Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Top 5 Articling Experiences

My time as a summer student at McCague Borlack last year went by so quickly that I didn't have a chance to reflect on my experiences until it was over. As one co-worker so aptly put it, as a summer student you’re there just long enough to figure out exactly how much you don’t know.

...it feels pretty cool to flash your LSUC card and bypass the security line at the courthouse.

Now we have an entire 10 months for articles and even that is flying by! So, in honour of being almost half-way through, I will reflect on my top 5 experiences thus far (in no particular order).

Motions

Drafting motion materials and arguing a motion yourself gives you the chance to see why it is so important that you know a particular Rule inside and out, research the caselaw, get all your dates in order, and so on. Most importantly, arguing motions gives you a chance to engage in real advocacy and, as a budding litigator, it’s an excellent feeling! Also, it feels pretty cool to flash your LSUC card and bypass the security line at the courthouse.

Client Contact

During my OCI interview with MB, I was promised a hands-on experience and this has proven to be true from the very first day of work. As an articling student, I communicate directly with clients on a daily basis regarding updates, opinions on the file, and of course, instructions. I have found that both co-workers and clients are genuinely interested in my opinion. I’m often asked to assess damages and/or liability and then to discuss it with the client. I've had the opportunity to run lead on files from start to end, and nothing gives you a better idea of what it’s like to be a real lawyer than that.

Firm Events

This year MB celebrates its 20th anniversary with 20 special events, which included a boat cruise for the whole firm. The work environment at MB is always friendly and the cruise was a great opportunity to enjoy time with my co-workers outside of the office. As an articling student, you can quickly get caught up in your work and forget to take the time to enjoy the experience, and the boat cruise allowed us to do just that.

Discoveries

As a summer student, I went on discoveries and enjoyed seeing the process first-hand. However, only now as an articling student with more involvement in files do I have an appreciation of the importance of discoveries. With settlement becoming more common, discoveries play a critical role in assessing liability and damages at an early stage, and has shown me that every question has a purpose. It has also allowed me to observe different styles of questioning (are you in the “catch more flies with honey” camp or the “direct and to the point” camp?) and in turn develop my own style. (I am leaning toward the former.)

Student Group

Lawyers often speak of articling as if it’s war. Articling can be tough and there is definitely a learning curve, but it makes all the difference when you have good people to go through the trenches with. I’m thankful to work with a great group of students. Have an urgent assignment due and need to take yourself out of the work rotation? No problem. Have dinner plans and need a second set of eyes to help review documents so you can leave on time? Someone will be there to help.

To all upcoming articling students: Articling isn't just a tough time that you have to get through; it’s a time to learn a lot, try new things, and enjoy yourself along the way.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Networking for new lawyers

As you know from our previous blogs, articling with McCague Borlack is not a 'desk-job'. Within a week, I attended two trial management conferences, two mediations, a settlement conference and a FSCO prehearing.

When done right, you can create a connection with another person that reflects well on you and the firm...

At each of these outings, I met clients, opposing counsel and their clients, along with judges, arbiters, mediators, and so on. Meeting so many people in the legal industry reinforces to me the necessity of networking - a skill that law schools are only now recognizing the importance of. This is because law schools, traditionally domains of academia, are coming to grips with the notion that law is as much a business as it is a craft.

Networking is connecting

When done right, you can create a connection with another person that reflects well on you and well on the firm you work with. While the term might conjure the thought of forced social interactions, connecting with others professionally is key to succeeding in the business of law.

Here are a few things I have learned so far that are easy to apply:

Always carry a business card

You may be a student now, but you won't be forever. Make sure that people have a way of remembering you. You never know who you will run into down the road!

Attend the events you assisted on

Did you draft the best factum ever? Get that tricky causation issue, or limitation period, under your belt? Then go see it argued by that senior counsel! Senior lawyers are usually more than happy to point out to opposing counsel that you assisted in drafting materials, and down the road that may leave a lasting impression if you are on the other side again.

Be pleasant

This tidbit is perhaps the most important of all. The quality of your work will be ignored if your reputation is that of an aggressive, antagonistic, mean person. It’s a small world, and the legal industry is a smaller circle still. Everyone has a story of THAT counsel - that no one wants to be the subject of.

At MB it is a privilege to call the most pleasant people in the industry our colleagues. From them I've learned anything others may try to accomplish through a yelling match can be better handled by speaking normally and effectively. That doesn't mean we don't take hardline positions, but effective advocacy does not include bullying.

photo from freedigitalphotos.comThe benefit of being a new lawyer, especially at MB, is the opportunity to build your networking skills while connecting with clients and lawyers alike.

And if a novice at first, after a while, I'm sure networking becomes second nature!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Entering the Workforce – A Whole New Learning Experience

This year has been one of the most eye opening years of my life. It is the first time that I have been a full time member of the workforce. It is very different than school and very exciting. In this post I try to address some differences between work and school life that have stood out to me over the past four months.

I've learned more working at MB for four months than I had in my past 2 years of university (no offence, Western).

First, as a student, you are very much on your own. Trying to understand complex concepts and issues in school is usually an individual endeavour. Sure, professors are there, but they can only help you so much. There are also other students, but they are all in the same boat as you. In the working world, there are so many different people that are available to give their assistance. This includes lawyers at all different levels, clerks, assistants, and paralegals. Even outside the firm, librarians at the great library, staff at the court, as well as Judges and Masters are all willing to lend a helping hand and help you succeed.

Second, I have also been very surprised by how much the learning process continues once you enter the work force. On its face, one would assume that more learning would be accomplished at school than work due to the fact that the whole point of school is, of course, education. However, I learn something new at work every day. It also feels like the things I am learning at work are very practical and useful, unlike some of the things learned in a classroom. I can actually see myself becoming better at my job and developing my skills as my articling career progresses. In all, I feel like I've learned more working at MB for four months than I had in my past 2 years of university (no offence, Western).

Third, and this applies more specifically to the legal profession, I cannot believe how different it is to practice law than learn law in a classroom. Of course, theory learned in the classroom is very important. However, all of the things learned in the classroom play such a small role in the litigation process. It is unbelievable how many integral aspects of the day-to-day practice of law are not even addressed in school. It has really made me realize why the articling process is so important and appreciate the opportunity that MB has provided to me.

In conclusion, I am thrilled to be on the other side of the school/work divide. I am relieved by the fact that there is so much help to be given in the working world and that the learning process continues. Articling has been a great experience thus far and I expect that the positive experience will continue. I can’t wait to see what I learn next.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Coming out the Other Side: In-Firms from a Different Perspective

In-Firms is one week that many 2L’s simultaneously anticipate and dread – in-firm interview week. As a student, you have made it past the first hurdle by conducting yourself at OCI’s successfully. Now it is time to come in and try to meet and impress as many lawyers from the different firms as you can. You are trying to sell yourself as a hardworking and eager candidate, while trying to coordinate busy schedules filled with interviews, lunches and dinners – all while trying to remember everyone’s name and avoiding getting lost in the Path.

I’ll tell you a secret – we’re trying to impress you as much as you are trying to impress us....

In some ways the entire process seems like it happened ages ago. I have experienced many things since that time: working as a summer student, 3L and writing the bar exam. This year, I got to experience this process from the recruitment side and I was eager to see everyone in action.

Our candidates get the benefit of meeting multiple people at the firm when they come in to the office for their first interview. Once the formal interview is over, the interviewees are whisked to our lawyer’s lounge where they are greeted by several current articling students and at least one or two first-year associates. This is meant to be a more relaxed environment where students can meet people who have recently done the type of work that they will potentially be doing if they are hired.

