Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Legal Tech Talk

The application of technology is important in practicing law, from researching cases to organizing your meetings, and managing your files. MB prides itself on embracing technology which, in part, drew me to working here.

I have been particularly interested in how new technology can complement established practices for managing files.

It’s true that I have an old-school soul. My favourite band is Depeche Mode, I collect vintage apparel, and I long for 80s-style frosted flakes. Yet, I am also a self-proclaimed techie. I have been particularly interested in how new technology can complement established practices for managing files.

So, the following is how I have put to use some older features of my tablet in my legal world.

Snap

Like many, I love using a whiteboard for brainstorming. However, on any given day, I usually have multiple projects that I’d like to use the whiteboard for. Erasing my drawings for one project to make room for another would mean I would lose notes and visuals along the way. This is where my tablet comes in handy. I simply take a photo of my whiteboard notes (yes, the tablet camera can be used for more than just selfies), and save the picture in a designated folder. I can also print and file the visuals to my matter’s physical research folder, when necessary.

More recently, I came across a Whiteboard App for my tablet that is fantastic! See Splashtop Whiteboard.

Check, Check

I use my tablet’s voice recorder to brainstorm, and synthesize ideas, particularly when I am preparing research memos. Using a voice recorder, rather than typing or writing, allows me to capture ideas more quickly. I find that my ideas tend to flow more naturally when I use a voice recorder. Rather than using a traditional voice recorder, I’ve been using my tablet. The tablet's microphone, paired with the right apps, becomes extremely valuable in creating and managing voice memos.

You can easily find apps that allow you to record, name recordings, organize them into folders, and even attach photos to your recording (which can be very useful when you are brainstorming with your whiteboard). There are even apps that will automatically transcribe your voice recordings into text form! See Coffee Bean Ventures or Dragon Mobile Assistant.

Click

As you will see when you start articling, writing down instructions from assigning lawyers and clients is a regular part of your day. My problem is that, often, when I get back to my desk, I have trouble reading my notes; my penmanship is utterly atrocious. I’ve remedied this by typing on a Bluetooth-enabled keyboard which attaches by magnet to my tablet. Being smaller than a laptop, the tablet-keyboard combo is a discreet and less distractive way to bring a fully functioning computer into meetings with your assigning lawyer or client. In addition, I find the smaller keyboard allows me to reach keys more quickly, enabling quicker note taking.

Explore

The legal industry is quickly evolving. Now is the time for us, as regular consumers of new technology, to implement these tools into our practice. Apps and new tech gear, such as tablets, can increase your efficiency, organization, and, let’s not forget, enjoyment. Take a leap and explore these tools early in your career, before your practice gets busier. Hey, if they don’t work out, you can always go old-school with sticky notes, pen and paper.
Shivaan dS.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Changing the Face of Men’s Health: “McCague Mos”

November is a unique month at MB. With summer well behind us, everyone is in full swing getting ready for year’s end, what with closing files and planning Christmas parties. But the most important part of the month is the new facial feature evident throughout the city. From court rooms to boardrooms, the newly grown lip toupees’ belonging to gentlemen across Toronto and the world marks the welcoming of Movember. At MB, McCague Mo’s, our Movember team, was back in action and ready to take on the mustachioed world.


With 8 dedicated members of the firm, including yours truly, donating their upper lips to support the fight against prostate cancer, and the entire firm making donations to support this valiant effort, McCague Mo’s managed to raise over $1,700 during Movember.

The sense of team camaraderie that I experienced with my fellow Mo Brothers and Sisters, as we all united for one noble, although fuzzy, cause, truly formed a bond that will extend until long after our mo’s have been rinsed down the drain. Our weekly photos quickly turned into sessions of storytelling about tasks that would normally seem routine, but have taken on a whole new life due to our Mos; previously mundane conversations now end with “is it itchy yet?” and a previously quick walk to a lawyers’ office is now surely interrupted by the snickering of others.

...being able to relax and partake in non law related extracurricular activities is essential.

Spending the amount of time that lawyers and students do at the office, being able to relax and partake in non law related extracurricular activities is essential. In the combined 8 months I have been at MB, I have participated in Movember, played with the firm’s softball team, competed in a charity volleyball tournament and attended the firm’s annual US Thanksgiving football party. These activities not only allow a break from day to day life at the office, but also allow me to get to know my coworkers outside of their professional jobs. This, in turn, leads to the forming of friendships, something that directly contributes to happiness while at work.

Although Movember is now over, its memory, and the contribution we all made to this worthwhile cause, will not be forgotten. Further, the experiences enjoyed with my peers truly contribute to a work environment that fosters friendships and collegiality alike.

Everyone ready for Decembeard?
Dave O.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

A Few of My Favourite Things… Holiday Wish List

from free digital photos - feelartIt doesn't show signs of stopping, so I've brought some ideas for shoppin’. And since we've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

The weather outside is indeed frightful, so I have had to master the PATH for getting place to place. While this subterranean labyrinth at one time terrified me, it has now become my refuge from the ice-wind tunnels that blast between the skyscrapers.

Frost bitten cheeks aside, I have to say, this is  one of my favourite times of year! Not only are all the Bay Street lobbies rivaling each other with festive trees and holiday garlands, MBers are even adding a personal touch to their workspaces! And mastering the PATH has given me great ideas for this week’s blog: gift ideas for favourite current or future articling students!

Articling students at this time of year might be too busy to properly clothe themselves, scrimping to pay off those law school loans, or even saving up to buy presents for the people who helped them get to where they are today. So, it may be nice to give or get something a little special that will be equal in panache and practicality. To help you buy for a friend or create your own list, the following is some of my favourite things:

To help you buy for a friend or create your own list, the following is a few of my favourite things...

  1. Tote with Wheels – great for weekend trips, commutes to various courts in the city and province, and when you need to take a little work home.
  1. Stylish Flats – let’s face it, running shoes paired with suit or dress just isn’t going to cut it. But running to court or around the office in a pair of heels is a liability, and articling students need to stay in tip-top shape for six more months!
  1. Gym Membership or Gift Certificate for a massage – this will keep busy articling students in at the top their game mentally and physically.
  1. Handsome Portfolio – we are always jotting things down on our note pads, might as well look good doing it!     
  1. Mug of Epic Proportions – whether it is full of coffee, tea, or smoothies, it will come in handy for long days.
  1. Chic Toiletry Bag – with a tooth brush, hair brush, hand cream, and other goodies, this is nice to have if you are on a big project, a windy trip to the courthouse, or onions in your lunch.      
  1. Top Coat / Pea Coat – when the seasons start to transition, and you reach for the big coat you used to wear back and forth to class, it might become apparent that you do not have the most industry appropriate outerwear. You, present or future worker bee, might need an addition to your winter collection.
  1. Tablets – for those with bigger budgets, tablets are great for note taking and reading from the couch, on the train, while in a meeting, etc. There are all kinds of helpful apps specifically designed for lawyers. Plus they double as a fun gadget you can kick back with around the holidays!
Keep bringing on the holiday cheer!! And let it snow!
Emily C.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Good Morning Your Honour… Court Appearances 101

One of the best parts of being a law student at MB is the amount of courtroom experience we get. From very early on, we attend settlement conferences, motions and if the files do not end up settling, we will even run our own trials. Now, I cannot speak to running my own trial (yet), but in the first three months of articling, I have already attended 3 settlement conferences and over 10 motions. The best part? For all of these appearances, the supervising lawyers have trusted me enough to attend on my own.

