Monday, 15 May 2017

Parting thoughts and final farewells from Toronto Students!

It almost seems inconceivable to say that we are at the end of our articling term. Ten months ago, we all sat in a boardroom on our first day of training, filled with trepidation at what the next months would bring. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that, despite our anxieties, our time spent at McCague Borlack gave us the incredible opportunity to learn and prepare for our future careers as lawyers. As an added bonus, our collective experiences throughout our articling terms have brought us closer together as a group, and helped us become what I am sure will be life-long friends.


As it is time to say goodbye to McCague Borlack (at least for the summer), we hope to leave you with a few parting thoughts before we say our final farewells!


Parting Words: Take every opportunity you can – you only get one chance to learn as an articling student. You’ll never know what you’ll enjoy until you try!

Summer Plans: Enjoying the opportunity to do absolutely nothing.


Parting Words: Work hard. Stay humble.

Summer Plans: Travel and work.


Parting Words: Seek out the work that interests you; don’t wait for it to come to you.

Summer Plans: Work! (Specifically out of our Barrie office this summer!)


Parting Words: Articling is like a rollercoaster; terrifying yet thrilling. Don’t let your fears stop you from enjoying the ride.

Summer Plans: Relax and rejuvenate!


Parting Words: Every day of the articling experience makes the next one more manageable. There’s a steep learning curve but we’ve all made it through.

Summer Plans: Hiking the West Coast Trail in BC and the Kalalau Trail in Kauai, Hawaii


Parting Words: This year has been an incredible learning experience! Greater than I could have imagined.

Summer Plans: Spending the summer at home in B.C.

Thanks for the memories MB!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Ottawa Articling Students - Personalized :)

The Ottawa Articling Students have had the opportunity to work very closely together (literally-our desks are directly across from each other!). We have had some great times and some challenging times, but we are always willing to bounce ideas off one another and help each other out.

Before we go, we would like to better introduce ourselves and give a little glimpse into our backgrounds and what we like to do for fun in Ottawa.


Growing up…

David is an Ottawa Native. He is born and raised in Orleans, Ontario, a suburb in the East of the City. David grew up in a primarily French household and went to a French high school. However, he is also completely bilingual. Prior to law school, David worked at the Canada Revenue Agency.

In his spare time…

David loves to keep active. As a former competitive hockey player, he enjoys watching his favourite hockey team, the Calgary Flames, and continues to play recreational hockey on a weekly basis. Besides hockey, is favourite sports to watch on television are Football and Baseball, although he has never played either. Go Saints! Go Jays!
David's Dog, Daisy

In the summer, you can find David in the tennis court and on the golf course or spending time with his family, friends or his adorable dog Daisy. David particularly enjoys going to concerts, and music festivals. He truly appreciates live music. Most recently, he saw the Lumineers in concert and was thoroughly impressed!

David decided to go to law school because…

David has always enjoyed problem solving. However, throughout his young life, David gravitated towards the idea of becoming a dentist, an English teacher, an accountant or a paramedic. It was not until the end of his first year of his undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa, that it occurred to him that he should become a lawyer. David thanks his older cousin for inspiring him to pursue a law degree. After hearing about the interesting experiences his cousin was afforded during his time at law school, David decided to apply and was accepted to the University of Ottawa, and the rest is history!


Growing up…

I am originally from Montreal, but I grew up in Ottawa, where I completed high school, my undergraduate degree, my master’s degree and my Juris Doctor degree. Like David, I am from the suburb of Orleans. In fact, growing up, David and I lived down the street from each other, but had unfortunately never crossed paths until we met at the office!

In my spare time,

Cassandra’s dog, Missy
I enjoy skating on the Rideau Canal and hitting the ski hills in the winter. In the summers, I enjoy working on my golf game and have been taking lessons in the hopes of sharpening my skills. I also enjoy spending time with my dog, Missy, and taking her on walks through the Gatineau Hills.