I was very intrigued to participate in this process without the gripping fear of not having a job at the end of it. I was truly impressed with everyone I got the opportunity to meet. Obviously everyone who makes it to the in-firm stage of the recruitment process is a stellar candidate but I was still blown away by how polished and prepared everyone seemed.

And, students, I’ll tell you a secret – we’re trying to impress you as much as you are trying to impress us…well, maybe not as much but we still really want you to like us! Just as there are lots of great students, there are also lots of great law firms participating in recruitment so we are trying to sell our experience here to you. Luckily that was not too difficult. I was expecting to have to exaggerate my responses to questions but when I was asked questions like “What kinds of work did you do as a summer student?” I was able to honestly reply that I got great hands-on experience running small claims files and was able to attend at discoveries and mediations with associates. And when I was asked what the student dynamic was like, I talked about how close my group was and how, because of great hire-back rates, we have never felt the need to compete with one another and, instead are always there to proofread or provide a precedent when needed.

Overall, regardless of whether you are looking for a job or looking for the perfect candidate it’s all about fit. At the end of the day, if you’re not happy where you are it will reflect in your work product. I feel very fortunate to have found a place at McCague where I get to do challenging work with people I really like.
Brittany S.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Final Words: Judge's Perception

“You have your order, now you can collect your mileage.”

Those were the final words spoken by the Judge in my very first motion. Unsure of what he was referring to I simply smiled, thanked him, and went on my way.

My first motion taught me much more than court procedure and legal formality.


Upon exiting the courtroom, opposing counsel asked me if I caught the Judge’s jab about mileage? “No, what was he talking about?” I asked. The lawyer went on to kindly explain that the Judge assumed that because both of us were representing relatively large law firms based in Toronto, we had both traveled over 100 km’s from the provincial capital to Waterloo Region Courthouse for a simple 10 minute motion – and were collecting mileage.

The reality of the situation however, was that upon exiting the courthouse I crossed the street, alighted the elevator, and sat at my desk in MB’s regional office within four minutes. And opposing counsel’s office was only one block from the courthouse – a mere 10 minute walk. Neither of us would be billing our clients one cent for mileage. 

My first motion therefore, taught me much more than court procedure and legal formality. It gave me an insight into the legal culture of the local region and its perception of “Toronto lawyers”.

Rather than put my nose up however, this made me reflect on and appreciate the importance of being a part of the community one works in. The practice of law is sensitive to context – not just theoretically but geographically. Understanding that will hopefully benefit one’s social mileage, without needing to drive long distances. 

Friday, 7 November 2014

From Sweatpants to Suits: Transferrable Law School Skills

During the OCI In-Firm process, it was refreshing and so rewarding to be on the other side of the hiring process for the first time in my legal career. Being able to talk about my law school and work experiences to my future colleagues was an invaluable experience. It also allowed me to reflect on my own personal journey and how I have grown so much already in my three months of articling. The tools and skills I have learned while working full time would not have been possible without some of the unwritten skills I picked up while in law school.

Three skills a law student should develop while at school, well before they even step foot into a law firm.


To this, I thought I would shed some light on three of the law school skills that allowed me to succeed during articling and I have found so important to continue during my articles. These skills are not found in a textbook but are developed through your own trials and tribulations.

Punctuality is Key

In a class of 70, everyone is annoyed by the student who comes in 10 minutes late, loudly climbs over people to find a seat and then opens their laptop only to find that their sound was left on and the “start up” sound blares thus disrupting the entire class. The same is true while in practice – you can’t walk into a boardroom, while everyone is seated and the meeting organizer has already started talking, and hope to go unnoticed. Clients and Supervising Lawyers expect you to demonstrate your professionalism when invited to a meeting and when given a deadline on a task. Being punctual displays that you take your work seriously and can be relied upon to follow through with all responsibilities. Getting into a routine early on in law school and making it on time to those 8:30 am classes will make the task of being in the office by 8:30 am everyday much easier.

Find a Mentor

Whether this is done formally or informally, having someone to go to who has “been around the block” will help when you have brain teaser questions like what the Rule of Perpetuities is or even what the best sushi restaurant in town (or on campus) is. A mentor helps ease the transition into your new surroundings which I have found to be even more valuable while in practice. Law school teaches you how to become a lawyer, but only being a lawyer teaches you how to really practice law. There are many tricks of the trade that can only be learned on the job and knowing that you have a safety-net and can confide in a seasoned lawyer makes this transition a lot smoother and a world of a difference to an articling student. A mentor allows you to feel comfortable asking any number of questions to ensure you find out the right answer and thus developing your skills.

Plan Ahead, Plan Ahead, Plan Ahead

While in law school, the exams or papers that you did better on were not done the night before on seven cups of coffee. Personally, when I had the time and energy to study for a longer period of time or do multiple drafts of a paper, the end product was always better. So when doing work for an assigning lawyer, it should never be left to the last minute. You want the quality of your work to stick out in that lawyer’s head for the future. You want them to trust you with any matter that comes your way and leaving an assignment to the last minute will ultimately produce an inferior product.

compliments of free digital photosThis goes hand in hand with planning out your day and week with a detailed schedule. Having a daily routine and knowing exactly what needs to be accomplished on a given day makes me less stressed and more prepared. If you plan ahead and give proper timelines for your regular assignments, you will be in much better shape to take on and deliver a quality product for any last minute, rush assignments that will definitely come your way. Everyone has their own way of planning, whether it is through a manual day planner or an electronic tickler system. The important thing is that you establish one and stick to it. This will definitely benefit you while you are an articling student, and well into your future.

As well, with the right time-management skills now, students can maximize their study time so they can also enjoy the great social times that law school brings.

These three skills represent what I think are invaluable for a law student to develop while at school, well before they even step foot into a law firm. What other skills will you develop and hold onto while you make the transition from student to future lawyer?

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Settled!

Last year as a summer student, I wrote a blog titled Carriage of my first file. It was about the shock factor, the wow factor, and once I got over both of those, how to actually deal with my very own small claims file from its inception. This year, as an articling student for less than three months’ time, I not only have been assigned my own small claims files, but I have already experienced the marvelous feeling of settling my first file at a settlement conference, one of the mandatory steps in the litigation process for small claims matters.

... I was excited to learn that a settlement conference was the next major step.

When I was given this subrogation file at the beginning of my articles, the plaintiff’s claim had already been filed with the Small Claims Court clerk, issued by the Small Claims Court clerk, and served on the defendant. I was tasked with taking over this file in the middle of its lifespan, which entailed reading through the correspondence, pleadings, and client documents to determine what stage the file was at.

After contacting the client and defendant’s counsel to inform them that I would be assuming carriage of this file, I was excited to learn that a settlement conference was the next major step. As this was my first settlement conference, I knew I had to be thoroughly prepared, not knowing what to expect. Luckily, a few days before the settlement conference, a senior associate offered me insight on what exactly goes on at a settlement conference and how I can best prepare myself. Another associate lent me his guide to small claims litigation, which was very useful in understanding the procedural aspect. Fortunately, at McCague Borlack, there are so many instances like these where associates and fellow articling students offer guidance and encouragement every step of the way.

courtesy of free digital downloads - vectorolie
On the day of the settlement conference, I arrived at the Small Claims Court 45 minutes before the scheduled time. I wanted to ensure I gave myself ample time so I wouldn’t have to rush and add that stress to my already nervous self. I read over my notes and went over in my head what our position and strategy were.

No matter how prepared I might have been I learned that day when I was in front of the deputy judge that even in Small Claims Court unexpected situations may arise. With my analytical reasoning and persuasiveness, I was able to properly respond to the curveballs the deputy judge threw my way. After one hour of negotiating, we reached a favourable settlement that the client was happy with!

