Monday, 8 October 2018

Articling Student Style: What to Wear on Interview Day

When preparing for OCI and In-Firm interviews, one of the most daunting decisions is: what do I wear? Although seasoned lawyers live in their suits, in law school we often attend class in very casual clothes. For many, a summer position at a law firm may be the first time that you have worked in a professional environment, so figuring out how to dress can be intimidating.

I remember spending hours stressing out with my friends in law school over which colour of suit was the most professional, and what type of shoes were appropriate. To save you the same headache, 

the articling students at McCague Borlack have provided tips on what to wear
(and what not to wear) on interview day along with some photos.

What We Wore
or a dress & blazer with flats
like Karolina...
You're sure to Impress!

Whether you choose a skirt
with heels like Emilie...
After polling the women, it is clear that navy or black is the interview colour of choice. You can’t go wrong with either a pant or skirt suit or a dress with a blazer. Some of us wore heels (anywhere from 1.5 inches to 3 inches) and others opted for flats (so you don’t have to hurt your feet if you don’t feel comfortable in heels!)

When it comes to women’s office wear, Priya...
and Jess know black is the new black.

Yousef & Andrew looking tough
& office appropriate.
For the men, blue suits and grey suits were the clear winners. Lighter coloured dress shirts were the most popular, with either white or light blue being the most reported.


We love Lee’s tie – it really livens up his
outfit while keeping things professional!
All of the students stressed letting your personality shine through your accessories, such as a funky tie, crazy socks, or your bright blue glasses. If you wear your hair naturally curly, then keep it curly for your interviews. Don’t feel like you need to sacrifice your identity to fit into a mould, so be yourself and don’t be afraid to add some personality to your look.

Where to Shop

  • Le Chateau (Jessica)
  • Banana Republic (Emile)
  • Winners and HBC (Karolina and Priya)
  • Suit Supply (Yousef)
  • Strellson (Andrew)
  • Calvin Klein (Theo)
  • Moores (Lee)
  • Suzy Shier (Howard Borlack)

What Not to Wear

The overwhelming response we received from the articling students is to make sure your suit fits – if your suit is too big or too small, it detracts from your presentation. The same goes for hair. Keep your hair and facial hair well-kept/groomed. Any hairstyle is fine – just keep it neat.

The students suggest leaving the sundresses and wedges at home as it’s a bit unprofessional – and out of season for November. I also received very specific advice: no electric blue suits.

Another point that was repeated was to avoid wearing anything you don’t feel comfortable in. It’s hard to smile if you’re breaking in new shoes. You want to be confident in your interview, so don’t include anything that makes you feel self-conscious!

Theo, from our Kitchener office,
keeping it cool.
Tips to Keep Fresh all Day

If it’s within your budget, it’s nice to have a place downtown where you can keep a spare shirt/suit in case you spill something on yourself. The students reported booking Air-BnB, splitting the cost of a hotel with a friend, or staying with a friend or family member who lives downtown.

I also suggest bringing a pocket-sized sewing kit. At my interview, I opted for a button-up shirt under my blazer. It looked great, but two minutes before I met my interviewers a button popped off! Luckily the receptionist at MB came to my rescue with a pin – but imagine if that wasn't available!


All the students were in unanimous agreement that you shouldn’t stress out about your interview outfit. As long as you’re prepared, confident, and polished, you’re going to do well.

Below is a checklist of all of the items to bring along on "interview" day. Print it off and use it as you pack your bag for In-Firms.

