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:

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...


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.


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 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.


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!

Friday, 12 August 2016

They can't teach you this in law school: Litigation as a vocation

In law school, one learns the law. We learn the black letter legal principles, strategies, and the art of legal analysis. Specifically, law students learn how to examine a particular set of facts, apply the common law, and come up with a determination of the potential and likely outcomes. However, what law school does not teach you is the vocational aspect of litigation practice. Not surprisingly, since the beginning of my summer with McCague Borlack, I have had many opportunities to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of litigation; things you simply can't learn in a classroom.

There is a significant amount of strategy involved in the litigation process that is fact specific...

One learns best by doing, for example:
  1. There is a significant amount of strategy involved in the litigation process that is fact specific, and therefore is tailored to each individual case. Based on my observation of the senior lawyers, this process has almost become muscle memory to them and has given me a goal to strive for.
  1. In my first week, I was given the incredibly daunting task of analyzing a file with thousands of documents on short notice. Through the assistance of the lead lawyer and support staff, I was shown efficient tricks of the trade in order to effectively tackle and complete this task prior to its due date.
  1. The first time I had to write a Statement of Defence, it seemed like it would be easy enough, right? Well, not quite... Drafting a legal document involves more than just knowledge of the law and excellent proofreading skills. You also need to understand the strategy of how the pleading is written and what should be included. My mentor reviewed my first attempt, and  discussed with me what strategy she thought to take. This method taught me how to examine particular facts beyond legal liability, and to approach each case individually.
compliments of freedigitalphotos - basketman

They don't teach you this in law school.

During my time here at the firm, I have been fortunate to have been given tasks that involve knowing more than just the Rules of Civil Procedure and the law. Through the valuable feedback of my mentors and the “hands on” nature of my work, I have learned a great deal about the process of litigation, and this mentorship has been invaluable to my evolving legal skill set.

However, one thing is certain, I still have a lot to learn.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Reality Check: With OCIs around the corner...

I thought I would take the time to write a blog that touches on my OCI experience and give you a glimpse of reality now that I am midway through the summer. I still get chills reminiscing about all of the stress and excitement during the summer and fall of 2015.

I wanted an experience where I was able to work hands-on with files and gain exposure to different areas of law.

During applications for OCIs, I read, for what seemed like days, about all of the opportunities that firms are willing to offer their summers students. I learned very quickly from past summer students that not all of these touted opportunities are a reality. Many students spoke of doing one single task for the entire summer, whether it was endless research or summarizing records all day long. I did not want this to happen to me. I wanted an experience where I was able to work hands-on with files and gain exposure to different areas of law. Without sending caution to the wind, I spoke further with some students who expressed their array of learning experiences at one firm, in particular, McCague Borlack, and I thought to myself, 'this firm sounds like a perfect fit for me!'

Needleless to say, after 7.5 weeks I can confirm that the student experience and opportunities that MB promotes for its summer students, is bang on. In less than two months, not only have I had the opportunity to work closely with partners on files, but I have also had carriage of my own small claims court files and even became published! How is this possible in only 7.5 weeks? The key is the firm’s teamwork mentality; working closely with lawyers has given me the opportunity to have real responsibility. The firm really does promote a “learn through experience” environment.

Throughout the summer I have been assigned an assortment of tasks, some with tight deadlines and some with deadlines that will outlive my summer here. I have been able to attend court proceedings and watch my work be put into action. I’ve even performed some delivery law, which provides students with the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the court system.

The atmosphere at McCague Borlack definitely centres on training students and giving us the tools we need to prepare for articling. I can see why MB prides themselves on the work quality of their young lawyers since they are not only shown the ropes but also given the opportunity to test them out.