Brittany S.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

What Can Come With Change! Summer vs. Articling

It’s McCague Borlack's 20th anniversary this year and just to know how far they've come, I’m writing this blog in their Ottawa office, one of the cities MB has expanded into since the firm’s inception.

Would I ever get to see the top of my desk again or will it be buried under all the new work coming in?

When I applied to the Ottawa office last year for a summer position, I was both intrigued and excited. Here was a reputable Toronto-based firm that just had expanded into Ottawa, my beloved hometown.

I suspected that given the newness of the Ottawa office, I would have an opportunity to form good relationships with the lawyers I would work with and be provided considerable responsibility as a student. Let’s be honest, during your articling period, you spend a lot of time at work, so relationships with other firm members and having challenging work assigned certainly helps. And my suspicions about how my summer experience was going to be at MB turned out to be true.

However, since last summer, the Ottawa office has more than doubled in size. I have to admit, initially, I couldn't help but selfishly think about what this all meant for me - the only articling student in the Ottawa office. Questions started to fill my head: Would I ever get to see the top of my desk again or will it be buried under all the new work coming in? Would I be recognizable to my family when they saw me next? Would all the great projects I was looking forward to be transferred to the other lawyers? Would the new members of the firm like my work and me?

So far I've completed at least two months of articling and I’m still intrigued and excited, these worries of mine… well most of them… have faded away. I've learned more in these last two months about the law then I would have ever expected... and sometimes liked. The lawyers have been good at assigning me interesting work and, I think, I've also been good with prioritizing tasks.

by Stuart Miles freedigitalphotos.com
Additionally, I've been able to tag along to trials and examinations conducted by the lawyers here and I've been able to observe their differing styles. I've also already done my first settlement conference, and appeared before the Provincial Court. Plus, I have my first trial scheduled in November!

It’s not to say that I have no more worries about articling (because that would be a lie!). They've just been replaced by new ones, like making sure I get that pleading or reporting letter out in time or making sure to draft that coverage opinion correctly (all under great mentorship and supervision of course).

While things have changed considerably for me since the last summer, I've learned that change can be good. Oh, and I’m happy to report that my family still does recognize me.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Mediation and the “Good Faith” Game Changer

I have admittedly underestimated the potential that mediation holds in the litigation process.

The importance of mediation and above all the co-operative approach to mediation is impressed upon us tirelessly throughout law school. As a student, however, it’s easy to question the practicality of this, feeling that the approach taken in law school may be a bit too idealistic. After all how realistic could those in-class role play mediations be when it comes to real cases?

As an articling student who is just a month and half into my articles, I (like others before me) have admittedly underestimated the potential that mediation holds in the litigation process. I have attended mediations before and seen their possible benefits as one of many steps in the litigation process. Yet, I realized their true potential this month when I accompanied an associate to a mediation.

I was informed prior to this mediation that there may not be as much excitement as I was hoping for and that this mediation was unlikely to be successful given that the parties weren’t making much progress in reaching a middle ground. However, as a student presented with the opportunity to attend a mediation (and let’s be honest, an excursion out of the office), this did little to deter me.

Throughout preparation for the mediation, I observed that regardless of what was, in the lawyer’s mind, the likely outcome of the mediation, he prepared diligently and above all impressed upon me the need to mediate in good faith (no matter how unlikely settlement may seem). The day started with strong opening statements from both counsel confirming the long road ahead before a settlement was likely to be reached. However, the lawyer I was accompanying made it a point to assure all parties that we were there to mediate in good faith with the hopes of reaching a settlement – even in the face of such a daunting and seemingly impossible task. This small gesture of honest and open good faith was in my mind not only a surprising response to the harsh tone of the opposing parties but had the power to change the tone of the entire mediation. To everyone’s surprise, a few hours later the impossible seemed to have happened – the parties reached a settlement!

Yin Yang" by digitalart - freedigitalphotos.net
Even before this experience, it would seem like a no-brainer for many that mediation is of course an important tool and step in litigation. After all, most cases settle before trial and clients are often happier with this approach as trial is a lengthy and expensive process. However, what I really earned from this experience is the importance of never underestimating how a show of good faith can be a game changer in any mediation, and can turn the possibility of settlement into a reality.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Celebrating Milestones

If you have been following the student blog, you may know that 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of McCague Borlack LLP. In honor of its 20th anniversary, the firm has planned 20 events throughout the year to commemorate the 20 years since the firm was founded.

Without the ritual of celebration, it’s difficult to see how far you have come.

Last Saturday, the firm went on a boat cruise around Lake Ontario. The cruise ship was called the Captain Matthew Flinders: the largest and grandest of all ships at the Toronto harbor. As we boarded the majestic ship on a very mild autumn night, it was difficult not to appreciate the beauty of the downtown Toronto skyline when viewed from the harbor front. The ship started to sail and we began our evening journey in great company.

The turnout was wonderful: everyone from partners, associates, clerks and articling students, assistants and office services attended. Guests and significant others were welcomed as well and it was wonderful to finally put faces to the names often mentioned by my colleagues. The food (especially the pumpkin pie) was fantastic and the music was fun.

Looking back, I realize that Saturday night was a great opportunity not only to celebrate the firm’s achievement and important anniversary, but also for the people that make up MB to get to know each other a little better. Celebrating milestones such as a successful two decades together and getting to know each other outside of the office fosters teamwork and collegiality at the office. It was wonderful to see everyone at MB take pride in our exciting, supportive and team-based culture.

Without the ritual of celebration, it’s difficult to see how far you have come. I started thinking about what this celebration meant and how it defined the culture at MB. There is no doubt that much has changed over 20 years, but a constant that has remained unchanged at MB is the collegial environment and the amazing people. On Saturday night, I had an opportunity to experience the unique collegiality of MB as it transcended the walls of the office and we all gathered together to celebrate this important milestone as a team.

Of course, the night would have been impossible to achieve without the dedication and hard work that went into the planning. The boat cruise, which no doubt was an organizational feat in and of itself, led me to appreciate my colleagues at McCague Borlack LLP even more.

Overall, it was an excellent night and I look forward to celebrating many more milestones aboard the MB journey.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Take Advantage of the Quiet Moments

...many of the lawyers at MB speak of the need to balance both your work and your life.

As an articling student at a busy firm, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when juggling different types of work for a range of lawyers who have different expectations. Therefore, in our short time here, we have all learned the importance of taking advantage of the quiet moments at MB. Taking this time to step away — from the world of filing motions, updating affidavits of documents, drafting briefing letters and mediation memorandums — to pursue our various interests or hobbies, and exploring what Toronto has to offer. Not only is this a great way to keep your mind fresh, it is necessary.

When one becomes overwhelmed, it is easy to get sucked into an assignment and nitpick over the smallest of details. Even seemingly inconsequential punctuation choices in the middle of a 15-page briefing letter can be torturous to the addled minds of an articling student. “Would a semicolon better capture what I am trying to say here? Or would that be the job of a comma? Or do I live on the edge and forego both?” From the outside, these can seem like relatively trivial questions but more than once these questions have been asked either by me or by my fellow articling students. However, I have found that taking advantage of the quiet moments in the office to refresh my mind allows me to work more efficiently and deal with these small issues more effectively without holding a poll in the office asking who sides with the semicolon vs. the comma.

What’s there to do?

What is there to do in Toronto? The question should be what isn’t there to do? Whether it be taking in a Blue Jays game, going to the gym, taking in a movie at the Toronto International Film Festival (as an aside, I would like to state that stars leaving events outside of my apartment to screams of paparazzi and fans is not conducive to a good sleep), spending that hard earned salary at the stores on Queen West or Bloor Street, grabbing a drink with friends, or going for a walk along the lake shore — Toronto offers something to do for anyone and everyone. Personally, I have made it my mission to visit as many food trucks in Toronto that my wallet, and waistline, will allow.