The key... with a settlement conference is the Deputy Judge will want to know what you are prepared to offer to the other side.

As summer students, our first solo appearances were attending settlement conferences for the Small Claims Court files we had carriage of. The key fact to remember with a settlement conference is the Deputy Judge will want to know what you are prepared to offer to the other side. Regardless of how much settlement authority your client has given you, it is your job as your client’s advocate to make your position and offer appealing to both the court, and the opposing party (even if your best [and most reasonable] offer is to go out without costs).

As articling students, although we still attend settlement conferences, I have found that the majority of my solo court appearances have been attending motions. While the Law Society restricts what kind of motions articling students may speak to (for good reason), we are still able to deal with a host of interesting issues. As always, the key to good advocacy is being well prepared (especially with motions). Never assume that the Master or Judge has (a) read your materials, and (b) will automatically agree with your position; so prepare for both possibilities. Identify the issues ahead of time with your supervising lawyer, and know how to address them. Be prepared to explain all of the supporting evidence in the affidavit to the Judge/Master, and be prepared for the Judge/Master to not give you the relief you sought, and/or to require you to return with a different draft Order. That day. Typed. Think about these things ahead of time, when you have the time to prepare an alternate draft Order, or to review the affidavit so you can speak to the issues without fumbling through the motion record. If you are nervous, or if it is one of your first motions, script out your introduction (good morning Master, my name is Caverson, first initial A, here for the plaintiff), and have a bullet point list of information you need to address.

image from free digital photos http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
If you have to remember one thing about appearing in court, remember to prepare in advance. If you have reviewed your material, you know what has happened on the file, and you know what you need to get (from the court or opposing party) at the end of the day, you will be just fine.

Also, don’t forget to breathe.
Alyssa C.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Power of Preparation

The time is 9:10 am. The room is filled with professionals of all ages, sitting around tables with notepads open, pens poised, and coffees steaming. With a few taps on the microphone, all attention swivels to the front of the room where nine people sit around a u-shaped table. As they take a last look at their notes, the mediator begins to speak and they all settle in for the morning’s show…

...we learned just how much work goes into preparing for mediation – real or staged.

No, these are not the stage directions for a new play in town, but rather how I spent a morning last week. A month ago, an email went out around the firm that one of the partners was putting on a mediation advocacy seminar and would anyone like to volunteer to participate. The articling students jumped at the opportunity to partake, and, along with a few of the associates, we learned just how much work goes into preparing for mediation – real or staged.

At our first prep meeting for the mock mediation, it was stressed that preparation was the key to doing a good job. We needed to learn our roles, be they as clients or counsel, know what our goals and motivations are, and prepare for how we would react when information we didn’t necessarily want to come out came out.

I myself was playing a particularly unhinged client, lying to herself, her lawyer, and her employer. My character had gone to Jamaica with her boyfriend while on Short Term Disability, and had lied about her troubled history with drugs, alcohol, and the law on her job application. She wanted to keep her job, but more than that, she wanted to feel vindicated in the decisions she had made.

As I learned more about my character and how I wanted to present her I realized that the kind of investigation I was doing was the same I would need to do if I was representing her instead of simply playing her at mediation. In order to be a good advocate, it would not be enough to just replicate the pleadings and take information at face value into mediation.

FreeDigitalPhotos.net  ddpavumba
And so as the mediation unfolded and we each played our parts – intentionally flawed to show the pitfalls of styles perfectly acceptable in the truly adversarial courtroom setting – we all felt the power of preparation taking over. When information we were unaware of was presented to us, we were able to respond convincingly. When the mediator asked questions that went three or four levels deep about our motivations, we were able to give plausible explanations. While the rave reviews at the end of the seminar were heartening (it was suggested we take the show on the road!), what we really took away was that there simply is no substitute to being well prepared.
Kati A.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Surf's Up... Are you ready?

Disclaimer: Contrary to the above misleading title, the following is not about my experiences surfing in Ottawa.

I liken my first few months articling to my time surfing in Australia. I get the same pangs of excitement and nervous energy waiting for new assignments to come in as I do sitting on my board in a calm ocean, waiting for a set of waves to roll in. Every wave, like every assignment, is different, with its own set of challenges. You just don’t know what you’ll get until it arrives. That being said, you never want to be getting in the water without stacking the odds in your favour to make sure that you are able to perform confidently in the moment.

"You need a workflow tracking system that can save you from drowning in files."

Prepare for the Wave

You select the right gear and track the water conditions ahead of time so you are sure to take on waves that you can handle. Taking on new assignments is no different. You need a workflow tracking system that can save you from drowning in files.

At MB, we are very lucky to be given a high level of responsibility and even full carriage of our own files. While we have a great support network, through our Ottawa and Toronto offices, we are expected to keep on top of things, and when asked to take on an assignment, we’re all too familiar with assigning lawyers’ four magical words, “Do you have capacity?” Finding a tracking/tickler system has been key for me or I would be taking on more (or less) than I can handle. At each moment, I need to know each of my assignment’s outstanding tasks, its deadline as well as priority amongst other assignments. Keeping track would be daunting without a solid system in place.

Tried & True
Using Outlook’s calendar to manage assignment deadlines has been great, but for anything more than that, I needed to find an additional system. In my first week of articling, I prepared for the inevitable rush of assignments by testing various tracking systems. I tested out firm systems used by various lawyers and students from the Ottawa and Toronto offices including spreadsheets, tickler apps, scheduling apps and Outlook’s task manager. At one point I felt like the Rain Man of file management, and it got too complicated. So I simplified my approach and reverted to a ‘system’ I used during law school. It is a combination of the firm’s Practice Manager, my Outlook Calendar and some written lists.

FreeDigitalPhotos.net by sdmania
Here is my advice to Law Student Groms (that’s surf lingo for young budding surfers), who are preparing for articling; find a tracking system that works best for you and consider how it can be applied in the future. When you start at the firm, put your system in place as early as possible so when your articling term picks up momentum and the rush of files comes through your door, you will be ready.

Catching a wave (aka new file), can be daunting, but if prepared, you will be able to handle what’s to come with confidence. As it approaches, take a deep breath; find your courage, commit, and find the sweet spot for what inevitably will be the ride of your life. To quote one of the greats, Michael Angelo (the Ninja Turtle) “Cowabunga!”
Shivaan dS. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

If I could turn back time...

