Friday, 6 March 2020

Taking Inventory: From one Student to Another

image by igor link from pixabay

The MB articling students are officially seven months into our articling term, with only three months left.

"Now is the perfect time for us to reflect on our experiences so far
and take inventory of the things we have learned."

If I were to pass three lessons on to incoming and future summer and articling students, I believe the following advice will have the most impact.

1. Take the time to learn

Remember that we are still students. We are allowed, and expected, to learn, grow, and make mistakes throughout the course of our articling experience. No one is expecting us to know how to do everything perfectly on our first day, or even ten months into articles. Like law school, articling is a learning process where we are invited to explore new things, make mistakes, learn from our mistakes, and try again.

2. No one expects perfection

That brings me to the second lesson I have learned which is Рas clich̩ as it may sound Рeach mistake we make is a learning opportunity. This phrase is particularly applicable during summering and articling terms.

When we aim for perfection and put our best efforts into each task we are assigned, it is hard to not feel defeated when a lawyer takes a red pen to it. Likewise, when we get busy, it is easier to click “accept all changes” than to actually go through the document, learn what was changed, and ask why. However, much more is gained from taking the time to review our errors and reflect on the constructive criticism we receive. When we take this time, we create an opportunity for ourselves to do better next time by applying what we learned from our past to our future. With practice, we start seeing less of that red pen and more “good job”s.

3. You are smart and capable

Finally, and perhaps most important, be prepared to discover that you are smarter and more capable than you think. As a summer and articling student, you will face a steep learning curve, confronting new tasks that you have never before considered, let alone have the first idea of how to approach. This feeling can be daunting.

At times at McCague Borlack, I have felt like the lawyers have more faith in me than I have in myself. For example, on occasion, I have been tasked with assignments that, at first, I feel like I have no business completing. But with the right resources and mentoring, I learned that I am actually more capable than I thought, which inspires me to approach the next daunting task with more confidence.

These three things are easy to know, but much more difficult to keep top-of-mind during summering and articling. We are busy and often put pressure on ourselves to excel. I strongly believe that these three tips would have served me well throughout my summering term and articles, both in terms of my well being and work-product, had I been more alert to them all along.

In passing them on, I hope they will be helpful to you as you embark on yours!

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

'Twas the Motion before Christmas

I received an assignment to prepare materials for an Undertakings motion and set the oral argument for before the new year. I was in contact with the scheduling office for the first week of December trying to set a date. The court was closed from December 25th until the new year, which made the beginning of December even busier for the scheduling office.

"Just my luck.. December 24th was the only free date available
for oral argument before the new year."

Tip 1: During the holiday season, book your motion date early.

It was a 10-minute walk from our office to the Toronto Civil Motions Court, where the Toronto Superior Court motions take place. The streets were almost empty as if the city had been evacuated and I didn’t get the memo. I arrived at the court 20 minutes early and verified that our matter was on the list. I entered the courtroom, signed in, and sat in the back row to review the written motion.

Tip 2: Arrive early in case your matter is not on the list.

At exactly 10:00 AM, we heard a knock on the door. The clerk opened the door and everyone in the room stood up. The Master entered the courtroom. Everyone bowed to the Master. The Master sat down. Then, everyone else in the courtroom sat down. The clerk said, “court is now session”. I suddenly felt butterflies in my stomach… I guess you could call it motion sickness.

Our matter was 6th on the list, which meant that I had the opportunity to observe other matters being heard before mine and learn what the Master’s “style” was. The first matter was argued by an articling student. The Master asked him what Rule he was relying on from the Rules of Civil Procedure. The articling student had it memorized, which gave the Master a big smile, and he chuckled. The Master said he was testing him because he’s an articling student.

Tip 3: Know your Rules of Civil Procedure.

Knowing that the Master could test me on my Rules, I quickly double-checked the Rules that I was relying on for the motion that I was arguing.

Tip 4: Watch the matters before you to see the types of questions the Master may ask.

The Master called for our matter. I stood up and went up to the podium. There was something thrilling about standing behind the podium, prepared to defend my case and be challenged about it. It also felt familiar and comfortable. Perhaps my law school mooting experiences actually help me in real life. Shocker. I stood waiting for the Master to finish writing from the prior matter. Then, he looked up at me. It was my turn.