"Keep Balance" by jesadaphorn  - freedigitalphotos.netThe other day a lawyer stopped by to ask how we were all doing and spoke of the importance of taking time away from the office to enjoy life. In fact, many of the lawyers at MB speak of the need to balance both your work and your life. After my short time here, I would wholeheartedly agree with their sentiments. There is always a time to do work, but as Jack said in the Shining, “all work and no play makes an articling student a dull person.” Or something like that anyways.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Student-At-Law: The Goal this Year

...we are collectively calmer, more confident, and more willing to ask questions.

Last year as a summer student, I contributed to the student blog with a piece that started with “I don’t know anything”. It was a blog entry written with nerves and soaked in confusion. It was about navigation and survival and adaptation. As a group, the students who summered last year simply wanted to do our best work. The newness of every experience was lightning fast.

That same group of students is back again, except our signatures are scribbled above "Student-at-Law". We have been articling now for one month, and I can honestly say that things feel different. Don't get me wrong -- we still only know 1% of 1% of what it means to be a lawyer. But I've noticed that each of my peers has returned to the firm with a different mindset. Our group works just as hard, if not harder, but we are collectively calmer, more confident, and more willing to ask questions.

We aren't the only ones who have changed. Last year, the lawyers at the firm were focused on teaching us Law 101. Here is how you draft an affidavit. This is where you go when your name isn't on the motions list. This is what to do when attending an examination for discovery.

 This year, the lawyers at the firm are even more vested in our success. On our first day of articles, we were greeted by Howard Borlack - one of the founding partners at McCague Borlack - who impressed upon us the importance of articling, not only as a teaching tool, but as a responsibility and a tradition. Our principals, as well as many other lawyers, have made it clear that they want to set us up for the future. The goal, we have been told, is to instill fundamental legal competencies so that we are ready to practice law the moment we are called to the Bar. That includes not just research and writing, but also client interaction and practice management.

The idea that I will be a self-sufficient lawyer one day is terrifyingly distant, but also equally worthy of pursuit. I hope one day that I can support and guide new students in the same way that the lawyers and my peers at McCague Borlack have done, and continue to do, for me.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Time to start articling!

Does anyone really know what articling means? I remember when I first heard about articling I thought it meant that you had to literally write an article after law school. It turns out there’s a bit more involved than that. My friends ask, “You’re still not a lawyer?!”. No, not yet.

The word "articles" has its origin in the articles or contract entered into by the student (who agrees to work) and his principal (who agrees in exchange, to educate).


So we’re all on the same page, articling is one of two ways to fulfill the experiential training requirement in order to become licensed to practice law in Ontario. It requires a ten-month work period under the supervision of an articling principal.

Side Note: If you don’t get an articling position, the other way is a new program called the Law Practice Program, which includes a four-month training course and a four-month work placement.

It has already been a few weeks that the other articling students and I got started. Fresh off of vacation and still riding the post-bar exam high, we were thrust into training and then quickly into real work. There are three differences between working as a summer student vs. an articling student. They aren't huge, but there is a difference.

Articling Principal
First, we now have an articling principal; a mentor to get us through the articling period. This is in addition to the countless lawyers that have already offered to hel
p us figure things out and provided words of advice for life as a lawyer. One thing that hasn't changed about MB is that someone is always there to help; whether it’s an assistant, clerk, associate, partner, or another student.

Responsibility
Second, as articling students we are given more responsibility and more significant work. Just two weeks into articling and we’re already being handed assignments such as arguing motions and, for one student, running their own Small Claims Court trial in the fall.

Creative Book Concept" by hyena reality from freedigitalphotos.netKnow-How
Third, an understanding that (to some extent) you know what you’re doing. As an articling student it is expected that you've picked up some tricks of the trade at this point. Don’t let this scare you off! You know more than you think you do, trust me. Three years of law school have taught you to read, write, and think like a lawyer and suddenly you’ll be doing it instinctively.

So, no I’m not a lawyer yet… but I am starting to feel like one.

Monday, 25 August 2014

In the Blink of an Eye: First Day vs. Last Day

With the blink of an eye, the summer term has now come to a close. As the articling students return and we wrap up our assignments, we all have mixed feelings about heading back to our final year. During our short time here, we probably learned more about the practice of law than we have in law school so far. That is not to say that law school was futile, but rather, this summer, at McCague Borlack, we saw it come to life.

... we all have mixed feelings about heading back to our final year.


Those four criteria of negligence? Yes they are important, but there is so much more to it. What does it really mean for the client when you cannot prove damages? What does it mean when causation cannot be shown? Well it might mean that you recommend a client abandon their subrogation claim. When there are more than one defendants on a file, the smallest fact, like what exact spot the plaintiff actually fell, may mean that your client should not be implicated in the action.

"Digital Eye" by renjith krishnan freedigitalphotos.net
When I look back at all that I have learned this summer, I realize how much more I have ahead of me. Be it understanding the legal practice, the nuances of client management, the practical aspects of file carriage, or even construction terminology, or medical injuries, the learning will never stop in this practice. I will forever be a student and continue to learn from others.

Needless to say, our summer here has not just been about legal research and drafting, we all have had our fair share of field trips, client interactions and carriage of files. We have also discovered what it was like to work in downtown Toronto and the realities of work life. Here is what everyone had to say:

Alex R.
Day One: Could not imagine docketing every minute, of every hour, of every day.
Today: The timer and I are one.

Aryeh S.
Day One: I wore a tie
Today: No flipping chance.

Navid G.
Day One: Got lost in the PATH, got lost in the office, and took 10 hours to do his first motion record
Today: Still gets lost in the PATH, but finds his way around the office, and can now do a motion record with his eyes closed

Christine L.
Day One: Standard food court lunch
Today: Takeout from every nice sit-down in sight

Bogdan M. 
Day One: Thought Subrogation was a car part
Today: Settled 2 Subrogation files and now calls it “subro”

Michael G. 
Day One: Arrived with a conservative look
Today: Wears polka dot socks

Carol-Anne W.
Day One: no idea that damages brief existed
Today: has drafted countless damages briefs

Leona K.
Day One: Did not know what a motion record looked like; what wood shims were for; or what was open late in the PATH. Also thought I would not have time for anything else.
Today: Have a few motion records under my belt, can give you a primer on wood shims, and some dinner options in the PATH. Also managed to keep up with my yoga and gym routines and explore Toronto’s dining scene.
Leona K.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Looking Back at a Memorable Summer

This summer, which felt very long at times, but also as though it had slipped away extremely quickly, has sadly come to an end. Despite the ongoing stresses and struggles, this was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable summers I have ever had. I learned more than I would have imagined I could in 12 weeks and I am happy I had the opportunity to work at such an amazing firm. As a student on his way out for the summer, I just want to reflect on some highlights of my overall experience.

I learned more than I would have imagined I could in 12 weeks,,,


The People

Among the many good things MB has to offer, the people are at the top of my list in terms of aspects of the firm that have stuck out. MB has a very diverse and unique group of people who somehow mesh together amazingly well. The lawyers never stopped being helpful and were always available to answer summer student questions. They are very patient and great teachers. Additionally, the summer students were some of the most helpful, friendly, intelligent and fun groups of people I have ever been around and I am grateful to have been able to work with them this summer.

