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!

Friday, 2 September 2016

What Happens Next? Summer Student Applications 2016

Hi There!

This is a note from MB's firm administration.

This blog is for those that applied to McCague Borlack's Summer Student Program. If that was you, Thanks! We think we have terrific opportunities for law students and are thrilled that you are interested too!

We thought this blog would be a great place to give you a complete rundown of the next steps in the Summer Student Application Procedure. So here goes...

On-Campus Interviews (OCIs)

We will be attending several Ontario law school campuses to conduct 2017 Summer Student interviews on the dates set out below:
  • Queen's University - September 21, 2016
  • University of Ottawa (Common Law) - September 22, 2016
  • Osgoode Hall Law School - October 14, 2016
  • University of Western Ontario - October 19, 2016
  • University of Windsor - October 20, 2016 
If you have applied, and your school is not listed above, we will contact you to advise whether we wish to schedule an interview with you during the November in-firm Interview Week.


Call Day

On Friday, October 28, 2016, beginning at 8:00 a.m., we will call students for whom we wish to arrange in-firm interviews.


Interview Week

Interviews will be conducted at the firm from Monday, November 7th to Wednesday, November 9th, 2016.



Offers

Offers will be communicated on November 10, 2016, at 8:00 a.m.

Read up on some of our other Student Blogs to help with your interviews. Search OCIs, fit, interviewing.  Good Luck!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Summer Student Application Tips

With the deadline for summer student applications fast approaching in many Toronto firms, here are some tips from someone who knows what firms are looking for, MB’s student coordinator, Ashley Faust.

Personalizing the cover letter to the firm...

It’s About the Right Fit

Firms are looking for a good fit. Sure your 1L grades matter, but they are not everything. It’s not just about someone who can do the work well, but about finding people who will also be happy at the firm. MB in particular hires with the hope that you will stay as an associate (all of you; the students are not in competition for limited associate positions). The best way to show that you know what you are applying for is not to make mistakes in your cover letter. That means if, like MB, the firm does not offer rotations, you shouldn’t be referring to them in your cover letter. Personalizing the cover letter to the firm, even a little, shows you’ve thought about whether you want to work there and mentioning that you spoke to someone at the firm or read their website or blog shows you cared enough to put in the research time.

Personality

Fit also comes down to personality. Firms are not all looking for the same thing and there will be some places that you will be happier than others. At MB, students get “litigation immersion” which Ashley described as a “sink or swim environment with all the life preservers and assistance you need to succeed”. In many ways, you are treated like a lawyer from day one and you will learn fast. Does the application suggest you could thrive in this program? Do your past jobs show you are a hard worker or a self-starter? Do you seem like you can work well in a team with the other students? Where reference letters are required or optional, these can help too.

Areas of Interest

Make sure the firm does what you are interested in. Not all firms do everything. MB does litigation, so if you aren’t inclined towards this, you might prefer a full-service firm with a wider variety of practice areas to try. When applying to a boutique, it’s ok if you have done things that show an interest in other areas of law. That said, your application should show some interest in that firm’s area. For litigation, there are a lot of ways to show interest, whether that is working at a clinic, mooting, or taking relevant classes.

Don’t Shy Away From What Makes You Interesting

Include the interesting things about you. Even if your application is not the strongest, the firm may meet with you just to meet a former professional ukulele player. At the very least, it will give you something to talk about in an interview.

2016 Summer Students have left the building...

The 2016 Summer Students are gone, but only until articles - they are all coming back next fall! They have left us with some final words of (new found) wisdom...
  1. Best thing about your summer at MB
  2. Best piece of advice given this summer
  3. Best field trip/and or assignment
  4. What you wish you'd known at the beginning of the summer term
  5. Best place for lunch
-----------------------------

T o r o n t o 

Mark Borgo
  1. The people.
  2. Work in as many practices areas as possible.
  3. Attending a motion to strike.
  4. The Rules of Civil Procedure.
Melissa Parravano
  1. The culture and the people.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  3. Working on small claims matters.
  4. Civ Pro!
  5. Fresh West
Emily Kostandoff
  1. Working in a professional and stimulating work environment to solve client problems. No in-school simulation can replicate what it is like out here in the real world – you truly learn most by doing.
  2. Seek advice and be inquisitive.
  3. Attended a motion for summary judgment. I was the one who had drafted these documents for the moving party. It was exciting to see my work product in the hands of the motions judge.
  4. I would have been happy to know about just how varied my summer term would be. Each day brings new challenges, which keeps me engaged and interested in the work I have been assigned. 
Gabriela Caracas
  1. Being able to apply what I learned at school and meeting great people
  2. Stay organized and prioritize.
  3. Discoveries and drafting the ED report.
  4. Lawyers have different styles and preferences on how to complete an assignment.
Michelle Legault
  1. Meeting a great group of students and being able to learn the ropes of litigation together.
  2. Always seek clarification about something if you are unsure – don’t be afraid to ask questions!
  3. Research on regulatory offences and quasi-criminal work.
  4. Everyone will have a different way of doing things – don’t assume that there is one right way only.
  5. Crave or Picnic – I can’t decide!
Taskeen Abdul-Rawoof
  1. The friendly and supportive people at MB made my summer experience enjoyable and I learned a lot under the lawyers' mentorship and guidance.  
  2. To ensure the lawyers are happy with your work product and to save time, ask questions regarding their preferences or the scope of the assignment (formatting, length, the amount of time to be spent on the assignment, asking for precedents, etc.)
  3. A pre-trial for a case that was highly publicized in the media, and for which I worked on  several related research assignments.
  4. How varied the work would be and that there is no 'one' way of doing things. This was a perfect opportunity to learn from different lawyers, and get confidence in developing our own style.
  5. The burrito bowls at FreshWest are great! 

O t t a w a 


Jessica Margeit
  1. The people!
  2. Ask lots of questions, you’re here to learn.
  3. I had the opportunity to go to a settlement conference on my own.
  4. Take it all in because 12 weeks go by fast!
  5. Bier Markt
Alexander Steffan
  1. Having opportunities, that I would never have thought possible for a summer student, to tackle files “hands on”
  2. Do not rush anything. The focus is rather on accuracy and correctness, rather than speed. The more you do a task the faster you get at it.
  3. Having the opportunity to go to an Examination for Discovery, and observe the process in action.
  4. One word: Precedents.
  5. Pretty much anywhere on Sparks Street. It’s only one block away!