During my motion preparation, I drafted a script that outlined my argument, making sure I brought up the relevant facts. However, I ended up making my submissions without looking at my script because I was asked questions by the Master. Since I had reviewed the written motion a number of times, I was able to quickly come up with a counter-argument.

Tip 4: Know your material.

After I requested costs, the Master took about one minute to write the endorsement. That one minute felt like twenty! Then, he signed our Order. We got what we needed. A Christmas miracle, indeed.

Arguing your first motion may seem daunting at first, but it can be an exciting and enjoyable experience. The key is preparation. Since my first motion, I’ve argued four more motions and have felt more comfortable and excited to attend every time. The motion records have become quicker to draft, it’s almost second nature. Having argued a motion, I appreciate the significance of what I’m including. I look forward to the motions that the future will bring for me… but hopefully not on Christmas Eve.
by Anisha B.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Meal Prep Tips for Lunches at Work

One of the biggest adjustments from law school to articling for me was not having long breaks to go home and make lunch. On many occasions during the first few of weeks of articling, I bought lunch in the path. It was nice; there was an endless number of options to choose from, and it was a great opportunity to explore the world outside the office. There are, however, two major drawbacks to buying lunch – especially in the financial district: it’s expensive, and it’s not the healthiest choice.

The concept of meal prep (preparing multiple meals at one time for later consumption throughout the week) has become increasingly popular for busy people who do not have time to cook something fresh each day. Preparing lunches for the work week helps you cut down on the time you spend preparing lunches for work (and dinners for when you get home).

"Preparing food at home is healthier and less expensive than eating out."

You don’t have to go crazy preparing every single meal in advance, but adding some meal prep to your weekly routine could free up some of your precious time, and save some of your hard-earned money.

Here are a couple of easy recipes that (in my opinion) taste delicious, are relatively healthy, and are pretty easy to make:

Toasted Sesame Honey Teriyaki Ginger Salmon

Picture by Wow_Pho on pixabay


  • 750 grams raw salmon (skin removed)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil*
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar*
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (add extra soy sauce if desired)
  • 2 tablespoons honey (add extra honey if desired)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped ginger
  • 1 large red Thai chili pepper (remove seeds for less heat)
  • 1-2 tablespoons toasted or raw sesame seeds
  • 4 green onions, sliced (2 for recipe, 2 for garnish)
*Can substitute 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce if desired

  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Slice salmon into preferred portions.
  • In a large bowl or baking dish, combine olive oil, sesame oil and rice vinegar (or teriyaki sauce), brown sugar, soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger, chili pepper, sesame seeds and whisk well until combined.
  • Add salmon to the dish and coat well with sauce or place everything in a Ziploc bag, then refrigerate and marinate for 30 minutes.
  • Set your oven rack to the second-highest position in your oven and preheat the broiler in your oven.
  • Remove salmon with kitchen tongs and place directly on the baking sheet. 
  • Reserve the remaining marinade. 
  • Place directly under the broiler. Cook for 5-6 minutes, depending on the salmon’s thickness, then remove and coat with reserved marinade (you can flip the salmon before coating if desired). Return salmon to the oven for an additional 5-6 minutes until opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
  • Remember to keep an eye on your salmon and remove it if it looks like it is overcooking.
  • Remove from the baking sheet with a spatula and serve immediately, with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds and green onions as desired.
Fragrant Turkey Burgers


  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 bunches fresh thyme sprigs (equal amount as rosemary)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon sumac (can substitute fresh lemon zest if desired)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 6 to 8 hamburger buns*
  • Pick leaves off of rosemary and thyme sprigs. Chop rosemary leaves until about the size of the thyme leaves.
  • In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, chopped rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, sumac (or lemon zest), salt, pepper, egg, and mix to combine evenly.
  • Form eight 1/4 lb patties or six 1/3 lb patties.*
  • Heat vegetable oil in a large pan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering or sufficiently hot, add patties to the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes. Flip patties and cook for an additional 5-6 minutes, or until cooked throughout.
  • Serve patties on buns with desired toppings and condiments. These burgers go great with a little sriracha sauce and Gouda cheese!
Happy cooking (and eating)!
by Ryan S

(p.s. Please share your favourite recipe in a comment!)

