Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Professional Development – Starting Early

The practice of law is a craft; like any other skill, it requires hard work, dedication, and time to develop.

MB is the type of firm that invests a lot in its junior members....

MB is the type of firm that invests a lot in its junior members (students especially), by placing a strong emphasis on professional development. From in-house seminars such as lunch-and-learns, to the informal feedback received from experienced lawyers, there is no shortage of opportunities to grow and develop.

Many of my colleagues have already blogged about the responsibility articling students receive (i.e. carriage of our own files), and the incredible work we get to do on a daily basis (injunctions, anyone?). To build on that, I thought I would share the various other ways to hone your skills.

Practice Group Seminars

If I were to ask a law student how many Supreme Court of Canada cases they read in a month, it would be shocked if that number isn't 10x higher than the average lawyer. This is because, on a day-to-day basis, the fundamentals of practice do not change all that much. However, keeping up on the law is vital to ensuring the best result for your clients.

The firm frequently hosts meetings and seminars within each of its practice groups (i.e. transportation law, accident benefits, subrogation, privacy). The purpose of these seminars is to bring us up to date with both new developments in the law, as well as fundamental principles.

Publishing

MB gives you no shortage of opportunities to publish (see my most recent and another published with  Toronto Law Journal). At any given time throughout articling, I have had anywhere from 2 to 6 papers on the go (I don't recommend 6, by the way!), an email blast, and a presentation.

Publishing has the double benefit of learning an area of the law in-depth, as well as making a name for yourself in the legal community. Which brings me to my next point.

“Businessman with idea lightbulb” by basketman freedigitalphotos
Networking

I've already mentioned the benefits of networking in a previous post. However, I didn't highlight just how many firm events MB students are entitled to attend. Just last month, our well-attended “Christmas in January” party was an excellent opportunity to meet clients and put a face to the names we deal with every day.

It is never too early to focus on your professional development so hopefully you find a firm where your efforts are facilitated and rewarded.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Life is a Marathon

Have you heard of the saying, life is a marathon, not a sprint? Well, articling is like a series of sprints within a marathon. It demands your focus, respect and humility. It requires your very best work. And it places on your shoulders the responsibility to do the best job you can for your client, your firm, and your principal.

As an articling student, you are on call to do great work at any time.

Articling represents a level of intensity that I never saw in law school. Yes there was moot and exams and final papers and Socratic classes. But you could pace yourself and spread tasks across weeks or months. As an articling student, you are on call to do great work at any time. Which means you are operating at peak efficiency, often for long stretches of time.

So, how do you avoid burning yourself out? 

First, develop relationships with your peers.  Depending on your outlook, these individuals are your competitors or your compatriots. One of the reasons I chose to article at McCague Borlack was because they make an effort to foster collegiality and tend to attract people who thrive in that environment.

picture courtesy of freedigitalphotos by iosphere
Second, take breaks. I mean real breaks, not “go outside and stare at your cell phone for 10 minutes” breaks. It’s easy to get wrapped up in a case or assignment, but you have to be cognizant of your time as well. Sitting for three hours straight may seem productive at first, but it can hurt you in the long run. This seems obvious, but when you are under pressure or deeply engaged in a task, sometimes you forget.

And third, get a life. Your family and friends are important. They have been with you since the beginning. Let them be there for you during articles.

Articling is a truly challenging process, but the quality of your experience will depend on the quality of your personal and professional relationships at home and at work.