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.