Check-list of helpful items for In-Firms

  • Multiple copies of your resume and cover letter and any other parts of your application.
  • A notepad and pen – you’ll want to have this to write down your impressions after the interview. It will really help when you’re writing your thank you emails. Believe me, the day will become a blur.
  • Breath strips – they dissolve so you can talk, unlike mints/gum.
  • Hand sanitizer – for keeping your hands fresh for handshakes.
  • Tide-to-go, or similar.
  • A briefcase/large purse.
  • Flat shoes – if you’re opting for heels make sure you give your feet a break by hiding flats in your bag for when you’re running between offices.
  • Snacks – bananas, granola bars. You will get hungry, and you probably won’t have time to stop for lunch.
  • Water
  • Lip balm
  • Band-Aids – try to break in your shoes ahead of time, but keep these handy just in case. o Tissues
  • Deodorant – it’s a loooong day.
  • Phone charger – If you’re unfamiliar with Toronto, GPS is super helpful. You’ll also want to stay on top of your emails throughout the day.
  • A small mirror – very useful for making sure you don’t have any food in your teeth from lunch.
  • Floss – see above.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Firsts: Arguing a Motion On My Own

On just my second day of articling, I went to court to argue a motion. While this was my first time arguing a motion on my own, it felt entirely routine. When I received the assignment, an associate handed me the motion record and said, “Here, go argue this tomorrow”. A brief wave of panic came over me until I realized it was a simple, unopposed motion, and more procedural than anything else. I also realized that while articling students are allowed to argue motions, my firm wouldn’t throw me into one on the second day if I could get everyone into trouble.

That afternoon, I brought myself up to speed on the file and courtroom etiquette, and I was ready to go. As a summer student here last year, I would never have imagined arguing a motion on my own. Now, as an articling student, I can imagine it because I’ve done everything leading up to it. I spent last summer working on motion materials and observing other lawyers argue motions. The world of motions was somewhat demystified.

"There’s something to be said about being thrown into things and learning on your feet."

The next morning, I arrived at the courthouse early to settle in and find my way around. I worked as a court reporter in my previous, pre-law school life and was very excited to be back in court. The Superior Court of Justice in Brampton is one of the larger local courthouses, and home to all kinds of matters—criminal and civil alike. It was unsurprisingly busy.

While this was my first time at that courthouse, everything was instantly familiar. While each courthouse has its nuances, once you figure out the process, you can navigate most of them. I flashed my LSO card through security (for the first time!), found my matter on the docket, and proceeded upstairs to my courtroom in under 5 minutes. As I was early, I sat in the waiting area, where I re-read my motion materials and checked, several times, that I was indeed at the correct courtroom—and I’m not going to lie, correct courthouse.

Once the doors opened, people filed in en masse—and I, with them. As I filled out my counsel slip, I noticed that everyone else was gowned. I, of course, was not gowned because I don’t have a gown—yet. One of the lawyers noticed this too and asked me about it. When he learned that I was a student, he was surprised to hear I was on my feet on only my second day of articling. “Oh, it’s just a WAGG motion today”, I replied casually. Of course, I was arguing it, what a great opportunity to get on my feet early—and in a safe environment, as my motion was unopposed.

That day, I really understood what lawyers at this firm have been telling me all along. As a student, I would be thrown into the water and learn to swim—with lifejackets and lifeguards on standby, of course. Here I was, arguing a simple, uncontested motion on my own, and my experience here last summer prepared me well. As a summer student, my first assignment was to bring an urgent motion. By the time the summer was over, I had drafted motion materials over and over again and became familiar with the different types of motions. As a bonus, my experience here also helped me when I took Advanced Civil Procedure and studied for the bar.

As for this motion, everything went well. I got our order, didn’t get yelled at, and I remembered where I parked.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Our "Eat Pray Love" break in between...

Before we - The 2017 Summer Students - returned for our final year of law school, we asked many of the lawyers what would be the best way to spend our break between the bar exams and the start of our articling term.

A common (and encouraging) response was that we should
travel and experience other parts of the world.

So here is what we did:

Jessica: I travelled to Croatia, Spain, Germany, and Italy. Hvar, Croatia and Barcelona, Spain are tied as my favourite cities. I met up with an old friend in Barcelona who had grown up there and she showed me all of the popular local spots. In Hvar, I discovered a “secret” beach that was only accessible on-foot after an hour-long trek through rough terrain (and of course, I was wearing flip-flops!)

In Spain, I really enjoyed the tapas. My favourites were the patatas bravas and the lobster croquette. The patatas bravas was super crunchy on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside. The lobster looked so good that I ordered seconds right after the first one arrived!