Even looking back to two months ago, before we were entrenched in attending settlement conferences or mediations, meeting with clients or presenting at seminars, or whether it’s just keeping up with the day to day carriage of our files, and doing it all, here are a couple things that I have learned that I wish I would have known before:

Here are a couple things that I have learned that I wish I would have known before...

1. No matter how confident you are in your case, opposing counsel usually feels the same way.

Now that I have been to a few settlement conferences and mediations, I have learned a lesson that all lawyers inevitably already know; opposing counsel usually thinks that they are just as right as you think you are. Now that I have come to this realization, I have increased my focus during preparation on better understanding what angle and approach the other side might take. Not only does this help me in determining deficiencies in my own case that I need to address (better I address it than have opposing counsel bring it up in court) but it also allows me to anticipate, and thus better respond to, the arguments that will be made against me.

2. If you’re not over prepared, you’re under prepared

The juggling act that we engage in before every appearance truly is a spectacle. We must be able to balance our time with our need to be fully prepared, and further with our need to act in a cost effective, yet efficient manner. However, after watching Masters refuse to grant various ex parte motions because counsel either could not provide answers to basic questions about their case or because they neglected to ensure that their pleadings were in accordance to the Rules, it appears that this problem doesn’t disappear once you are called to the bar. Being well prepared is a virtue, and although it may take some additional time upfront, in the long term it will almost always save you time, stress, and last minute research.

3. Lawyers are real people, in fact, so are partners

Now that we have experience working alongside partners and associates alike, the initial feeling of horror that we experienced when having to ask partners or senior lawyers a question is gone. Although they have significantly more experience and are much busier than us, they have no problem in answering even our most basic questions. An equally important finding is that as with most people, Partners have a sense of humour! For example, as I was sitting in a partner's office getting instructions on an assignment, he pointed to a stack of 10+ banker boxes next to me and said “that’s all the material for this file that you’ll need” just to laugh at the look of terror on my face (the file was in fact neatly stored into only 6 banker boxes).

FreeDigitalPhotos.net
4. Take a map whenever you walk in Toronto's PATH

At least once a week you will hear me say “I swear it was right here yesterday!” I can now draft complicated factums, argue motions and successfully attend settlement conferences, but I still cannot figure out where Yogen Fruz is!


With eight more months to the articling term, I can’t even imagine what else I will look back on and say ‘ if only I knew…”
David O.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Not Hired? - OCIs - Toronto 2nd Year Recruit

As I write this, I know that many law students are going through On-Campus Interviews (OCIs) as an important stage in the Toronto second-year recruit process overseen by the Law Society of Upper Canada (the “Toronto Recruit”). For the average person, this process is considered stressful. For hyper-competitive, over-achieving, type-A law students, this process and the fallout in its wake can unhinge even the most resilient of us. Although we are only separated by two years, I am hoping to provide some helpful advice to those who did not apply or were not hired.

If you did not get one of those jobs, there are more jobs available to you.

I won´t sugar-coat it; the time for mass hiring of law students by Toronto law firms is over.  So, yes, one process is down but there are still other processes to follow.  If you did not get one of those jobs, there are more jobs available to you.  So let’s make a plan.

TASK 1 - Confirm Deadlines
Confirm the deadlines for the other recruiting processes. It would be a shame to miss out on a great job because you missed the deadline to send in your application.

TASK 2 - Focus on School
If you applied, you may have invested a substantial amount of time into the Toronto Recruit. You should make sure that you are caught up with your classes.

TASK 3 - Recover
 If you have been bounced from the Toronto Recruit, you need to recover. Relax. Do something that makes you happy. Get yourself into a good place before you put your best foot forward.

TASK 4 - Apply
Yes, apply. But where? It is a common misconception that there are only two recruits worth applying to: the Toronto Recruit and the Toronto articling recruit. This could not be further from the truth. In between these recruits, you can continue to apply to smaller Toronto firms for second year jobs, in addition to applying in London, Ottawa, and other firms in smaller cities. Next, you can apply for articling positions through formal articling recruits in Windsor, Kitchener and Waterloo, London, and Ottawa before the articling recruit in Toronto. This gives you several opportunities to apply widely.

Connections
If you are applying to a firm in a smaller city, make sure to highlight any connections you have to the region. Clearly indicate the nature of your connection; perhaps your family lives there (or did), you lived there while in school, and/or you worked in the area, etc. If it looks like you want to run to Toronto as soon as your articling term is over, a firm will not want to invest in you. Smaller centres have a lot to offer young lawyers and should not be ignored.

Research or Volunteer
If you are dead-set on Toronto, but are ultimately unable to find a second year position with a firm in the Toronto Recruit, you still have options available to you. You may be able to find employment as a researcher for a professor or as a case worker at a legal clinic. If all else fails, offer to volunteer at a law firm or legal clinic. The experience and references that you gain will make you more competitive in the upcoming articling recruit. While there are lots of jobs in the formal Toronto articling recruit, I know many law students who found positions long after it was over. Ask your career services department at school for help keeping on top of positions as they become available.

Overall, the majority of you who are looking will find jobs between now and the start of the articling term. While living with uncertainty can be stressful, there are many opportunities in front of you. I wish you the best of luck as you explore them.
Eric K.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

OCI Speed Interviews - A Survival Guide

Thoroughly revised resumes, a conference centre full of curtain enclosed cubicles, nervous law students pacing hallways, announcers broadcasting “your 17 minutes are up,” and here you are – in the middle of OCIs – a.k.a. On Campus Interviews. It is that time of year again.

OCIs are often likened
to speed-dating where interviewers from forty
or more Toronto firms await eager law students who have mere minutes
to wow them.