I decided to go to law school because…

Like David, I enjoy solving problems and I have always had a curiosity about the law, generally. I planned my career trajectory early, as I decided to become a lawyer in the twelfth grade. Therefore, most of my university choices were geared towards reaching this goal. Now I am about two months away from accomplishing what I set out to do in grade twelve and I couldn’t be more excited to start my career as a lawyer!

Friday, 31 March 2017

My Experiences at Settlement Conferences

During my time in Law School, I took several negotiation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) classes. In these classes, we experimented with different types of negotiating styles and strategies. Throughout my articles with MB, I have had the opportunity to apply what I learned in school to real-world scenarios and to further develop them in the context of settlement conferences. Accordingly, here are the top five lessons I have learned:

Managing client expectations can be critical....

Know your File

Knowing the ins and outs of your file will allow you to take part in meaningful discussions in order to possibly settle the file. Even if the matter doesn’t settle, I have found that knowing your file well will allow you to ask the right questions, enabling you to fill in any gaps of information in the file, which will assist you in the long run.

Put your Money where your Mouth is

The ultimate purpose of a settlement conference is to settle a matter. This will not be possible if one attends without the authority to settle. This is why it is critical for you to attend with settlement authority or with someone who has such authority. Interestingly, Rule 13.02 of the Rules of the Small Claims Court requires the party and their representative (if any) to participate in the conference either by personal attendance or by telephone/video conference.

Manage Expectations

Managing client expectations can be critical to maintaining a positive ongoing relationship with the client. I have found it fruitful to take some time prior to the settlement conference to speak with the client and go over what to expect such as the risks of going to trial and the weaknesses of the case. This discussion can make settlement much more likely to occur. For instance, when discussing the potential issues when enforcing a judgment, a client may prefer $5,000 immediately as opposed to expending further resources to collect $10,000 over a period of time.

Integrative Negotiating

I have found that this method works well for me and has led me to obtain successful results. This form of negotiating refers to uncovering the deeper interests/stakes of the parties so as to allow for a more meaningful discussion. The famous “orange” example demonstrates this model of negotiating. Specifically, two individuals are fighting over an orange. As a form of resolution, the two individuals simply split the orange in half. On the surface, this appears to be a fair deal. However, if the parties had taken the time to uncover their true interests, they would have realized that one of them only wanted the orange peel for its zest and the other wanted the orange for its juice. Had the parties employed this method they would have each gotten 100% of what they wanted rather than just 50%.

Live to Fight Another Day

I have found that sometimes a file is simply not ready to be settled. Perhaps all necessary documentation has not been exchanged or another issue has come up such as the spoliation of evidence. Therefore, rather than attempting to force settlement and risking an unfavourable settlement, it may be a better idea to obtain consent of the parties and adjourn the matter to a later date.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Assisting on a Jury Trial: A Quick Reference Guide

A month into the articling term, I was asked to assist on a three-week jury trial alongside a partner and an associate at the firm. To assist future students, I have prepared a quick reference guide that I hope will prove beneficial.

...create a reference binder for yourself of all the key documents...

Master the Background Material

To ensure you are able to assist in the best manner possible, learn the case from both a plaintiff and defence perspective. An excellent starting point is reading (and re-reading) the pre-trial memorandums prepared by both plaintiff and defence counsel. It is important to understand not only the difference of opinions of the law but also the factual details in dispute. Facts matter.

After this, create a reference binder for yourself of all the key documents, including the pre-trial memorandums, expert reports, memorandums and summaries that have been prepared by you or your colleagues. So when receiving instructions from the partner or associate, you will have quick access to key documents in order to be ready for any inquiry posed by them.

On-Call 24/7 for Each Day of the Trial

The nature of a trial means that unanticipated tasks will need to be completed before the trial commences for the day, while the trial is being held, and after the trial convenes for the day.

The partner and associate will undoubtedly be preparing well before the trial’s start-time of that day and may need assistance with the preparation of documents, or assistance with the witnesses who will be testifying later that day. As such it is imperative that you are physically accessible to assist them before they leave for the day.

Moreover, as the trial progresses throughout the day, unanticipated issues may arise. The partner or associate may take a few moments during a break to email you a quick research task. It is important that you are available, efficient, and effective during these small windows of opportunity.