Emilie-Anne: I went to England, France, Greece, and Italy. My favourite city was Fira, Santorini, Greece which had the most beautiful sunsets over the Caldera.

What I enjoyed most during my trip was visiting the Louvre Museum in Paris. There are so many things to see in the Louvre; it’s impossible to view it all in one day. My favourite exhibit was the Mona Lisa (obviously). The desserts in Paris were amazing! Their sugar doughnuts put Tim Hortons to shame.

Karolina: I travelled to Playa del Carmen, then spent the rest of the summer exploring Toronto and catching up with family and friends. I hosted a food crawl across Toronto called the “Day of Gluttony”. We tried 12 restaurants in 12 hours and discovered a bunch of hidden gems. Some of my favourites were Dai Lo (Asian fusion), Pinky’s Ca Phe (Vietnamese), Seven Lives Tacos, and The Big Chill (classic ice cream parlour).

Andrew: I went to Spain, France, Netherlands, and Portugal. Paris was my favourite city because I got engaged there! I also loved the food and the architecture. I watched the world cup finals between France and Croatia in Paris and I got to celebrate the victory with the locals.

I had a really good lamb dish at a Mediterranean restaurant, also in Paris. It was extremely tender and paired nicely with Israeli wine.

Yousef: I went to Spain and Egypt. In Spain, I visited Seville, Cordoba, and Granada to see the many historic sites that they have to offer. The unique blend of Arab and Spanish culture was really interesting to experience. My favourite activity was swimming! In Alexandria, Egypt, I swam in the Mediterranean which featured large waves that were great for body surfing. In Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, I had the chance to scuba dive with the fish in the Red Sea.

In Seville, I ordered chicken breast stuffed with pistachio and dates. When I ordered this dish, I had no idea what to expect, but it turned out to be great. The flavours were surprisingly complementary. I am excited to try and recreate it at home!

Final Thoughts

Although we are fortunate and thankful that we had the opportunity to travel this summer, we are eager and excited to be back at McCague and begin our articling term.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Why Litigation?

It is that (exciting) time of the year when law students are preparing for their applications for 2018 recruitment and are reaching out to summer law students and associates to learn about their firm and experience.

One of the common questions that I have been asked is 
"How did you know you liked litigation?”


In my first year of law school, I participated in two moot competitions. It was exhilarating to step up to the podium, be tackled with difficult questions by the Judge, and have to formulate an answer on the spot.

Similar to mooting, having to speak in front of a Judge, Master, and others is common in litigation. The summer students at McCague Borlack LLP have attended mediations, discoveries, motions, and pre-trials, with the associates to learn various litigating styles.

Having experience with moots helps to know whether you will enjoy litigation. However, if you do not have mooting experience, that is okay!

Exposure to the Courtroom

As an extern at the Michigan Court of Appeals, I spent a few days at Court observing litigators. During those few days, I sat quietly at the back of the courtroom and watched both Judges and litigators converse, trying to come to a resolution for the legal issue at hand. After I completed my externship, I knew that litigating is something I wanted to pursue in my legal career.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

A front row seat to a human rights hearing

From day one at McCague Borlack, I assisted an associate with different aspects of a human rights matter. After researching case law, drafting a witness statement, and compiling a book of documents, I was excited to finally attend the hearing at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

The Vice-Chair initially proposed the option of participating in a mediated adjudication. This is a quicker way to negotiate a resolution that gives parties more autonomy over the terms. Although we were not successful, the terms discussed would not be brought up at the hearing.

At the hearing, the Vice-Chair determines whether the applicants had their rights infringed and if so, what the appropriate remedy is. To start off, an agreed statement of facts saves time and avoids producing the same documents multiple times. By weeding out the non-controversial facts, the focus of the hearing is on the divisive issues. However, agreeing on the facts is a negotiation exercise between lawyers.

The Vice-Chair’s decision is based only on relevant information at the hearing. This is presented orally through witnesses’ testimony and documentary evidence.