OCIs are often likened to speed-dating where interviewers from forty or more Toronto firms await eager law students who have mere minutes to wow them. As anyone can imagine, preparation is not only necessary for each firm’s interview, but also for surviving the day. As you are competing with classmates, and your family is bewildered by the concept of “speed-interviewing”, planning for OCI’s is very isolating. So, I surveyed my fellow MB articling students, who all snapped up a summer gig at MB through their OCIs, and here is some seasoned advise to all OCI-ing students.
  1. Talk to upper year students and students at the firm. This is No. 1 for a reason. Students are a goldmine and this simple task will impart a wealth of information about the firm’s personality and focus. Whether the student was successful or not, they may have useful information on the firm, the interviewers, or questions asked.
  1. Be prepared with answers. Some of their questions will be standard and you can look them up on any recruiting site. Read up and prepare. Some firms ask abstract or philosophical questions, such as “tell us something about yourself that is not on your resume,” so it is good to anticipate these too.
  1. Also have questions prepared. Never under-estimate the importance of your questions back. Don’t be shy, questions reveal to them where your interests lay and could give you important answers about the firm.
  1. Do not necessarily talk to the interviewers like they are your parents' friends. I was advised to many times but I am very comfortable around my parents’ friends so it wouldn’t work for me. So while you should try to appear and feel comfortable in the interview, be careful not to be too casual. Always err on the side of professional.
  1. Get a good night’s sleep and wake up early. If you are not a morning person, like me, you should leave yourself a lot of time in the morning to really wake up. Read the newspaper or similar task to oil the gears in your brain and get them churning.
  1. Get your facts straight! Make sure you don’t mix up the facts about each firm. An articling student recalled a horror OCI story where he went on for 5 minutes praising a firm’s rotation system, which did not exist. Keep notes on each firm and study them before you go in. Remember, talking to the upper years and articling students about their firms will be the best resources for creating your notes.
  1. Know every line of your resume and prepare a ‘story’ for each one. Some interviewers will ask about obscure or even mundane parts of your resume, so you have to be prepared to wow them with each and every part, and of course, ensure everything is true!
  1. Be yourself and enjoy it. You get to talk about yourself for the entire day! Despite the fact that it is competitive and intimidating, OCIs can be a lot of fun. You have worked hard to get here, now it’s time to show it off. You are awesome and the interviewers want to know why. Sell yourself, but be careful not to cross into over-confidence.
  1. Pack snacks. OCIs can be exhausting, so it’s important to keep your energy levels up! Bringing some healthy snacks such as an apple, almonds, and/or a power bar will really help you stay at the top of your game.
  1. Smile and relax. It’s just a job!
Good Luck everyone and happy OCI-ing! I hope to see you in November!
Emily C.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Balancing Act

One of the most common phrases I heard in law school was “If you think you are busy now, just wait until you start articling – you will have no life!” I tried to ignore these negative cautions but was still more than a little apprehensive that I would have give up my life for the next 10 months to eat, sleep, and breathe at the office.

"...the key to maintaining a balance is learning how to manage your time efficiently in the office, so that you can get out of the office and back into the other aspects of your life."

Thankfully, my experience at MB has not been reflective of all the negative stereotypes surrounding articles. Although all articling students work hard (those of us at MB are no exception), we are also able and encouraged to find time to “play” and enjoy our lives. Personally, I find the key to maintaining a balance is learning how to manage your time efficiently in the office, so that you can get out of the office and back into the other aspects of your life. This is still something I have yet to master, (and I have definitely had to put plans with friends and family on hold because of work) but I am trying hard to find that perfect balance.

In order to have the life I want outside of work, I need to be aware of my own time limits when accepting work and keep in mind my goals for balance. While I want to take on as many assignments as I can and go to court as much as possible, it’s also important that I schedule in some “me” time, including horse-back riding, running, and dinner and drinks with friends. The most challenging balancing act I have faced so far was being in court for 3 full days last week. While it was a fantastic learning experience, being out of the office most of the day meant I needed to stay late each night after court, to keep on top of the rest of my work. So this week, while I was in court for my first (and second!) motion, because I knew what I could manage and worked around the schedule I set for myself, I was able to stay on top of my work and make it out of the office for dinner.

The bottom line is that while there are never enough hours in the day, time management is a skill we all need in order to succeed in this demanding profession. While I think law students generally overreact to the expectations of articling (as they do with other things, has anyone else been following the saga of pineapple appreciation at Osgoode?), the life of a lawyer requires long hours (and some sacrifices) and articling is no different. Creating a successful balance will allow you to enjoy all the things that matter most to you. Tonight, I have tickets to Avicii; tomorrow, I will be summarizing transcripts.
Alyssa C.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Off come the Training Wheels (regarding Client Contact)...

At the conclusion of our first month as full-fledged ‘students-at-law’, there have been many firsts for us articling students: the first time we successfully printed off a batch of labels, the first time we discovered that must-eat treat in the PATH (Prairie Girl cupcakes are both the best and ‘worst’ thing that have ever happened to me), or the first time we figured out how to set multiple timers on the computer docketing system. I have to say, however, that the most memorable first was also one of the most frightening: my first file working directly with a client as the main contact.

"McCague Borlack is exceptionally open to allowing its students to interact with clients..."

Let me explain. McCague Borlack is exceptionally open to allowing its students to interact with clients, whether it be via email or in person at a firm event. When I summered with the firm last year, I was in constant communication with clients, providing them with updates on files or assessments on the chances of success of a file; however, all of those missives went through a vetting process with an associate or partner at the firm before I hit ‘send’.

Last week I was introduced via telephone to a client whose file I would be handling. The lawyer told the client my name, where I had gone to school (Queen’s pride, woo), and that I would be their direct contact for the file going forward. What was so unique about this most recent interaction was that the next time I communicated with the client, I would be doing it without the safety net of a supervising lawyer. By that I mean, my supervising lawyer will still be available to discuss the file and answer any and all questions, however, I will be the face of the firm for the client.

Fortunately, we were in the lawyer’s office when this news was announced, and not at a client meeting, so I had the opportunity to get over my initial trepidation prior to meeting the client face to face. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to work with this person and have the opportunity to take on more responsibility at the office. It was just…like riding a bike without training wheels for the first time: exhilarating and terrifying. Now that I’ve had a few days to let the knowledge settle in, that I am the person this client will contact with questions or information about the file, I’ve become much more exhilarated than terrified (which, incidentally, was the same for the bike ride).

As I write this, I have a settlement conference coming up with this same client, where I will meet them face to face and represent them before a deputy judge. I am determined that I will be prepared, professional, and poised when this happens.
Kati A.

Monday, 9 September 2013

What it's like…

The first day back for articles was busy and filled with heartfelt greetings from colleagues I hadn't seen since my stint as a summer student the year before. After the first week of a thorough orientation from Ashley, the guru and student mentor, we were deep in the trenches of challenging legal work.

Now, a month later and 150 billable hours behind me, I am grateful for the opportunity to write the first Student-at-Law blog and reflect on what it's like… articling at MB.

"I decided the best course of action would be to serve a formal Offer to Settle and that's exactly what we did."

Autonomy

From the beginning I was assigned carriage of files and, under the supervision of a partner, trusted to take the necessary steps to protect the best interests of our clients. My first file was defending an insurance company against a self-represented litigant. I decided the best course of action would be to serve a formal Offer to Settle and that's exactly what we did. And it is in this respect to which I speak when I say that as an Articling student I am valued and entrusted with a lot of autonomy and a high level of responsibility.

File Completion

With the articling term being 10 months vs. 2 for summer students, it was exciting to realize I have a better chance to see several of my files through to completion. For instance, I was given a new subrogation matter and issued a claim; since then a defense has been filed and a settlement conference date has been set. To think, before articling is over, this case - and hopefully several others like it - will be settled and closed! It's very rewarding to assist a client right through from beginning to end.