Work-life Balance

MB allows for a very rewarding work-life balance, and my summer experience is a testament to this. To provide some context, I have commuted from Richmond Hill every day. The commute is about an hour each way, so at times it can be difficult to maximize free time since two hours a day is dedicated to commuting. Truthfully, it was difficult to find the balance in the first few weeks, but once I was in the swing of things I was able to accomplish a fair amount of work while on the Go Train to and from work. As long as you are able to work efficiently, you will have no problem spending time with family and friends, going to the gym, cooking, or doing whatever it is you enjoy doing, on most days that is. The work-life balance is an aspect that I value very much and has been great this summer, even while having to commute from pretty far north.

"Day Out Calendar Means Excursion Trip Or Visiting" by Stuart Miles freedigitalphotos.netField Trips

Another highlight of my summer is the out of office experiences. By this, I mean discoveries, trials, mediations, etc. These are definitely things that every student should make time for. Not only do they provide greater insight into the life of a litigator, they are valuable because they allow you to witness different lawyers applying their own approach, which helps you find what style fits you best and also what you find to be most effective. They are also great opportunities to take a well-deserved break from the office grind.
Final Remarks
Looking back on the short summer term, I am amazed at all that the students were able to accomplish. The experience that we gained is, in my opinion, unparalleled. I firmly believe that each of us is now more confident, efficient, and vastly more knowledgeable than we were just 12 short weeks ago. I am happy to have had this experience and also very sad to have to leave. However, with just a year of school left, it won’t be long before we are back in action.
Michael G.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Why I chose MB as “my” firm

It’s hard to believe that our summer term at MB is coming to an end. Time honestly flew by. It seems like it was just a few days ago when I wrote my first blog describing my first two weeks at the firm. In this blog, I write about four qualities of MB that have re-affirmed my decision to choose MB as “my” firm.

...four qualities of MB that have re-affirmed my decision to choose MB as “my” firm.

Varied Work

In my previous blog, I wrote about MB’s desire to get its students involved as much as possible. Due to this exposure, students get the opportunity to work on different types of assignments and expand their knowledge. For example, during my summer term, I had the opportunity to attend court for a preliminary hearing; went to a mediation during which parties actually reached an agreement and settled; attended several interesting discoveries, one of which was very heated; drafted several motions and had the chance to watch some get argued in court; commenced actions; amended claims; prepared damages briefs and conducted research.

In addition to different types of work handed down to students, our group was also exposed to various industries that our clients, namely insurance companies, are involved in. Such exposure always provided new learning opportunities and made work more interesting.

Teamwork

Teamwork is perhaps one of the greatest qualities of MB. During my term here, I have felt comfortable enough to ask questions and seek help from my colleagues regardless of their “rank” within the firm. Not only are the people here very easy to approach, but also based on my experience, they are willing to go out of their way to help. This collegial environment is evident amongst our own student group. Despite the fact that we have had a busy – and sometimes stressful – time here at MB, our group has stuck together like a true team, often giving a helping hand to team members that may be swamped with work so that deadlines can be met. I truly appreciate this quality amongst our team and believe that credit must be given to our Student Committee for selecting such an amazing group.

Hire-Back Rates

If you have visited the student program section of our website, you may have noticed MB’s emphasis on its hire-back rates. This is not just a slogan or a marketing strategy; it is the way of life here at MB. In fact, so long as you work hard and show your dedication to learning, not getting hired back as an articling student or a first-year associate is an anomaly. This relieves the student from having to stress about a future position with the firm, and instead allows them to focus on their professional development.

Work-Life Balance

"work life balance Signpost" by Stuart Miles freedigitalphotos.net
Working at MB provides an opportunity to work at a large “Bay Street” firm without having to give up your work-life balance. While as summer students we occasionally had to stay at the office late into the night or come in on a weekend or two to catch up on some work, we don’t work the crazy hours that students at other big firms do. Fortunately, at MB there is no expectation for students to stay late or come in on the weekends to show face. This not only allows students to have a life outside of work, but also positively affects the quality of work by students as they are not over worked.

While there are many reasons that make MB a great firm to work at, the ones mentioned above are the MB qualities that I most appreciate about the firm. These are the qualities that have re-affirmed my decision of choosing MB as “my” firm.
Navid G.

Friday, 25 July 2014

More than Just a “Suit” going on a field trip...

As I prepared to write this blog entry, I had a look at my calendar and realized that I will already have completed seven of the twelve weeks of my MB summer work term. It is truly incredible how time flies when you work in a fast-paced environment such as this, where you learn something new every day and you get challenged on a regular basis. The office in Ottawa is a great place to work; located in Ottawa’s downtown core, it has the pleasant, collegial feel of a small firm while still retaining the excitement and thrill of a larger firm through its affiliation with the Toronto office. Throughout these seven weeks, I have been very fortunate to work on a variety of files with exceptionally respectable lawyers. The truth is, I could write a blog entry for all the tasks I've completed and it would be an interesting read (OK, almost all the tasks). However, for this one, I've chosen to talk about my two trips to a wonderful town in the beautiful province of Quebec.

"a fire...brought the project to an unfortunate stop."

MB is currently working on a matter involving a construction project in this town. This construction was taking place on a bridge’s pillars, and a fire on one of these pillars brought the project to an unfortunate stop. We retained an expert to assist in the forensic investigation of the site, who joined three expert engineers of the other parties in trying to determine the cause of the fire. Since these three engineers were all locals from Quebec while our expert was a uni-lingual Anglophone (besides a few “Allo’s” and “oui oui’s” here and there), I was charged with making sure nothing got lost in translation. Being bilingual does have its advantages and it felt great to be able to put that skill into use to contribute.

The first time I got on to the construction site, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I had a fairly nice shirt and running shoes on, but I quickly realized that I should have been wearing to the very least steel toe boots, as is typically required on such a site. So I did a quick scan of the area, hopped in one of the crew trailers and kindly asked the workers if I could borrow some gear. Next thing you know, I was ready to go with my steel toe Dunlop boots, safety vest, gloves and my trusted hard hat. Who said lawyers always had to wear a suit?

I climbed my way up the scaffolding and walked along a narrow walkway located on the underside of the bridge to get to the pillar. The layout was very interesting: a steel casing was installed around the pillar, from the base of the river up to about 40 feet, and there were 4 levels of wooden planks that we could walk on. I climbed down the ladder from the walkway to the fourth level and was given a detailed explanation of the site by our knowledgeable expert. The rubble from the fire had accumulated mainly on second and third levels. The first visit was mainly just an assessment of the work that needed to be done on the site, so after a walk around the pillar and a tour of the third level, we were out of there. However, on my second trip, the plan was to have the experts examine the rubble while the construction crew followed behind and threw out the useless pieces, which was unfortunately most of what we found.

"before I knew it, I was down on the second and third levels, shoveling away a mix of burnt two-by-fours, electrical wiring and wet ash."

At first, the experts and I were walking with our flashlights, taking pictures and notes while the workers were hauling burnt pieces of wood and shoveling the rubble. However, before I knew it, I was down on the second and third levels, shoveling away a mix of burnt two-by-fours, electrical wiring and wet ash. I’ve worked in construction before and it felt great to be able to help out, all while searching excitedly to find the one piece of evidence that would explain the cause. As our expert told me, investigations of fires can be like searching for a needle in a haystack without being sure that the needle exists. There’s a good chance that the cause cannot be determined, but it’s necessary to look through the entire evidence to be able to confirm that. Therefore, we shoveled away for most of the day, and headed to a warehouse the next day to examine what pieces we had found.