Relevance is based on two factors:
  • Whether the respondent treats the applicant differently or in a way that had a negative impact based on a ground of discrimination in the Human Rights Code, i.e. disability; and
  • Whether the applicant suffered a disadvantage or a loss, i.e. loss to the applicant’s sense of self-worth and dignity

Over the two-day hearing, I observed three witnesses engage in examination-in-chief and cross-examination. These are my three takeaways:
  1. Know the answer before asking the witness a question.
  2. Prepare your witness so they remember the evidence they need to give in their testimony. Since applicants may testify as witnesses to their own hearing, they are emotionally invested in the outcome. However, this is not the time for witnesses to vent their grievances.
  3. Avoid open-ended questions and restrict the testimony to admissible evidence. It is crucial to have the witness give evidence that helps your argument.

Since this hearing was extended by another two days, I was not able to observe submissions and closing arguments. The outcomes of the hearing can include a dismissal or a remedy in the form of a monetary award or order. Ultimately, the Human Rights Code is meant to remedy an infringement of human rights, rather than be punitive. Tribunals commonly “reserve” their decisions, so this decision will likely be released on CanLII in Fall 2018.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Networking Tips for the 2L Recruit

The application deadline for the 2019 Toronto 2L summer student recruit is August 20th – less than a month away. By now, many of you have started to update your resumes and draft your cover letters. A lot goes into a cover letter, and you don’t have much space to work with.

Many applicants reserve a line or two in their cover letters to mention if they have reached out to someone at the firm to which they are applying – a student, a junior lawyer, or even a senior partner if they so desire.

"This shows employers reviewing your applications that you have done your homework on the firm and are applying out of genuine interest in working there."

 It is also your opportunity to really investigate the firms to see what might be the best fit for you and get comfortable striking up conversations with people you don’t already know – which is an important skill when it comes to interviews.

Even if you don’t have time to contact someone at every firm you apply to, you should try for as many as possible. It can’t hurt your application to show that you made an effort.

Who should you reach out to?

The most accessible (and probably least intimidating) people are summer and articling students. They can give you the best insight into what it is like to be a student at their firm because they are currently experiencing it. They are also not very far removed from being in the exact position you are in, so they know what you are experiencing and can give you great advice.

Junior lawyers are also great to reach out to, as they will have better than a faint memory of the application process and are happy to chat about their experiences with interested students. They can also speak to the transition from student to lawyer, and how their firm manages that shift.

Senior lawyers are happy to speak with you, however, they are generally busy and you will likely need to schedule a time to speak in advance. They can share particular insight into their various practices, which might be helpful, especially if you are considering applying to boutique firms, or are eager to explore certain practice areas at larger full-service firms.

Do not feel obligated to choose just one person from each firm to speak to – talking to as many people as possible is the best way to get a feel for the firms to which you are applying.

How should you reach out to them?

The easiest way to make contact is by email. You can look to firm websites for contact information, and your school’s career services office might give out the email addresses of students who previously got positions through the recruit. When writing to someone, always introduce yourself and indicate why you are contacting them. Say that you are thinking of applying to their firm, and ask if they are free to schedule a call or a meeting to answer your questions about the firm. Be cordial, and just like in your applications, make sure you are using proper grammar and avoid mistakes – you always want to make a good impression, no matter who the recipient is.

Cold-calling is also fine. The person you call might be busy and have to call you back, or you might get their voicemail. Be respectful and play it the same way as you would in an email.

Meeting with someone in person is a great way to make a connection, but is by no means obligatory. If you’re applying broadly, you might not have time to meet 40 people for coffee. Use your time efficiently and make sure you are getting the most out of your networking opportunities.

This probably goes without saying but I’ll include it anyway: don’t show up at the office unannounced.

What should you ask them?

Now that you have scheduled your call/meeting, think about what you want to ask. Make sure to review the firm’s website before your call/meeting so that you are familiar with the firm’s practice areas and how their student program operates.

