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?