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!