Quality of Work

Again due to the longer work term, I have the opportunity to contribute to large, multi-million dollar, law suits. More importantly, I have the chance to tackle complicated legal issues and challenging fact patterns involving many parties. More time allows for deeper and more thorough analysis, therefore gaining me access to a much higher quality of work than ever before.

Articling is a whole new adventure with a brand new set of challenges. It is exciting and rewarding and I can't wait to see what other interesting work I get assigned in the coming months.
Justin A.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Passing of the baton...


While it has been an amazing summer filled with new experiences, hard work, and a lot of fun, it is now time for us to return to our last year of law school and pass the student blog "baton" over to the new articling students who have returned to MB - Justin, Alyssa, Emily, David, Kati and Shivaan.

They are a great bunch and we cannot wait to follow their articling adventures over the next 10 months!

In the words of legendary anchorman Ron Burgundy, we sign off with, "Stay Classy" MB followers...

Here's a last look at us until next year! (Graphics done by Sean)





Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Summer of 2013 - Memorable Moments

With only a week left, I thought I would give the students a chance to list some of their best memories from this amazing summer for this week's blog.

We have had a lot of laughs and experiences this summer and want to share them with our MB blog readers!

Enjoy!   Sean V.

Q1. What skill have you developed this summer that will help you in your career? ...open

Q2. What is the best assignment you have worked on this summer? ...open

Q3. What was your best "field trip" this summer? ...open

Q4. Sum up your summer experience in one sentence? ...open

Q5. What was your most memorable moment of the summer? ...open

Monday, 12 August 2013

A student’s experience - Haiku style

When my time to write the student blog came, I decided to take a different approach than the other students. So  I wrote a number of haiku* [hahy-koo] to document the range of emotions that I felt throughout the summer.

*Haiku was originally developed by Japanese poets – written in 17 syllables, divided into 3 lines of 5, 7 and 5 beats  – use sensory language to capture a feeling or image. They are often inspired by an element of nature, a moment of beauty or a poignant experience.



The Willing Student

Josh, go get this done
Yes sir, I’ll do that motion
Wait… what’s a motion?

Commentary: Thankfully the lawyers will answer all your questions, even if it is “what’s a motion?”


Doing Good Work

You did a great job
I made a couple edits
Rewrote the whole thing

Commentary: Everybody makes mistakes and has their work reviewed.  It should not make you second guess yourself or lose confidence.  Just take the criticism with a grain of salt and learn from your mistakes.


The Impossible Task

I know they’re in there
Look through brief just one more time
Want to tear out eyes!

Commentary: Some tasks may seem impossible.  If you take a step back, rethink your approach and work hard you can do anything, even if it seems impossible.  I eventually did find what I was looking for!


My Greatest Fear (Friday before long weekend)

Almost finished work
Hey, I need some help with this
Due Tuesday Morning

Commentary: Thankfully my greatest fear never happened.


Getting Better
Finished some research
Expecting to do much more
I’m told it’s perfect

Commentary: Always be confident in your abilities.  More often than not your work is praised, helpful, and it makes a difference.


Support Staff

Don’t know what to do
I wonder who I should ask
Support staff knows all

Commentary: There are so many resources at MB.  Some of the most valuable resources at the firm are the assistants, paralegals, and support staff. 


The Student Assignment Rotation
Up next on the list
Wait in anticipation
Sit in on cool case

Commentary: Being next on the student list can be intimidating because you don’t know what kind of assignment you are going to get next.  At MB, you get a wide variety of assignments that are actually very interesting.



Coming to an end

It happened so quick
I only have 3 weeks left
Work hard and time flies

Commentary: It is unbelievable how quickly time flies when you’re working hard.  I can’t believe the summer is almost over.  I’ve learned so much, had so much fun, and can’t wait to take on the challenge of articling.


I hope that you enjoyed them!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Carriage of my first file

Receiving an email from a senior partner is daunting enough but when I read “You have been assigned this small claims file” I had to do a double take – Did I really just get a file all my own? I was nervous and excited at the same time for this chance to prove myself, and I was determined not to disappoint.

After reviewing the file, I discovered I would be defending our client in a sewer back up claim. While I was no expert on the subject matter, I was determined to learn everything necessary to properly defend our client’s interests; and luckily for me, there is no shortage of people at the firm whom I could turn to for advice.

"With a solid understanding of the facts and allegations advanced by the plaintiff, I drafted our client’s defence..."

My first order of business was to ensure all deadlines were diarized so I did not miss any on my first file! I then contacted my client and the opposing counsel to advise all future correspondence be directed to my attention as I was now assigned to the file. (Wow!) To be given the opportunity to establish my name in the “legal world” at such an early stage in my budding legal career is pretty amazing!

With a solid understanding of the facts and allegations advanced by the plaintiff, I drafted our client’s defence; which ended up being quite lengthy; however, this was necessary in order to properly defend our client. I also drafted a defendant’s claim to ensure that our client’s interests were protected and all the necessary parties were brought into the claim.

Part of running your own file, even if you are a summer student, is to give the client your assessment of liability and damages along with recommendations for the claim. Thus, I gave the opinion letter my best shot and sent all my draft work to the supervising partner for review. It was a pleasant surprise when he said my opinion was right on track and ready for Superior Court! He also provided me with some more helpful feedback, and then confirmed I was ready to go ahead and issue, serve and file the pleadings with the Small Claims Court.


The mandatory Settlement Conference has now been scheduled for the end of the month; and while I would selfishly love the opportunity to advocate on my client’s behalf, it looks like a settlement will be reached before that time and an early resolution of the matter is always my first priority.

Irrespective of what happens, I have learnt so much from this experience and know that I will be that much more confident on my next file. Hopefully, it’s not too far away!

Monday, 29 July 2013

My day at mediation...

One of the perks of working at a litigation boutique is that you are exposed to a broad range of litigation topics. I have found that one of the main perks of being at McCague Borlack specifically is that if there is an area you are interested in, all you have to do is find a lawyer who does that type of work, advise them of your interest, and they’ll find a way to get you actively involved in a file. I was interested in learning about professional liability so I spoke to a few lawyers in that practice group and one of them invited me to assist on one of their files.

"Any time you are given an opportunity to see your work put into action, you take it!"

After meeting with the lawyer and receiving a quick rundown of the file (we were defending one of the named defendants – an insurance broker), he asked me to take a stab at writing the first draft of the mediation brief. One of the thrilling and challenging parts of being a student is that you have to be able to quickly review a file and identify the parties, and get up to speed on the legal issues and what the firm’s position is on liability and damages – writing the mediation brief was no different. After finalizing the first draft, I submitted my work and got great feedback from the lawyer, which is always a relief when taking on a new task! I was then invited to attend at the mediation to observe, which I quickly accepted as I had yet to attend one this summer. Besides any time you are given an opportunity to see your work put into action, you take it!

