Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Reality Check: With OCIs around the corner...

I thought I would take the time to write a blog that touches on my OCI experience and give you a glimpse of reality now that I am midway through the summer. I still get chills reminiscing about all of the stress and excitement during the summer and fall of 2015.

I wanted an experience where I was able to work hands-on with files and gain exposure to different areas of law.


During applications for OCIs, I read, for what seemed like days, about all of the opportunities that firms are willing to offer their summers students. I learned very quickly from past summer students that not all of these touted opportunities are a reality. Many students spoke of doing one single task for the entire summer, whether it was endless research or summarizing records all day long. I did not want this to happen to me. I wanted an experience where I was able to work hands-on with files and gain exposure to different areas of law. Without sending caution to the wind, I spoke further with some students who expressed their array of learning experiences at one firm, in particular, McCague Borlack, and I thought to myself, 'this firm sounds like a perfect fit for me!'

Needleless to say, after 7.5 weeks I can confirm that the student experience and opportunities that MB promotes for its summer students, is bang on. In less than two months, not only have I had the opportunity to work closely with partners on files, but I have also had carriage of my own small claims court files and even became published! How is this possible in only 7.5 weeks? The key is the firm’s teamwork mentality; working closely with lawyers has given me the opportunity to have real responsibility. The firm really does promote a “learn through experience” environment.

Throughout the summer I have been assigned an assortment of tasks, some with tight deadlines and some with deadlines that will outlive my summer here. I have been able to attend court proceedings and watch my work be put into action. I’ve even performed some delivery law, which provides students with the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the court system.

The atmosphere at McCague Borlack definitely centres on training students and giving us the tools we need to prepare for articling. I can see why MB prides themselves on the work quality of their young lawyers since they are not only shown the ropes but also given the opportunity to test them out.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Sherlock Holmes of the Legal Profession

As law students, we learn the importance of research in the legal field. Law school is designed to teach us to think like lawyers and equip us to learn and adapt to the ever-changing common law. As such, Principles of Legal Research is one of the mandatory classes law students must take in their first year of law school. We learn about the many legal research resources. The websites. The books. The famous McGill Guide.

...research is a key aspect of practicing law.


The first half of my time as part of the MB summer program has taught me that what my law school professors have stressed throughout the past three years of my education is correct: research is a key aspect of practicing law.

Yes, I have done research regarding case law, statutes, regulations, the ever-famous Rules of Civil Procedure and how legal principles apply to different cases and situations of fact. However, I did not expect to become the legal Sherlock Holmes.

On more than one occasion, the research I have done as a summer law student involved contacting individual courthouses to determine their own procedures and customs. I have tracked down documents and exhibits. I even determined the date of death of an individual in order to subsequently identify their executor.

These are not the kind of investigations that law school prepared me for. However, they are the kind of assignments that develop the skills required to become the kind of lawyer I hope to become: a resourceful individual who identifies the information needed to successfully represent her clients; an individual capable of finding answers whether they are easily accessible or not.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Approaching The List like Goldilocks

For the summer months, law firms often delegate student work through a rotation list. Each student has a spot on the list that determines who will accept the different assignments in the cycle. Some might be large, others small, but one thing is for certain – sticking to the list ensures that everyone gets a taste of the different work available and that there is coverage for all assignments.

Approaching the lawyers directly allows me to show interest and initiative...

I can remember feeling apprehensive when I first started at McCague Borlack. I was assigned a spot in the middle of the list, meaning that on some days the cycle did not always reach me. I wondered if I would get a chance to work on assignments that were interesting and exciting to me, and what I should do while I was waiting for my name to come up.

Luckily, my mentor and student director encouraged all of the students to actively seek out work from the lawyers. Part of getting the most out of your summer student experience is always looking for the next opportunity to dive into legal work. Approaching the lawyers directly allows me to show interest and initiative, as well as obtain work from those who might not use the rotation list.

Overall, this double-pronged approach ensures that I am comfortable and happy with my spot in the rotation. I never get so bogged down with work that I feel overwhelmed, but I also get steady and interesting work. Kind of like Goldilocks, I have found the spot that is just right for me.