When the trial convenes for the day, again be on-hand to assist the lawyer as they prepare for the following day of trial. This may include, researching points of law, drafting submissions, and preparing other court documents that will be used during the trial.

Observe & Learn

While assisting, ask the partner and/or associate, which days would be best for you to attend and observe the trial. This will allow you witness not only a part of your work come to life, but also the strong advocacy from both plaintiff and defence counsel, their interactions with the jury, and equally important, their exchanges with the trial judge.

Fortunately, I was able to witness the opening statements by the partner from our firm, as well as the senior opposing counsel, where each took a different strategic approach when addressing the jury. I also witnessed a contentious cross-examination of the plaintiff, whereby, part of the background factual research I conducted earlier in the day was used to effectively cross-examine the witness.

After three fast-paced weeks, the jury came back with a verdict in our favour!

Friday, 10 February 2017

Half-time Status Check

They say "time flies", and so it should not be surprising that the first half of our articling experience has been a whirlwind. Our mid-articling reviews provided a valuable opportunity to stop and reflect on what we've done and what we would like to do for the remainder of our time.

Each of the students have provided feedback about their experiences so far, specifically:
  1. What has been your favourite experience?
  2. What is the most valuable skill you've learned?
  3. What is something that surprised you about articling?

Karen Bernofsky

1. Drafting factums. Researching the law, coming up with the strongest argument, and writing it in the most convincing way possible. I look forward to arguing a motion based on a factum I wrote in a couple of weeks!

2. Organization. At any given time you are working on multiple files and tasks, each with their own timelines. It is essential to have a strategy for managing them.

3. How much we get to see of a file. Because we don't rotate, we often get to take on multiple tasks on the same file over time, so we really get to see it through.

Mahdi Hussein

1. Assisting with a jury trial.

2. Organization is paramount.

3. How fast things become second nature - ie. motions, drafting legal arguments etc.

Shayan Kamalie

1. Settlement conferences, because you can see the intersection between the law and realities of business.

2. Research skills.

3. Learning: specifically how much you can learn in such a short amount of time.

Cassandra Khatchikian

1. Small Claims: I enjoy running my own small claims files and have especially enjoyed attending settlement conferences with clients.

2. First Writing: I learned how important point first writing is. This skill is especially important when drafting materials such as mediation briefs, where it is important to put your strongest points front and centre to emphasize your position.

3. Balance: The biggest surprise about articling is how important it is to maintain a good work and personal life balance.

Victoria Mitrova

1. Small Claims: Being able to run my own small claims matters from start to finish.  I've really learned a lot about the thought processes that go into the various different stages of litigation.

2. To summarize things succinctly. I like to talk (and by extension write) a lot, but writing short, simple, and to the point is a much better way of getting an idea across.

3. How time flies so quickly! Because we're so involved and busy with different assignments, there hasn't been too much time to be bored.

David Perron

1. I really enjoy appearing for motions. From the preparation of well drafted motion materials, to the actual attendance and having to quickly answer any question that may be thrown at you.

2. Properly drafting either pleadings, mediation briefs and letters. This is a skill that I am continuously improving and will continue to improve for the rest of my career.

3. The opportunities we are given to learn. We get to attend court on our own and draft key legal documents, like pleadings, mediation memos, and factums.

Marla Rosenblatt-Worth

1. I enjoy attending discoveries – it's a great way to see how the evidence unfolds. Counsel must prepare questions to support their theory of the case, and the witnesses bring personality to the story.

2. Revision, revision, revision. Brevity is key.

3. I am surprised by the variety of cases that fall within insurance law. I have gained exposure to areas that I did not initially realize would be of interest to me.

Rachael Segal

1. The litigation experience. From going to discoveries to conducting an examination in aid of execution on my own, I have really loved the pace and strategy behind oral advocacy.

2. How to think on my feet! While it is important to be prepared, you can't prepare for everything and you often need to be able to respond well quickly.

3. The number of different people that you work with on a daily basis. It's great to be able to learn from everyone individually and get to see a wide range of other people's working styles.


Poll done by Karen B

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!