We arrived at the reporting office and met with the client, who is an adjuster for an insurance company. After the mediator outlined the process, each party proceeded to state their positions and then everyone retreated into separate rooms to consult with their clients. Throughout the day, the mediator went back and forth between the rooms, speaking with the various parties (about their concerns and interests) and trying to facilitate an amicable settlement.

On its face, a mediation seems like a lot of sitting around and waiting. However, I found that if you use the time wisely you can learn a lot from observing and talking to the people involved. The lawyer who took me to the mediation was great. I did not feel like I was there to simply watch; he actively involved me in discussions with the client regarding our legal position and strategy for dealing with opposing counsel. Our client was also very friendly. We talked throughout the day and she answered many of my questions about the litigation process from the insurer’s perspective and I told her about my experience as a student – my first official act of client development!

One of the biggest advantages of being an MB summer student is having the opportunity to attend with lawyers at discoveries, mediations and court appearances (or as we refer to them, “field trips”). Not only do you get a feel for what it is like to be a litigator but you get to observe a variety of styles. After a few field trips, you quickly realize that there is a lot to being a lawyer that you do not learn in law school. While it is imperative to know the law and your file, you must also be able to persuasively communicate your objectives and effectively deal with a variety of (often conflicting) personalities.

Our file did not end up settling at mediation (the various parties couldn’t agree on liability apportionment) , and was thus deemed a “failed mediation”, however for me - the day was a great success!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A typical* day...

I am now halfway through my summer student experience at MB and it’s amazing to think about how far I have come, and how much I have learnt and experienced in such a short period of time. At the beginning, I had no idea what to expect, what a typical day would look like, or even what type of work I would be doing as an MB summer student. Now that I have a bit of insight into this (7 week’s worth!), I thought it would be helpful to share what a ‘typical’ (*although I quickly realized there is no such thing) day for an MB summer student day looks like by offering a glimpse into one of my recent days…

"The responsibility is real, the subject matter is interesting, and you learn something new every day."

Monday, July 15, 2013


9:00 AM

After a beautiful weekend, I return to the office to begin a brand new week. With my coffee in hand, the first thing I do, (after asking everyone I run into how their weekend was), is check my work email and open Elite (the firm’s electronic docketing program). After replying to some internal emails, I review my To-Do list, prioritize the most urgent and complicated tasks first and start working away! (FYI – good time management skills are essential for survival as a summer student!)

9:30 AM – 1:00 PM

My first assignment is to Draft a Statement of Defence and Cross Claim in a personal injury action. After clarifying instructions with the assigning lawyer, I’m feeling confident. I know all the relevant facts and parties that need to be included, so I’m ready to start writing. Once completed, I give it a final proof for spelling and grammar and I’m happy with the finished product, so I send it off to the assigning lawyer for review. The rest of my morning is spent drafting a settlement offer, drafting a notice of discontinuance and speaking with the court office regarding an upcoming appearance.

1:15 PM

Lunch! Time to grab a quick bite in the PATH (for full orientation to the PATH, please refer to my colleague’s past blog!). I head down with a couple of other students to refuel and see how everyone’s Monday is going so far. We chat about recent attendances at small claims court, settlement conferences and how delicious Tim Horton’s Chili is.

2:00 PM

After lunch, I come back to my desk. “ASSISTANCE REQUIRED!” reads the RE: line in email that just came into the summer student’s collective email. I’m next on the rotation list, so I send a quick reply email to the lawyer letting her know I am on my way to her office to get instructions. The assignment turns out to be exciting – attend at Newmarket Superior Court for Trial Scheduling Court tomorrow morning. I note this in my calendar, and go back to work. (Post-Appearance note: I got to make submissions before a judge and was successful in resisting opposing counsel’s attempt to set the matter down for trial!)

3:00 – 6:30 PM

The rest of my day is spent doing various tasks for my own Small Claims Court files that I am handling. I respond to emails from clients and adjusters, take telephone calls from opposing counsel, and draft a couple letters to the court. This is the reality of the work you get as a summer student at McCague Borlack. The responsibility is real, the subject matter is interesting, and you learn something new every day. Of course, there is supervision and guidance from great mentors at every step of the way, but for the most part, ‘carriage of the file’ means you (the student) are running the file.

7:00 PM

Summerlicious. Need I say more? I finalize my dockets and log off my computer, joining the summer students as we head off to Far Niente just down the street. The collegiality of the summer students transcends the walls of the office and I’m grateful to be part of a team that enjoys spending time together outside of work.

What I’ve come to learn in 7 (very eventful!) weeks at McCague Borlack LLP is that the transition from law school to the practice of law is challenging and at the same time highly rewarding if one has the right guidance and exposure. Although no two days are exactly the same, what does remain consistent at McCague Borlack LLP is the collaborative environment, the support from the lawyers (and fellow students!), and that fact that you can expect to get real, hands-on exposure to exciting cases and the litigation process.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Half-Time Recap!

I started just over a month ago with the Ottawa office of MB and I have just over a month left. Yikes! Where did the time go? So I thought this would be a perfect time to provide my half–time commentary on how things are going from the perspective of a student (me!), and my game plan to conquer the second half of my summer with MB.

It seems like just yesterday when I was gearing up and excited for orientation. I wouldn’t consider myself the best athlete – okay, maybe not an athlete at all – but I was ready to begin and hit the ground running.

"You’ll experience a rush when you find that perfect case that matches the fact scenario that you’re dealing with."


Right out of the gate, I couldn’t believe that I was working directly with partners and senior counsel. Of course, I felt intimidated at first. While I would consider myself to be a naturally confident person, I was hoping for a few practice runs before being thrown in with the big leagues. However, I have quickly realized that, despite the wealth of knowledge and experience possessed by these individuals, at the end of the day, we are all on the same team. I just have to trust my abilities and put my best foot forward.

There will, of course be days where you feel that you’ve had a solid performance and not once was the red pen used for corrections busted out for you. You’ll even experience a rush when you find that perfect case that matches the fact scenario that you’re dealing with. There will also be days where two cups of coffee and three drafts later, you wish you could have shined a bit brighter. I guess after all, as students, we’re hardest on ourselves. However, I’ve learned that if you keep yourself benched, you won’t learn from the sidelines. This is the benefit of being a student at MB, you get out there quickly and you’re given considerable opportunities to explore what areas of the law you like and what areas you may grow to like. In addition, just like my colleagues have reiterated, there is tons of support and direction provided to you by people at MB, including the associates, assistants and law clerks. People are always willing to provide guidance and tips on how to tackle what can sometimes feel like a daunting task.

Finally, as one of the two students in Ottawa, I feel like it’s my duty to represent my hometown turf and shed light on my specific experience as a student in the Ottawa office of MB. I’ve experienced impromptu pizza parties, where the lawyers, assistants and students will have their lunch in the boardroom to break some cheesy bread together and discuss non-work related things. I’ve also been able to form strong bonds with the same lawyers I get to work with day in and day out.

