Friday, 25 September 2015

First Appearances at Motion Court

Every law student envisions their day in court differently. But for most students, facing the judge is likely the scariest part of it all. Eleven days into articling, I attended my first motion at Brampton Civil court. It was a routine motion, but naturally, I was still very excited and anxious. Being the first of our student group to attend a motion, they were all anxious for me; “Our first motion!!” they said. In preparing for the motion, I spoke with a number of lawyers at the office in addition to the assigning lawyer. At the end of one conversation, I said “That’s very helpful, thank you, I just wanted to know what to expect”. The lawyer replied: “You can never really know what to expect.” Well, ain’t that the truth.

So the day came and I arrived at the Brampton court house...

So the day came and I arrived at the Brampton court house. There were about 15 matters on the docket in the courtroom I was at. I looked around at the other lawyers who all looked like they knew what they were doing, I tried to fit in. As the first few motions went by, I began to realize something I did not expect. The judge is a real person! This particular Justice’s interest was in family law. Whenever a family law matter came before him, he spoke to the parties about his concerns and the issues at stake. During civil matters, I heard him explain his discomfort in dispensing with service and reasoned why in the particular circumstances he would grant it. It was like my law textbooks had jumped to life! When it came time for my motion, I was considerably more at ease. Before I knew it, I had my first order. Four weeks later, I was asked to attend another motion, this time in Toronto. I remembered my lesson from my first attendance, and reviewed the motion materials by asking myself, “Why are we asking for this order from the court? What makes it reasonable?” I reminded myself that the judges are there to resolve the matter as fair and practicable as possible.

This proved even truer on my second motion attendance. Upon arrival, I was informed my motion had been redirected to another courtroom. When I got there, two counsels were getting very heated over their own respective calendars. The judge therefore asked them to consult between themselves outside the courtroom so he could get to the other matters. On a later matter, one counsel repeatedly would not schedule a trial even though several dates in 2016 were given, as he had a long trial around that time. The judge finally said to him: “Counsel, given that 97% of matters settle before trial, and in the interest of moving the [trial] list along, perhaps double booking trials in 2016 is not such a bad idea. Let’s not live up to the reputation that in Toronto, you have to book trials 3 years in advance”. The down to earth comment set a tone for the remainder of the scheduling matters and reminded everyone of the reality that surrounds every legal battle.

courtesy of Stuart Miles digitalphotos
As for me, it turns out that the Justice had already reviewed the file I was appearing for and was therefore familiar with it. He had moved me up to his courtroom because he did not want me to run into any issues in the other courtroom. After I spoke to the motion, he then told me he would sign the order and endorsement in his chambers since he had the file there. I was surprised at how he took the time and effort to ensure that the motion would be properly addressed.

I never expected to find myself in chambers on my second motion attendance, but there I was. You can never really know what to expect, indeed!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Training From Hell - Louis Litt Style?

Okay MB is not comparable to working with Louis Litt from HBO’s Suits episode “Training from Hell”.

The following tips have helped me avoid nose-diving while articling...

Louis certainly took pride in how badly he treated the new associates at Pearson Specter Litt. Disguising his tactics as “training”, he even made one junior associate house sit for his cat despite their intense allergies to all things feline.

Most law students imagine horrific accounts of what their articling experience could entail – crashing overnight at the office, on-call duties dictated by a boss aspiring to be Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada, and never-ending mountains of paperwork one could only hope to see the top of…. However, if you’re expecting a recount of a personal “training from hell” articling experience, you are reading the wrong blog. I have only been articling at McCague Borlack for a month and a half but I am certain I will not be subjected to an allergic reaction anytime soon.

The lawyers at our firm have been kind and patient in volunteering their time to impart useful skills and knowledge, making the learning curve much more manageable. However, articling also involves a great deal of personal learning. Transitioning from being a summer to an articling student meant continuing to develop better organizational and work habits in order to better manage my time and take on more responsibility. As the volume and complexity of work has increased, I am slowly beginning to understand the importance of endurance which in the end will help me ‘survive’ a career in law.


The following tips have helped me avoid nose-diving while articling:
  1. Do not promise an earlier deadline than you can deliver;
  2. Save final work products so you never make the same mistake twice;
  3. Buy a large Moleskine notebook and bring it to lawyers’ offices to make detailed notes of assigned tasks;
  4. Organize your emails into folders and sub-folders for different lawyers and client files for easy access to information; and
  5. Find a few favourite spots in the Path for snack and coffee breaks!
Now I’m not saying there won’t be late nights to look forward to but as long as you prioritize and organize your tasks, you shouldn’t need to invest in a sleeping bag in the near future!
Christine L.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Tips for the Bar Exam

So you just wrote your final exam of law school. Inevitably upon completing the exam, you celebrate because you’re about to graduate and finally be done with school. You also begin planning how amazing your time off in the summer will be before you start Articling. However, something just doesn’t seem right. Although you know you should be ecstatic and excited for your summer, you just can’t seem to figure out why the feeling is not of pure joy. Oh right, you registered to write the bar exam in June!

Remember, it’s only 6 weeks of intense studying and then you can relax.

Materials
A week after completing your last exam, you might find yourself picking up the materials for the bar. As you’re handed the two separate bundles of materials (barristers and solicitors), the first thing you might do is check how many pages there are in total. That’s right, about 1800 pages but don’t worry, about 300 of them are common to both exams. A week prior you were feeling immensely happy for being done school but now, you quickly begin to feel the stress of having to write two exams that culminate your entire efforts in the past 3 years.

Delayed Reaction
Although writing the bar may seem like a difficult and daunting task, I’m going to tell you that it was certainly not as bad as I made it out to be. One of the more difficult things to come to terms with was that my celebration for being done law school and being able to fully enjoy the summer were to be delayed until the middle of June. Once you come to terms with delaying your summer plans, gain a feel for what the materials are like and set a reading schedule. It’s really all about staying focused and ensuring that you get through the materials at least once, and of course, be sure to have good indices. Remember, it’s only 6 weeks of intense studying and then you can relax.

Exam Day
On exam day, make sure you arrive early, pack nutritious food and most importantly, stay calm. I can’t stress that last point enough. Of course being adequately prepared will also help ensure that you are calm and collected before and during the exam. Try not to rush questions, but also do not spend too much time on one if you just can’t seem to get the answer. Timing is much more important than being stubborn and not moving on from a question when you’ve already dwelled on it for too long. If this happens, I suggest choosing the answer that you think might be correct, or a random one if they all seem equally plausible, and noting it so you can come back if there is some time at the end. The reason I suggest filling in an answer and not leaving it blank is because you may find that you run out of time by the end and it’s better to at least have an answer than to leave it blank. Just don’t press too hard with your pencil, you might need to erase and correct it.


Go for June
The study time and the exams will fly by, just as the last 3 years already have. Before you know it, you’ll be articling and all the stress of law school and the bar will seem distant and inconsequential. In fact, I strongly recommend writing the bar in June if it fits into your schedule because you will likely still be in exam mode from your finals, and you will not have to stress over the exams while you Article.

In summary
Give the materials the time they deserve, try not to stress too much on exam day and remember, if you’re prepared, it should all work out.