Copyright: bokica / 123RF Stock Photo
I felt this story was a good one to share because it demonstrates at what point it is important to be adaptable in our profession. I’m not saying that most of us will be throwing on a hard hat any time soon but it is incredible to see how diversified this type of work is. After only seven weeks here, I've become familiar with various types of claims that always involve a new and exciting scenario. Our profession requires us to become experts in plenty of fields, sometimes overnight, and I believe it is one reason why working as a lawyer is such a thrilling experience. As I was shoveling, one of the crew members looked at me and asked me who I was. I told him I was a lawyer, and my laugh said it all: More than just a “Suit”!
Alex R.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Murder on Bay Street!

Although the title of this post would probably make a great Hollywood Blockbuster, (notwithstanding that a car-chase scene through Toronto’s notorious traffic would be kind of lame), the title in fact alludes to the convergence of criminal law and civil law in several files being worked on at McCague Borlack.

I thought my criminal law days were behind me. How wrong I was.

Coming to MB as I did, with two summer experiences working for a criminal defence lawyer, I thought my criminal law days were behind me. How wrong I was. It is true of course that the wheelhouse of MB is civil litigation and that strictly criminal law cases are not the norm at the firm. However, just because a file is not directly a criminal matter does mean that the Criminal Code or other such pieces of legislation are of no use at the firm. Quite to the contrary.

In my 3rd week at the firm, just as I was getting accustomed to the pulse of the place and finally had mapped my route to the soda machine, I was informed by one of my supervising lawyers that I was to attend at a preliminary hearing (“prelim” in lawyer speak) in a high profile murder, for 3 consecutive days. For those who are not aware a prelim is a stage in criminal proceedings where material is presented to a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice in order to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to set a matter down for trial in Ontario Superior Court. As it turns out our client is involved in a civil suit in relation to this murder and therefore we needed to learn as much as possible from the criminal proceedings in order to mount a strong defence for our client in the civil suit.

The experience of watching senior criminal defense counsel and Crown Attorney’s examine and cross-examine witnesses in such a high profile case was truly an invaluable experience. I particularly enjoyed watching the different styles exhibited by the various counsel when questioning a recalcitrant witness or when catering to the judge’s wishes. I also should not forget to mention the relatively late starting time of 10:00 AM, allowing me time to catch up on much needed sleep!

image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos by Simon Howden
Beyond murder cases, which I (thankfully) admit are a rarity, criminal matters crop up in several other instances. As an example, I am working on a multi-million dollar civil claim that was the result of a serious motor vehicle accident. The police, who were called on scene, eventually compiled an extensive report and laid several criminal charges. Part of mounting a good defence for the client in cases like this one, includes reviewing these reports and following up on the criminal charges. However, these materials are typically not available to the public in full unless a court orders them to be. Therefore, I am currently in the process of drafting motion materials for what is known as a Wagg Application, which will hopefully grant us access to the information we need in order to mount the best defence possible for our client.

These experiences and others have taught me that the work this firm does is multifaceted and that working in a civil litigation firm does not mean that all other areas of life and law are off limits. On the contrary, working at a litigation boutique allows one exposure to most every aspect of life and law, and I am confident will provide me with a stimulating and interesting career.
Aryeh S.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

This is Sparta!!!

Before attending law school, the thought of working at a Bay Street firm the size of MB was only a dream and nothing more – but here I am, a month later, and I still can’t believe this feeling of energy and excitement.

At the end of the work day... you realize you would not trade this profession for any other out there.

Every morning is the same for me – I wake up, eat my breakfast and take the same route to work. However, every evening is different – I might leave the office at 6:00 p.m. with time to socialize or stay until 11:00 p.m. with barely enough time to get home and sleep. Whichever it is, at the end of the day when I walk out of the Exchange Tower onto the busy street filled with honking taxis, enormous skyscrapers, and various people hurrying to their next destination point, I realize I would not trade this profession for any other out there.

Now let’s talk about the variety of the work itself. One day, I get to work on settling a small claims file that is worth a couple thousand dollars, the next, be assisting a partner on a matter that is worth millions; I might work on a subrogation file, assist a lawyer on a labour and employment file or tag along to mediation on an accident benefits file.

The work itself is distributed in three ways:

The Rotation List
This default way is, just as the name suggests, the law students are rotated in as the work assignments flood the e-mail account.

The Walk-In
This second way means that you did work for a lawyer, while in rotation, and they liked it and now request you directly, either because you are already familiar with the file or you are just so good at what you do!

Area of Interest
For the purpose of this blog I will call this third way “area of interest” which means that you found a specific area of law interesting and you approached lawyers from that practice asking them to keep you in mind for any upcoming assignments.

courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net  "Attack" by farconville
When Worlds Collide
So what happens when I am next in line on the rotation list, a walk-in assigns me a task directly, and three lawyers are e-mailing me with "area of interest" assignments, and all are due that same day? At that point excitement really kicks in and you jump on your desk and scream at the top of your lungs – “THIS IS SPARTA!!!” … Well kind of...  or maybe you don't jump on your desk and, okay you just whisper lightly under your breath – but you get the point.

The assignments are interesting, complex, and each unique in its own way. The lawyers are supportive, encouraging, and really take the time to explain the context of the file before leaving you to work on it by yourself. The only scary part about this summer experience is when you begin to realize just how much you like the work, the people, and the lifestyle at MB.
Bogdan M.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Comparing Reality to the Suits TV Show...

Exciting, fast-paced, freedom.

Suits (tv show) may not perfectly depict our profession; however the key elements are there...

These were the first three words that came to mind when I was asked to reflect on my first month at MB. Although a dedicated “Suits” (the USA Network television show) fan, I acknowledge that the show glamourizes the legal profession. As I get further into the summer, I realize that Suits may not perfectly depict our profession; however the key elements are there.

Exciting.

Who can say they don’t, at some point in their life, want to work in one of the pristine towers in Toronto’s financial core? That is after all where the great legal drama, Suits is filmed.

It may have been intimidating at first but the students, lawyers, clerks and assistants at MB are truly a great support network. They teach me something new everyday and are some of the friendliest people, let alone professionals, that I have ever met. The bond between Harvey, Mike, Donna and even Louis is not something that only makes for a good storyline.

Fast-paced.

Then you have litigation that adds a sense of suspense, strategy, and of course excitement to the at times mundane paperwork. If you’ve seen Suits, you are likely well aware that in the world of litigation, things can change at the drop of a hat, which is likely why even the ingenious Mike is constantly scrambling. However, instead of a quick lunch at the corner hot dog stand, we struggle with navigating through the Path, which is more a maze than a path.

Last week, I assisted with drafting a rush factum for a responding motion. Before I knew it, 9 pm had turned into 10 pm, which subsequently turned into 12:30 am. However by the end of the night, we had put the finishing touches on our factum. I headed home exhausted but proud of my work. Around 10 am the next morning an email from opposing counsel arrived, enclosing an offer to settle. With our client’s best interests in mind, we settled which of course amounted to the immediate abandonment of the factum.

What’s an entire night’s worth of work and an unserved factum? The understanding that it’s all a means to an end.

Freedom.

With a fast-paced setting comes a mountain of work. MB entrusts its summer students with a lot of responsibility, including carriage over 8-12 Small Claims files. It is up to each student to track deadlines and limitation periods, update clients, draft pleadings, and push the file forward. The work may appear daunting at first but you receive a lot of direction, whether you have solicited it or lawyers sit down with you and offer their words of wisdom.

Your summer is what you make it, whether it is managing your workload or the hours that you put in on a daily basis. Harvey may look over what Mike does but he also expects Mike to pull his own weight.

It’s a great feeling to know you’re building your career in a supportive environment that offers you the excitement of gaining a variety of new experiences everyday. As Harvey Specter once said, “the only time “success” comes before “work” is in the dictionary.” He really does have the best lines.
Christine L.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Discoveries, Mediation, and Time Management

My first day of “real work” I was asked to put together a motion record...

