated a lawyer on a file
  • Put together a book of authorities--and learned that there are designated colours for covers in the Rules of Civil Procedure. If you don’t believe me, see Rule 4.07
  • Attended arbitration and observed a cross-examination
  • Received file carriage of a small claims file
Parting Thoughts

I currently have examinations for discovery, motions, and mediations lined up, and who knows what The List will bring tomorrow. I’ve come a long way since my first day and first assignment, and I look forward to reflecting on my progress at the end of the summer. It might be too soon to tell, but I think my summer experience is preparing me well for articling, and eventually, life post-call.

Karolina I.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Team Player

The most common advice I received since entering law school has been to be a team player. The phrase “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”, became more cliché every time I heard it. I knew that teamwork would be important, but I had no idea how valuable cooperation and comradery would become.

Asking questions is imperative to producing quality work efficiently...

The seven of us students, five in Toronto and two in Ottawa, began our first-day meeting in a boardroom. “Good morning”, we all echoed. Our team had met after months of anticipation. Together we learned about docketing, motions, research and everything else we need to know in order to successfully “McCague”. Lawyers entered and left our progressively less nervous boardroom to teach us new lessons - leaving us with knowledge, wisdom, and mostly, lots to think about. I learned quickly that the team I envisioned was composed of more than the summer students battling the tasks thrown our way. Everyone at the firm has a different, but important role, we rely on each other and succeed together.

After training, we received our first assignments, and naturally had lots of questions. We freely turn to each other for input and advice — without which, we would be far more confused and less productive. While we have a great support system amongst ourselves, we save the tougher and substantive questions for the lawyers, especially the ones who gave us the assignments! Initially, I was concerned about asking too many questions, despite being assured that questions are important and encouraged. However, once I spoke one-on-one with more of my colleagues, my concerns disappeared. I learned from various lawyers that asking questions is imperative to producing quality work efficiently. One lawyer told me that it is a waste of time to sit at a desk staring at the screen and waiting for the answers to magically appear. Of course, she was absolutely correct.

While asking questions is encouraged, I, just like everyone else at the firm, still respect my colleagues’ time. Consequently, I try to never ask the same question twice. To accomplish this, I write down all the tips and explanations I am given. I now have a collection of notes with instructions from others pinned on the walls around my desk. By the end of the first day, I created an excel sheet with the instructions I was given for each task. Following the spirit of the firm, which emphasises teamwork, the summer students have decided to put our notes together and create a database with basic guides to our assignments.

The second week is coming to a close and we already have a variety of assignments to complete. The students have all agreed that one of the biggest highlights of our time so far is the diverse set of tasks that we were given. Drafting initial reports, pleadings, motion records, affidavit of documents, and damages briefs are just some of the new things we are working on, and we love it.

Yousef E.