Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The "Practice" of Law

As I near the end of my articles (where did the time go?!) and reflect on the past eight months I keep going back to an “aha moment” that I feel is worthy of sharing. The moment where I was told by one of my mentors: remember, it’s called the practice of law.

"Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good.
It's the thing you do that makes you good."
 

- Malcolm Gladwell - Outliers: The Story of Success

Majority of people in law are considered type-A personalities who strive to get it absolutely perfect the first time around. This appetite for immediate excellence is pulverized and rejigged once the natural reality of being an articling student sinks in. As an articling student, you are going to get it wrong. If your expectation as a student is to always draft an impeccable Statement of Claim/Defence, Affidavit of Documents, Liability and Damages Assessment, Mediation Memorandum etc…the first, second and even the third time around, wake up, you’re dreaming. I know, it is a hard hit to our high-achieving egos but as the saying goes - making mistakes is better than faking perfection. Your experience as an articling student will be far better if you arrive with an open attitude that you are here to learn and mistakes are inevitable.

Now, there are other ways of learning while minimizing the damage to our fragile egos, one being, that of learning from the mistakes of others. This takes me to another noteworthy piece of advice given to me: to attend and observe as many court appearances, mediations, discoveries, settlement conferences etc. as possible. I won’t touch on all of my experiences but can tell you with utmost confidence that when it came time for me to argue my first motion I was prepared for anything and everything that could have been thrown my way. This was owed to the fact that I observed a number of motions and took notes of what not to do when other articling students were being scolded by the presiding Master on issues such as improper service or why they attended court without a copy of the Rules of Civil Procedure to refer to when questioned on a relevant rule. In addition to this, if something was procedurally unclear to me I took the initiative to approach the Registrar and ask questions once the courtroom had cleared. This was also of major assistance when it was my turn to enter the courtroom as a representative and not a member of the public.

In the end, we all make mistakes, and the legal profession is of no exception. As an articling student you may not generate the final product or have a strong grasp on a specific process until after a few attempts, but that is ok and accepted. So for the future articling group coming in, do not forget - it is called the practice of law!

Monday, 5 March 2018

Advice from the Toronto Articling Students

The articling students at MB are almost at the finish line and the exposure we have gained so far has proved invaluable. We have had numerous opportunities to reflect on our experiences, ask for advice from our mentors, and hone our legal skills in an effort to become better lawyers. In the spirit of passing on the lessons we have learned, each of the Toronto students has provided words of advice, along with their top three highlights of their articling experience:

Taskeen Abdul-Rawoof
Taskeen Abdul-Rawoof
Advice:
There is a steep learning curve for summer and articling students. It is important to ask questions and make use of the resources the firm provides you with. Work with as many lawyers as you can to get exposure to different styles and areas of law. While working on a file, take initiative by asking the lawyer if you can accompany them on discoveries, mediations, and motions. These attendances provide valuable learning opportunities, along with tips and strategies on developing your personal style.

Highlights:
  • Arguing my first motion;
  • Carriage of my own small claims file; and
  • Assisting on all aspects of a contentious and publicized personal injury file.


Mark Borgo
Mark Borgo
Advice:
Attend as many court appearances as possible! Watching senior counsel speak to the court is a great way to learn what practices to adopt and what practices to avoid as an oral advocate.

Highlights:

  • Assisted in drafting the intervenor materials in David Schnarr v Blue Mountain Resorts Limited and Woodhouse v Snow Valley Resorts (1987) Ltd on behalf of the Canadian Defence Lawyers;
  • Attended a cross-examination on an affidavit that was highly contentious; and
  • Argued a procedurally substantive motion on behalf of our client and other co-defendants.


Gabriela Caracas
Gabriela Caracas
Advice:
During your articles use precedents as a general guideline only; it is important to formulate your own ideas and style as early as possible as this will better prepare you for your transition to an associate.

Highlights:
  • Having my co-authored article published by LexisNexis;
  • Learning from my mentor; and
  • Observing and appearing at motions court.


Emily Kostandoff
Emily Kostandoff
Advice:
After a court appearance, stay and watch the matters that are being heard after yours – you’ll learn a lot!

Highlights:
  • Arguing my first trial at Small Claims Court;
  • Attending/speaking at my first settlement conference; and
  • Arguing my first contested motion.



Michelle Legault
Michelle Legault
Advice:
“Plan your work and work your plan!”
Make sure you are aware of deadlines and try your best to meet them. Remember that some assignments have hard deadlines (e.g., court documents have to be filed by certain dates) versus soft deadlines (e.g., a summary or an AOD that a lawyer may need a few months from now).
Think about the big picture: what do you want to get out of articling? What practice area are you interested? Which lawyers do you want to work with? You will have the ability and support to seek out the opportunities you want.
Remember that even when you do your best, things may not work out according to plan!

Highlights:
  • Working on a personal injury trial with interesting tort law issues;
  • Cookie decorating contest during the holidays; and
  • Sitting in on mediations, client meetings, and court attendances to see MB’ers in action!

Melissa Parravano
Melissa Parravano
Advice:
Ask questions if you don’t understand your task. It is easy to become overly comfortable with following a precedent; but what if you didn’t have access to one? It is important to actually learn how to draft pleadings and other important documents without relying on a precedent. If you ask questions and understand why you are drafting these documents, eventually you will not have to rely on a precedent.
Triple check your work. It’s easy to overlook errors in the minor details because you are more focused on the bigger ones.

Highlights:
  • I had the opportunity to assist on a waiver liability matter that went before the Court of Appeal. Not only did I assist on the materials, but I was able to attend the hearing and listen to several of the top litigators in Toronto argue their positions;
  • I attended a videoconferencing discovery with a plaintiff who was located in a European Country.  The dynamic of this experience was interesting because the plaintiff was not in the same room while being questioned; and
  • I attended a settlement conference on my own and made submissions to a deputy judge.


Danielle Ralph
Danielle Ralph
Advice:
Accept every opportunity and don’t be afraid to ask questions – seemingly small assignments can become a file to handle on your own and questions can save a lot of time. Often when you accept one task you get to follow up on the lifespan of the file and learn the various steps a file will go through, the important considerations at each stage, and the tactics that will help achieve settlement – so no matter what comes your way, big or small, accept it graciously and view each task as a learning opportunity.

Highlights:
  • Arguing an opposed motion;
  • Attending a pre-trial conference where settlement was reached; and
  • Drafting a complicated mediation memo which addressed nuanced law and required in-depth research and analysis.