Friday, 17 November 2017

So You Got an OCI Job… Now What?

To all the 2L students who just went through the OCI process...

First of all, congratulations! You made it over yet another hurdle in your legal career. Even if you did not receive an offer on Call Day, you should be proud of all the hard work you put into the process. Preparing an application package, interviewing, and networking with lawyers are skills that everyone in the profession needs to cultivate. And remember there are so many incidents of great lawyers who have experienced similar bumps in the road.

When do I start?

How do I get there?

Will I be ready?

For those who will now be starting at a firm this summer, you likely have some anxiety and many questions. When do I start? How do I get there? Will I be ready? I may not have the answer for every question – or for every firm, for that matter – but here are some things that I thought would be helpful. Some of my comments will be general and others specific to McCague Borlack (or as we call it - “MB”). In either case, I hope you find something to help you out!

  1. Most firms will e-mail or write you in advance about your start date. One of the great things about MB is that we start a little bit later in the summer – usually after the Victoria Day weekend. In my 2L summer, the extra time off between school and work allowed me to travel and catch up on some much-needed rest.
  2. Different firms have different levels of formality when engaging students for the summer. Some firms will send you multi-page contracts to sign, while other firms will simply send a letter confirming your start date and that they are excited to work with you! If you have any questions or concerns, do not be afraid to reach out to the Student Director at your firm. I remember that our own Director was more than happy to answer my questions and help prepare me for my first day!
photo care of pixabay ohurtsov
So, on that note…
  1. Before you start, try a “practice commute” from home to your office. That way, you can see how long it takes you and ensures you arrive on time for your first day. I would also suggest determining in advance what elevator takes you up to your office. Some buildings have multiple banks on different floors (e.g., concourse, main floor), or elevators that only go to certain floors (e.g., odd, even). In-firm interviews are usually such a blur that you sometimes forget these details. For future MB’ers, just remember that we are the second bank of elevators – I’ve made the mistake too many times of going to the first bank and rushing out in a panic before the doors closed!
  2. Last but not least, your first day can be nerve-wracking. You may be at a firm in a different city, or you may not know anyone else from your school who works there. Do not be afraid to spend some time getting to know the other students! They are probably just as nervous as you but also as eager to make friends! I am grateful that the other summer students at MB (now my articling colleagues) were friendly and outgoing from the start.
Good luck! Enjoy the rest of the Fall Semester! You are almost halfway done law school and off to a great start for your next summer.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Let the Games Begin: How Negotiation Competitions prepared me for my First Trial

I am happy to report that I argued my first case in the Small Claims Court and lived to tell the tale! I was representing the plaintiff in a hotly contested matter against an experienced opponent. The deputy judge reserved judgement so while we don’t yet know whether the court ruled in favour of my client, I felt well-prepared for the trial and can’t wait for my next opportunity to appear in court.

I was representing the plaintiff in a hotly contested matter against an experienced opponent.

I write to encourage any law students who may be reading this blog post to get as much advocacy practice as you can while you’re still a student. In my third year of law school, I spent a great deal of time preparing for and participating in national and international negotiation competitions. Along with a partner, I negotiated in front of practicing lawyers, businesspeople, and academics who had volunteered to judge the competitions. The judges were eager to provide feedback which encouraged participants to become better negotiators and advocates. Of course, these are mock negotiations without real clients and real money on the line. As a result, these competitions are an effective place to learn and practice advocacy skills before finding yourself in a real negotiation or, in my case, a real trial. It’s still early in the school year – seek out these opportunities to practice.

Not yet convinced? Think these extra-curricular competitions will eat up too much of your time during 3LOL? I’ve prepared some closing submissions on the matter.

The fact that I had participated in negotiation competitions helped me calm my pre-appearance nerves. I was able to remind myself that I had been in situations before where talented professionals were judging my performance.

My negotiation competition experience also allowed me to practice my public speaking skills. I knew that I would be able to express myself clearly and confidently in front of my client, the opposition, and the deputy judge.

Further, these competitions taught me to think on my feet. Particularly during my cross-examinations of defence witnesses and during my closing arguments, I was required to listen carefully and react to answers from witnesses and to questions from the bench. I was glad to have practiced these skills previously.

Although I happened to practice advocacy skills in the context of negotiation competitions, you can acquire and practice these skills in a variety of settings. For instance, many of my fellow articling students participated in moot court competition and will attest to the fact that they benefitted greatly from the opportunity to practice appellate advocacy, public speaking, and other skills in moot court. Many of us also took trial advocacy to prepare for our summer and articling terms at McCague Borlack.

Make the most of your law school experience – seek out opportunities to practice advocacy skills before you begin articling; I’m very glad that I did.