As for my game plan to conquer the second half of the summer and things I’ve learned along the way, here it is: first, don’t forget to breathe; second, remain confident and; third, always be game for everything that’s thrown at you. Yes, admittedly, this is a very simple strategy, yet not only have I learned tons with this mentality, but I’ve also had fun along the way!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Life in T.O.

Five weeks in, and I have already attended a variety of motions, examinations for discovery, etc., and what’s really exciting, soon I’ll be conducting my own settlement conference for a small claims court trial. To think two months ago I didn’t even know what a settlement conference was!

"I want to share my tips on living and working in downtown Toronto as a law student."

While I could go on about all the fantastic things happening in the office, for this blog, I want to share my tips on living and working in downtown Toronto as a law student.

Transportation
MB students are frequently asked to attend court or meetings all over the city. While some are within walking distance, many are not (especially with small claims matters). Thus, a good understanding of the city’s transit system (TTC) is integral to any student’s success.

The TTC is the most convenient and cost-effective way to get from point A to point B for both work and play. I had to adjourn a settlement conference at the Toronto Small Claims Court, located near Sheppard station (there’s a purple line now?) from our office at King & York. Got there--using the subway--in just 20 minutes! With buses, streetcars and subways operating 19+ hours a day, the subway has become my preferred method of transportation (along with approx. 1 million people daily). However, it is not perfect (a.k.a. delays) so, it is important, especially for us students, to always give ourselves extra time to get to where you need to be. Take it from me – arriving early and catching up on some reading is MUCH better than running late and having to apologize to the judge and/or partner for being late…

Eating Out
When it comes to food, Toronto takes the cake (and the curry, the burgers, and the sushi…) But finding your go-to restaurants takes some investigation. Luckily for me, when I first started at MB, the exiting articling students took us summer students on a culinary tour of the surrounding food courts and restaurants to point out some of their favorite lunch spots (FYI - I.Q., Aroma, Thai Express, and Sandwich Box). So getting restaurant advice from fellow students and/or Toronto natives about where to eat is the way to go! I also recommend a weekly dose of “Eat Street” on the Food Network to keep up to date on the current food trends.

Getting Around Underground
Toronto has this fantastic underground tunnel system that links its downtown core together which provides access to most of the main downtown buildings, shops, and restaurants! However, it also gets confusing, because it covers a lot of ground without the traditional street markers. So if (or when) you get lost in the PATH, it is important not to panic. Everything only looks the same. Remember this: if you need to reorient yourself, just exit the PATH to the street level until you get your bearings.


I prefer the left side.
The PATH is great to dodge the heat (it’s air conditioned) and rain—these features are incredibly helpful for avoiding wet court documents (true story when getting to the 393 University Courthouse), and sweat marks on your brand new suit when its 35 + degrees (not a true story, but I still like to avoid it)! So embrace the PATH and use it to your advantage!

I’ve found the best thing about Toronto is that it is always a unique experience. Just be flexible and willing to learn quickly in order to handle all the curveballs. And that is just like being a student! So keep calm and carry on!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Just down the hall...

If you’ve been following the blog you’ll know my colleagues in Toronto have already discussed the terror that consumes you on your first day of orientation as a summer student and the relief you feel when you discover (a) the supportive environment of MB and (b) that the other students are just as terrified. However, as the first Ottawa summer student to have the opportunity to contribute, I wanted to share some aspects of the experience that are specific to this end of the hallway.

"We were told repeatedly to think of Ottawa as ‘just down the hall’ from Toronto..."

The other Ottawa student and I arrived in Toronto along with nine Toronto students for orientation. Feeling overwhelmed (and outnumbered) we nervously tried to make a lasting impression in the short time we had. We were pleasantly surprised at the warm reception we received. Instead of being considered temporary visitors, we were welcomed as any other member of the team. We were told repeatedly to think of Ottawa as ‘just down the hall’ from Toronto – a five hour drive down the hall, but down the hall nonetheless. Excited, nervous, and a little skeptical we returned to Ottawa with these sentiments for our first day on the job. We learned quickly however that in the age of technology with everything available at our fingertips, down the hall may in fact be closer than it seems.

Working in the MB Ottawa office allows students to have the benefit of a small firm experience with the support and opportunities of a large firm. This close integration whether achieved through email, phone or videoconference allows me to receive (what I think is) the best of both worlds. I have been able to work in varying areas of law (employment, medical malpractice and administrative law to name a few), and for various MB lawyers (both in Toronto and Ottawa), while enjoying the close knit interactions of a small firm.

Aside from this, Ottawa as a city provides a unique and charming summer experience to its students. Admittedly some of us succumbed to this allure a few weeks ago when we stepped out for a quick lunch as just outside our offices the streets were bursting with people enjoying the annual rib fest. There is something incredibly endearing about seeing hundreds of people dressed to the tee in their suits, all draping themselves with paper napkins to dig into a rack of ribs. It is a city that has managed to find a commendable balance between the work hard and play hard philosophy.

It is clear that whether in Toronto or Ottawa, MB offers its students with a unique learning experience. Not only in the type of work it offers but in the unified approach it takes to dealing with both offices. While they both have distinct features the overarching theme remains that we are part of the larger MB network. Knowing this, provides me as a student, with the comforting thought that I have that much more support, guidance and opportunities available to me.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

My first... solo court appearance

In my second week at MB, an associate asked the students who had access to a car and could assist with a job. Having met the qualifications for such a job, I set off for the associate’s office with pen and paper in hand (NOTE – to all incoming students, a pen and paper is your friend, never leave your office without it!) Thoughts raced through my mind of what it could be, was it a rush delivery of a document? Did he forget to put his dog outside and needed me to rush home to do so? Whatever it was that needed to be done, I was game.

"I, a summer student with less than a month’s experience, am going to court to adjourn a trial?"

Once I arrived at his office, the associate said he needed me to appear in court to adjourn a trial date in a quasi-criminal matter at Provincial Offences Court. With an air of youthful confidence I gave him a quick “sure, no problem!” My mood quickly turned though as soon as I left his office and, admittedly, I may have let out an audible “oh $#!+, what have I gotten myself into?” Feelings of excitement, nerves, doubt and dread all clouded my mind. I, a summer student with less than a month’s experience, am going to court to adjourn a trial? Just last week I learned how to properly spell ‘subrogation’ and finally figured out the office phones and now they wanted me to appear solo before the court? Despite his assurances that I would do great and that he would help me prepare, I still had reservations on how the whole situation would play out.

In the days leading up to my court appearance, the associate worked closely with me providing file details, tips on how to conduct myself at the hearing and even a quasi script that I could follow! The night before and morning of my appearance were spent admittedly with butterflies in my stomach. After reviewing my notes and, in an effort to be “inspired”, watching Gregory Peck give closing arguments in To Kill A Mockingbird (thinking that is exactly how I will look in my appearance), I set off for court. After getting lost (more than once) and asking for directions (more than once) I arrived at the St. Catharines' Courthouse.

