Monday, 15 January 2018

Holiday Cheer: Work Hard, Play Hard

Throughout my articling experience, I’ve learned how adversarial litigation can truly be.  Often times you are faced with dealing with difficult people and situations. Working with people really is an art; it is a lot more difficult than one may think. Circumstances arise where you have to determine the appropriate way to handle opposing counsel, whether in court or trying to contact them to discuss something as simple as providing their undertakings (which should have been done weeks ago). The stress involved when working in an adversarial and competitive environment is not to be underestimated. As famously quoted in the movie Mean Girls:

“I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school... I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy... “

And guess what? That is exactly what we did! During the holidays, the students had a break from the adversarial environment that goes hand in hand with the practice of law and instead brought the competition in-firm by competing in a cookie decorating contest. I won’t lie, some lawyers joined in as well!

The articling students were given one hour to decorate two Christmas cookies each. The firm members were then sent pictures of each cookie and asked to vote on which one was their favourite. After the votes were tallied, the winner was revealed in a firm-wide email. I won’t say who won because the contest was not about winning but rather about having fun. However, what I will say is… I won. And if that isn’t true, well how would you know? This is my blog.

All jokes aside, getting the opportunity to have some in-office fun in the midst of our busy work schedules is a great reminder that if you work hard, you should play hard too.

Although the holidays have passed, I’d like to share with you the cookies my talented colleagues and I decorated (if you are wondering, I am the one who could not wait to take the picture before eating one of my cookies). 

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

The Team: A Shout-Out to Support Staff

The lawyers and articling students at McCague Borlack (MB) were recently asked to provide annual reviews for support staff. This exercise made me think of all the different people that have helped me during the time that I have been here.

As lawyers will likely tell you, law school does not accurately reflect the actual practice of law. There is a steep learning curve as you figure out the ins and outs of this new profession.
image compliments of pixabay

When I first started working at MB, I felt like I knew absolutely nothing about practicing law. Sure, I had learned legal principles in school and I felt I had a basic understanding of different areas of law. However, when I first started, I quickly realized I knew nothing about the day-to-day operations of a law firm. Today, I no longer feel completely like a fish out of water, and the support staff that we were asked to review are a big part of the reason why.

As an articling student, you expect to learn a lot from the lawyers you work with, and you do. But you also learn and receive a lot of support from their assistants, the law clerks, and other office staff.

Everything I have done while working at MB has been a new experience. For example, serving people with pleadings and drafting the corresponding affidavits of service, booking motions, and making undertaking charts were all things that I had never done. These are also things that the very experienced staff at MB have done many times before.

As I was asked to do each of these things, I reached out to assistants, clerks and other staff for help. They were all so kind, helping me whenever I required support in a specific area. I learned that, depending on the task, these are the people I should be reaching out to first. These individuals have a significant amount of knowledge and they are always willing to share. I also realized how big their roles are at MB and the importance of teamwork in the legal profession.

I have been able to see firsthand how a team takes carriage of a file, and how it belongs to more people than just the assigned lawyer.

While working here, I have been able to observe how closely everyone works together. I have seen how lawyers and assistants work together on files and, more often than not, how assistants know as much about files as the lawyer assigned to them. The same applies to law clerks, who often work on files from beginning to end. I have been able to see firsthand how a team takes carriage of a file, and how it belongs to more people than just the assigned lawyer.

This same kind of team effort can often be seen at MB during “emergency situations”, such as when a file comes in with a looming limitation period. Everyone comes together to ensure that everything is prepared properly and on time. I have seen assistants, clerks, and lawyers step up to roles that they would not typically have in order to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

This teamwork applies to the overall MB structure as well. Despite having offices in four different cities, lawyers in different offices continue to work together. Everyone works and communicates as a team, which allows MB to represent its clients in the best possible way.

By Jessica Margeit