It’s been a few weeks since orientation ended and the real work rolled in at McCague Borlack LLP. I have just started to get used to the constant panic attack of not knowing anything, and begun to enjoy myself. I have also never learned as quickly in my life. That, I believe, is due to a combination of the hands-on real work that we as summer students get assigned to and the “field trips” we get taken on. My first day of “real work” I was asked to put together a motion record for an upcoming motion, to be done that very same day. Whaaaat? Luckily the articling students were still around for me to pester. At the end of it, I saw the pieces fit together and understood why I was doing what I was doing. What a great feeling.

When people picture lawyers chained to the desk, they probably haven’t met a litigator. Even though it has only been three weeks in, I have already had the opportunity to attend two discoveries and a mediation. It was fascinating to watch the different styles of various lawyers in examining the same witness. The choice of words and the line of questioning really showcased the position the lawyer was taking towards this witness as well as the amount of preparation done. It was remarkable to see the precise wording and focused questioning by the senior partner I went with.

It is also true that each file is very different from the other. While I attended two discoveries, one had involved an interpreter, while the other involved a witness who is a lawyer by training. Hence, I saw two very different atmospheres and responses from the witness. At the end of the day, the most riveting to see was the relationships between counsel when it’s “on” and they are advocating for their client, and when they are just chatting with each other and sharing battle stories.

image courtesy of digital photos by jesadaphornMediation, on the other hand, was very different. All parties and all clients are at the table with (hopefully) the same goal in mind – to reach some kind of an agreement. At the same time, stakes are on the table as this is someone’s case. After openings made by each counsel, it becomes a sort of numbers game, and trying to keep each other in settlement talks long enough to achieve just that. The costs and consequences of continuing the case towards trial always linger in the back of everyone’s mind. The best part was, of course, that we reached a settlement and everybody was relieved it was over and (somewhat) happy.

Having said all that, field trips are fun but it is largely about time management as a summer student. While it is exciting to be going in and out of the office, it is important to keep in mind what assignments and tasks need to be done for other lawyers and to keep on track with the small claims files. It is definitely a balancing act that we continuously work at!
Leona K.

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Glory of Law: A Dream Revised


One day, I am going to be a lawyer. I will get to wear fancy clothes and have a fruitful career. I will win many cases and be well respected among my peers.

These are some of the initial feelings that some may experience when deciding to pursue a career in law. However, as someone who used to possess these feelings, it was not long before I realized that this is not what law is about. Law is indeed a glorious profession, but not for the above reasons.

It was always apparent to me that pursuing a career in law would be no simple task. From going through the application process for Law School, to surviving 100% law finals, to getting a job, and then having to prove your merit at your place of hire, the challenges never end. However, out of all the hard work, the stress, the ups and downs, comes excitement and a heightened sense of where all the dedication is eventually leading. It is leading to a career in law, a dream come true. Although, along the way, something changed. I began to understand that law is much more than just fancy clothes and winning cases. It is, at its very core, about being on the front lines of justice. This is why law is a glorious career. It allows you to serve the public by defending freedom, as well as to seek the most just outcome for your client.

...along the way, something changed. I began to understand that law is much more than just fancy clothes and winning cases.

As a student at MB, I am given a great amount of responsibility. With that responsibility, comes the opportunity to be immersed in the profession and to truly realize my goals. There is no greater feeling than knowing that you have made a contribution, no matter how large or small, to a cause much greater than yourself. So, even if I have to stay in the office from early morning until late at night, and this will happen at times, I take solace in the fact that I am fighting for things that deserve a high degree of dedication and hard work, social goods such as freedom and justice.

In the words of Daniel Webster, "Justice, sir, is the great interest of man on earth. It is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together." I believe this quote embodies what it truly means to be part of the legal profession. So forget the fancy clothes, the glory of law is the privilege of being trusted with the duty to progress a claim in the pursuit of justice. It is because of this, that I am honoured to say “one day, I am going to be a lawyer”.
Michael G.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

First two weeks, so far so great!

During the weeks preceding the start of my summer at MB, I was both very excited and nervous at the same time. After all, it’s not everyday that you start your legal career. However, it took only days of being at MB for the feeling of nervousness to be replaced by excitement, satisfaction, gratitude, and a sense of belonging. Here's why.

After all, it's not everyday your legal career starts!


Comprehensive Training

Our first week was fully dedicated to training. We sat in a boardroom overlooking the high-rise buildings of downtown Toronto. Our training was focused on not only administrative and procedural aspects of the firm, but also substantive information on different practice areas within the firm, such as Accident Benefit and Subrogation. We also had a crash course on civil procedure which was great.

Having received a training of this nature at the outset provided us with a much needed overview of the type of files we would be exposed to. This enabled us to confidently tackle the tasks that have been assigned to us. Oh and the training was pretty tech-savvy. A rotational camera and a big-screen TV were used to connect live to our Ottawa office.

Collegial Environment

Many firms talk about having a collegial environment, but MB holds this very close to its heart and takes proactive steps in order to foster this attitude amongst colleagues.

The firm’s policy regarding how summer students receive work is a great example of this. Work is mostly distributed amongst students based on an alpha-order rotational system, which prevents students from cherry-picking the best assignments for themselves. This method reduces tension and encourages healthy competition. Furthermore, MB’s exceptional hire back rate allows students to focus their full energy on mastering their lawyering skills in order to help MB in the future.

Getting Students Involved

What I like about MB is that students are given significant responsibility very early on. Each student takes ownership of over a dozen small claims files. While students report to the supervising lawyer, they are mainly in charge of all aspects of these files. In addition, lawyers who are working on larger files give students tasks. Such tasks include, but are not limited to, drafting affidavit of documents and motions, including motion to strike, conducting research, as well as attending court and discoveries.

Amazing Support System

Fortunately, MB provides a great support system to help summer students with the significant responsibilities that are given to them. Many lawyers stop by our desks to introduce themselves and ask us not to shy from going to them for help. As well, the support provided by the Articling Students have been exceptional. They have each gone above and beyond to provide us with genuine advice and guidance and have become our good friends in such short period of time. If this is what my summer experience has been like thus, far, I can’t wait to see what is to come. Read my next blog and I will tell you all about it.
Navid G

Friday, 6 June 2014

An amazing year, coming to an end

What an amazing articling year it has been!

With our articles now coming to an end, we thought that we would share some of our favorite MB memories and leave you with some parting words/advice…

See you in September MB!

JUSTIN ANISMAN

  • Favourite Memory of the year: After doing good work on a mediation memorandum for a professional negligence file, I was given the opportunity to take carriage of the small claims court file and bring it to trial. I was totally ready to go, until, the day before trial, the Plaintiff accepted my Offer to Settle from months earlier. It was such a disappointment at the time, but has become one of my favorite stories from my articling term and certainly my favorite memory. 
  • Words of Wisdom: Bite off more than you can chew.
  • Plans for Summer: Honeymooning in Italy!
  • Parting Words: I will cherish all the time I spent with my fellow articling students, it was quite a ride and I know I will always look back to my Articling fondly.


ERIC KATZMAN

  • Favourite Memory of the year: Easily the firm’s Christmas party. Our articling student skit was a huge hit.   
  • Words of Wisdom: Articling is a marathon, not a sprint. Also, save some precedents. No one needs to jump over the same hurdle twice.
  • Plans for Summer: A fast-food detox followed by a two-week trip to Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro.
  • Parting Words: Stay classy, McCague Borlack.