Not only did my experience involve an appearance, it also involved me entering into brief negotiations with the prosecutor. I really got the full experience with this assignment! Finally, my name was called by the prosecutor; I made my way to the front of the court room and made my submissions before the Judge. I am happy to report that the request to adjourn the trial was approved. While not exactly “Gregory Peck-esque” in my delivery, I felt prepared and confident. Sometimes, as a student, the best learning experiences are the ones where you are forced to challenge yourself. Needless to say, I arrived back at the office feeling invigorated and refreshed at the thought of completing my first court appearance and regaled my fellow students with tales of conquering court rooms.

My first appearance in court was most definitely exciting and gave me a feel for what it is like to be part of the MB Team. Also it made me realize being a McCague Borlack LLP student is truly a “litigation 101” learning experience. If this is how it feels for every first, then I cannot wait for the next one to come along!

Friday, 14 June 2013

I Don't Know Anything.

This was the cataclysmic mantra racing through my head on day one at McCague Borlack. As I sat in my chair absorbing the ins and outs of litigation, subrogation, compensation and mediation, I felt the newness of everything hit me all at once. Had first year law school returned to take its revenge? The volume and complexity of the work loomed large.

"seeing your motion materials and legal research (successfully!) put to use in front of a judge is a truly rewarding experience."

But here is the one big difference between class and work: at MB, students have the complete and unequivocal support of the entire firm. As I made my way through the OCI process last year, I was struck by how comfortable I felt during my MB interviews; without fail, every single interviewer was warm, candid and bright. I can’t speak for other firms, but what you see during an MB interview is what you get at the office. Doors are open, help is offered, and support is always available. I have never been turned away or dismissed for asking the most basic of questions. MB is a truly collaborative firm.

At MB, the emphasis is on practical experience. You will draft motion materials. You will attend court proceedings with a mentor. You will communicate directly with clients. And yes, you will carry your very own files, which I guarantee will (1) instill a great sense of pride and responsibility; and (2)result in a noticeable improvement to your upper body strength. The opportunity to learn and contribute is enormous.

A few days ago, I attended a motion with a senior lawyer at the Brampton Courthouse. I can honestly say there is no substitute for actual court experience. As a summer student, learning the little things rank among the most important lessons I have learned to date, including knowing where to park, how to read a motions list, and how to find a courtroom. And of course, seeing your motion materials and legal research (successfully!) put to use in front of a judge is a truly rewarding experience.

As the end of week 3 approaches, I can honestly say that I feel comfortable in my own skin again. In the grand scheme of things, I still know (almost) nothing. Only now, I know exactly who to go to and what to ask.

Monday, 10 June 2013

The Summer Students are here!

We arrived on Monday fresh and relaxed following a four-week vacation after the end of exams (Thanks for that, McCague Borlack!) eager and ready to learn… and learn we did. What is subrogation? How does one file a motion? How many times must you press the button for the 26th floor in the elevator before some kind person informs you that you actually need an access card to get up there? (Six. The answer is six times).

A lot has changed since we were here last November for interviews. For instance, the renovations to MB's new 'open concept' work centre on the 27th floor is now complete and gone is the vast empty space that was rumored to be used occasionally for soccer games.

"While it was easy to become overwhelmed, there was a steady stream of assurances from associates, articling students, and support staff that we would be just fine..."

We were immediately taken on a tour of the firm, shuffling from one office to the next; nervously smiling at each person we met while trying desperately to remember their name and what part of the maze they worked in. From there it was a bit of a whirlwind through lessons on docketing, assignments, the basis of civil procedure, accident benefits, etc. While it was certainly easy to become overwhelmed, there was also a steady stream of assurances from associates, articling students, and support staff that we would be just fine, and that is something that I will definitely take away from the week.

The departing articling students in particular took the time to sit with us and talk frankly about the job expectations, tips for surviving the summer, and so on in what was reminiscent of the “Keeping it Real” room during interview week last fall. They took time out of what I’m sure was a busy last couple of days to sit with us and answer all of our (many, many) questions.

There was not a single person that I spoke to who not only encouraged me to ask them a question when I needed to, but also named about five or six other people I could go to for help. The atmosphere in the firm is social and friendly, which is particularly impressive given the sheer number of people that work here.

For example, a senior partner offered to take me (the first student on the assignment list) on a mediation with him on Friday afternoon as a learning opportunity. On the way there, he provided answers to all my questions about mediations, insurance law, the ins and outs of the firm, and the game of squash. He was surprised to hear there are 11 students this summer and he reminisced a time when there were only 11 lawyers in the firm! My first time at a mediation with such skilled counsel was a great experience! Another example of generosity; as it was Friday, I wore casual pants that day and an associate, whom I’d never met before, offered to lend me her dress pants so that I would be more suitably attired for the mediation. It cannot get any friendlier than that!

These are just a few examples of the attitude at McCague Borlack; everyone seems ready to help, teach, and do whatever it takes to produce good work and stellar litigators, and I am excited to be a part of it.

Lastly, I think I speak for all the students in giving a huge thanks to Ashley Faust for taking the time to train us last week despite her upcoming wedding, as well as to all the other people who popped in to participate in our training or just to say hi and welcome us to the firm. It was very much appreciated!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

My first solo trial... what a rush!

As the Articling term started to wind down, I was gearing up – for trial! Last week I had my first Small Claims Court Trial. I was defending a veterinarian against allegations of professional misconduct and lack of informed consent. To prepare, I pored over medical notes and records, including consent forms and authorizations, met with the veterinarian to prepare her for examination-in-chief and cross examination and got very familiar with the rules regarding expert evidence.

"...having studied the case law on expert evidence, I had a strong feeling these articles were inadmissible as evidence."



You see, in professional misconduct actions, the law is very clear that due to a professional’s specialized knowledge in their area of expertise (i.e. a veterinarian in veterinary medicine), expert evidence is needed for the plaintiff to satisfy its burden of proof. Without an expert report, or expert opinion evidence, it is highly unlikely that the plaintiff will be able to succeed.

In this case, the plaintiff served us with a Document Brief which included numerous articles on veterinary disease. When I received the Brief, having studied the case law on expert evidence, I had a strong feeling these articles were inadmissible as evidence.

At the outset of trial, I asked the judge to make an Order excluding most of the plaintiff's Document Brief on the basis that it included articles on veterinary diseases and there was no one qualified to introduce the exhibits. The judge agreed, granted my request, and as a result, plaintiff’s counsel was extremely limited in her questioning. The Judge ultimately dismissed the claim as the plaintiff had not met his burden of proof!

It felt great to succeed at my first trial and even better to make the client happy. While the trial was a lot of hard work, it was a great experience and I can’t wait for the next one….  What a rush!
RS