  • Ask about the person’s experience at the firm as a student (or as a lawyer, or both). Ask about what a typical week is like for them – that might give you a sense of the types of files they are working on and (if they are a student) the types of assignments that they might receive. Recognize that different firms give their students different degrees of responsibility.
  • Ask why they like working at the firm, and if they prefer the size of the firm to a larger or smaller environment. These are questions that will get them talking about the firm culture and the advantages and drawbacks of different firm sizes – important things to consider when applying and ultimately deciding where to accept a position.
  • Definitely ask about how the firm helps its students make the transition from law school to law firm, and then from student to associate. Students and lawyers will be quick to tell you that you know very little about the practice of law coming out of school, so the way the firm helps you navigate those challenges is important for your decision.
  • If you have an interest in a particular practice area, ask about it. The student or lawyer probably knows more than you and can explain that area of law, as well as the aspects of the practice that they like. Take interest in learning about different practice areas. This is your opportunity to be a sponge and learn as much as possible.

Take note: if the firm doesn’t advertise how much they pay for the summer or exactly how students are assigned work or any less substantive questions that you would like to have answered, the students are your best resource. They had the exact same questions that you now have and understand that at such an early stage in the recruit, any piece of information is helpful.

Lastly, be yourself when networking. Authenticity goes a long way and you want to find a firm that will be a good fit for you. Meeting new people should be enjoyable, so have fun with it!

P.S. Experiences and opinions may vary so always keep an open mind.

Best of luck with the process!

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

6 Simple Steps to a Successful Summer

As is common when starting our first day at our firms, we are all full of nervous energy. We are anxious because we do not know what to expect but we do know we want to impress.

For my entire life, I have lived by a saying my father told me and it guides me every day while working at McCague Borlack.

“You only get out of something what you put into it.”

This has sparked 6 simple steps to having a successful summer at any firm.

Never say No

Since summering and articling are both designed for students to absorb as much information as possible in order to become self-sufficient lawyers, saying no to a task is only a missed opportunity. It is important to recognize that, even with the smallest of tasks, we are learning what the practice of law is like and it is not always glamorous.

Schedule, Schedule, Schedule 

While summering and articling, you will be handed tasks sporadically or all at the same time. Whether you are on a rotation or receive tasks through other means, it is incredibly important to stay organized, keep track of all ongoing assignments and schedule-in all deadlines. I also recommend triaging tasks depending on the time sensitivity and importance of the matters to ensure that a deadline is never missed. Sometimes, this is a very fluid process because an assignment may come across your desk that needs to be completed immediately. For me, lists and charts are vital!

Research is Key

For many students, this is the first time working in a law firm and they may even be the first in their family to go to law school or university! (I fall into the latter category). This means that you may come by concepts or problems in your work that you have never heard of. Do not fret if this happens to you because this is the very nature of the practice of law. The field is constantly growing and changing, which is why there is a need for continuing legal education. If you find yourself in a situation where you do not know, this is where your excellent research skills will be of use. Try to research as much as you can before you ask a question. You are not expected to know everything but the last message you want to send to your supervising lawyers is that you did not try.

Be open-minded

When I was applying to law firms and organizations during the OCI process, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew I love learning and there were a few areas of law I knew I did not want to practice but other than that, I did not restrict myself. It is this open-mindedness that led me to McCague Borlack. Now I love the practice of insurance law, which is more multi-faceted than I imagined. If I were closed-minded to this option, I would have missed out on this fantastic opportunity.

Put in that hard work

I think this one is obvious. Your relationship with your firm should be mutually beneficial. You should be learning from experienced lawyers, paralegals, law clerks and assistants while producing great work for them. Of course, perfection is not always possible, but it is something to strive for.

Be proud

This one may sound silly but I think it might be the most important step of them all! I need to remind myself once I finish a task that I did it! Doing this will help you start a healthy relationship with your work. You were chosen by your firm for a reason and if you work hard and follow the above steps, you should be proud of every achievement. Every step you make at this point in the “game” brings you that much closer to what you have worked for most of your life.