KATI AUBIN

  • Favourite Memory of the year: the final five minutes before we started the annual holiday skit. The props were set up, the students were all laughing nervously, it was hilariously awful.
  • Words of Wisdom: Learn early that ‎while what you do as a student is important, nothing is so important that it can't be fixed. Even if you feel like the sky is falling around you, it can be refastened without too much hassle.
  • Plans for Summer: Getting to know Toronto better, possibly a trip to Turkey in there too. Lots of weddings.
  • Parting Words: There's always money in the banana stand.


ALYSSA CAVERSON

  • Favourite Memory of the year: Getting back our winning verdict after trial!
  • Words of Wisdom: Always make sure your phone is on silent before court begins.
  • Plans for Summer: To be determined, but I'm hoping to do some traveling.
  • Parting Words: See you in the fall, MB!


DAVID OLEVSON

  • Favourite Memory of the year: MB Christmas party!
  • Words of Wisdom: Ask lots of questions.
  • Plans for Summer: Traveling!
  • Parting Words: Never forget to have fun!


EMILY COHEN GALLANT

  • Favourite Memory of the year: My very first time in “big girl” court with the chose-your-own-adventure-esque instructions for bringing a walk-in motion.
  • Words of Wisdom: Take a breath, smile even when you don’t feel like it, and enjoy the moment. This is your time to learn from your mistakes, relish in the opportunity.
  • Plans for Summer: Road trip, beach sleeps, bottomless port, and endless seafood.
  • Parting Words: It was quite the ten months full of law, laughs, and lamentations – and I wouldn't have it any other way. Thank you to my articling student family who traveled through this rite of passage with me, you are forever my MB siblings and I am grateful for that.


SHIVAAN DE SILVA

  • Favourite Memory of the year: Driving to Perth for a settlement conference at the beautiful Perth Courthouse
  • Words of Wisdom: You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. You never know what will happen if you don’t try or ask.
  • Plans for Summer: Taking some time to get out on the water!
  • Parting Words: Always be a student, and try to keep learning and improving continually throughout your career.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

matters are very often resolved without judicial intervention, sometimes on the eve of a motion or trial...

As an articling student, we often assist on motions or trials that require several hours of preparation before a hearing date. We conduct our research, draft our materials, and wait with anticipation for the hearing date that took months or years to obtain. However, these matters are very often resolved without judicial intervention, sometimes on the eve of a motion or trial. Even if the result is advantageous, the anti-climax, at times, can be quite disappointing.

As is often the case with the litigants themselves, we wanted our day in court. It is sometimes difficult to keep our eyes on the prize; we won without having to go through the risk of the motion or trial. This completely reasonable intellectual rationalization offers little comfort to an articling student, whose time and effort seems to have been for naught.

I have found solace in another, equally valid rationalization; the positive result or resolution would never have been possible without the preparation for the motion or trial. One’s strategic position can be significantly altered when an opposing party reads well-researched, well-written materials. At that point, a master or judge may no longer be necessary.

Therefore, while the drama may be somewhat muted, I have learned to take an advantageous result obtained before a motion or trial as what it is: a win that was earned.
Eric K.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Prepping for trial... next week Kenora

...something like 98% of cases settle prior to trial...

Trial is one of those things that seem to occur less and less often these days. In fact I think the statistic is something like 98% of cases settle prior to trial. The fact that a trial is so expensive and time consuming it really motivates clients to act reasonably, assess litigation risk and make meaningful attempts to settle.

Every once and a while, though, a lucky articling student gets the opportunity to participate in one. Next week I'm flying to Kenora, Ontario to do just that.

Before then there's about 100 things that need to be done:
  • Final Rule 49 Offers need to be exchanged. At this point it’s likely that many offers have already been exchanged and the parties might be close to a settlement. That said, formalizing the offers increase the litigation risk to the opposing parties.
  • Witnesses need to be prepared and Summons to Witness need to be issued and served. It will be hard to prove your case if your witnesses aren’t there. Fortunately, there’s a form for that
  • Request to Admit (and responses to same from the opposing parties). This is your last chance to have the opposing parties make it easier on you to prove your case. Anything they admit you don’t have to prove at trial. Furthermore, if they refuse to admit something and you end up proving it at trial then there are cost consequences in your favour.
  • Notice of Intention under the Evidence Act. If there are any documents you’d like to rely on, such as clinical notes and records, police reports, or other business records, putting them in a Notice of Intention Under the Evidence Act, will allow you to introduce them as evidence independently.
  • You have to prepare, draft, and practice your opening and closing Submissions, examinations-in-chief, and cross-examinations.
  • A fact um needs to be drafted, although changes will likely need to be made during trial depending on the evidence that is elicited and much, much, more.
Now you might think that if the case has come this far a lot of this work has already been done and in most cases this is true. But this is trial were talking about and everything needs to be 110%. In all honesty, trial prep is one of the best learning experiences a young (near-)lawyer can get and certainly the most exciting. You learn a file inside and out, you research, learn and help create a persuasive argument, but most of all you get to make an impactful contribution to the disposition of the matter.
Justin A.

Monday, 31 March 2014

The Virtue of Research

In many law firms, research is often the primary task for articling students. Be it for a paper, seminar, or a file, when a lawyer needs an answer on a discrete point of law, a student is generally the perfect candidate. We have legal training, an academic background, and we are substantially cheaper than a full-fledged lawyer. Lawyers need answers and we are usually the most efficient vehicle for obtaining them.

Research allows a student to learn an area of law, which has value.


Research is not glamorous. It involves a desk, a computer, and possibly a few books. No lawyer will ever tell glorious war stories about the heroic research that they conducted while they articled. But what research may lack in excitement it can make up for in utility. Research allows a student to learn an area of law, which has value. Especially if a student is diligent in saving their memos and cases, research produces knowledge of the law that can be applied at a later date to other problems.

Image from Dream Designs at free digital downloads
So when that juicy contested motion comes through the door and the partner asks “so who has experience in X?”, it may just be that 10 hour paper-laden goose chase that you went on 3 months ago that clinches the assignment for you. 
Eric K.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Cross Examinations and Closing

Since David covered trial prep, I'm going to focus on the most exciting part of going to trial: examining witnesses and making submissions to the court. In reality, the vast majority of trials settle - whether on the eve of, or just a few weeks before - so you don't get to experience the actual trial often. However, I lucked out and was asked to assist a lawyer who was going to trial on a file that was likely not going to settle.

I was allowed to conduct the direct examination of the policy holder who attended the scene of the accident.


Once in court the lawyer introduced himself as leading lawyer, and then in open court, introduced me, the student-at-law, who would be assisting. It was awesome. He did the opening, and the first examination of our insured, and then handed the proverbial reins over to me. I was allowed to conduct the direct examination of the policy holder who attended the scene of the accident. Everything went (mostly) to plan, and I officially had my first real examination - transcript and everything.

The trial continued throughout the day, and we adjourned for 3 weeks. Naturally, I asked what else the lawyer needed help with. Along with updating the examinations, he advised that I was to choose between the cross examination or the closing submissions. I was slightly nervous about cross examining our colorful defendant, and picked the closing. I was instructed to prep the submissions entirely and the lawyer would review to make any necessary changes.

On the morning of day two of the trial, he told me to do exactly what I prepared. I was so excited! Granted, I got a pretty silly case of shaky hands, but I did the entire closing, on my own. I set out for the court what evidence we called, the law we were relying on, what we wanted the judge to decide, and what we were looking for in terms of costs. I also answered the judge's questions, which actually went easier than I expected.

Although the whole experience was a great one, the icing on the cake was having the judge rule entirely in our client's favour! So, seven months into Articling, I now I have trial experience!

Alyssa C.