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!

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