Monday, 25 November 2019

Family Matters

Articling is not only about academic learning. It is also about learning about people; how to be a part of a team, how to be inclusive, and how to remain positive, even during stressful times.

"While in trial for four weeks, my learning of the above expanded ten-fold."

Walking to court each morning, you can never really know what to expect for the day, especially as an articling student. All you can expect is a long day. After spending 7 hours in court each day, we would come back to the office, ready to complete any work necessary for the next day in court, which usually involved late nights, early mornings, and plenty of coffee. Weekends were not safe and too much pizza was consumed. Usually, under these circumstances, people would succumb to the pressure and long hours and begin to feel defeated. I can honestly say though that this was not my experience.

Working with Charlene Kavanagh and Christopher Macaulay was such a pleasure. They included me in everything they could to contribute to my learning and created such invaluable learning opportunities for me, even when they had their own insurmountable workloads (I even sat at the Counsel’s table up front). We always made sure to check in with each other, fill in for each other when required, and get in those necessary laughs to lift us back up. Most importantly, we trusted each other. It really felt like a “we leave no person behind” kind of team. I could not have asked for more during my first trial experience and I have to say that this experience solidifies for me why McCague is such a great firm to work at as a student.

Kyle, Carly & Brittany are all smiles after coming
back from the Supreme Court of Canada
While they created these learning opportunities for me, Carly and I paid it forward to a partner’s son. During a "take your kid to work day", Carly and I took James Brown’s son, Kyle, to the Supreme Court of Canada while Uber Technologies Inc., et al. v. David Heller (Ontario) was being heard; a very topical case for the time. He had a great time learning about the law and at the Supreme Court of Canada, no less. This reminded me of the time I visited the Brampton Superior Court of Justice while taking a law course in high school. That experience, among others, helped steer me towards law.

Ultimately, I decided to write this blog to stress how important it is to treat the people you work with as a family and how that mindset affects the way you work together, your productivity and your success as a firm. McCague has that recipe for success. They know that family matters.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

The Virgin Diary Part II – My First Pretrial

I was recently given the opportunity to assist a lawyer on a claim involving a motor vehicle accident. The matter was coming up for a second pre-trial conference, which is one of the last opportunities for the parties to settle the dispute.

After researching different areas of the law, drafting the pretrial brief and
compiling the documents, I was prepared to attend the pretrial conference.

I had taken courses in alternative dispute resolution in law school and attended mediations but I didn’t really know what to expect from a pretrial conference. At a pretrial, there is a judge guiding the parties, trying to bring the parties towards a settlement. I was unsure how this was going to look and how this would affect all the parties’ arguments and settlement positions.

The pretrial took place in a setting resembling that of a boardroom with the judge sitting at the head of the table and the parties sitting on either side.

Below are my top 5 discoveries from the pretrial conference:

The judge means business. After walking into the room the judge immediately asked for updated settlement numbers and whether the parties were any closer to settling the matter. No pleasantries were exchanged or small talk was had.

Turned into a mediation. The judge thought it was best for the different sides to be in separate rooms and for the judge to go back and forth between the rooms like in a mediation.

Be ready for anything. No matter how much you prepare and how well you know the law, unanticipated questions and issues of the case arise. As such, it is imperative that you are quick on your feet and can find the answers in your materials as quickly as possible.

Settlement negotiation is an art form. Each lawyer has their own unique negotiation style and technique. Sometimes a lawyer will use more than one style depending on the issue being debated.

Coming close but not close enough. In this claim, there were many issues in dispute both in liability and in damages. As a result, it was very difficult for the parties to make a deal. However, on many issues, the parties made substantial ground and came much closer to a settlement.

Overall, the pretrial conference was a great experience and I look forward to being exposed to many more new opportunities as articling continues.

p.s. Read The Virgin Diary Part I - Mediations

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Your Survival Kit for Articling

Solution-Focused Thinking

From day one, many of us feel pressure when we begin articling to be perfect: to produce perfect work and to never make a mistake. I quickly learned that this standard is not attainable for a new articling student.

"Articling is a learning process that provides us with
10 months to learn, experiment, and improve."

As long as we are improving, we are achieving what we set out to do. When you mess up, don’t dwell on it or engage in negative self-talk. Ask yourself how you can avoid making that mistake next time, and put your plan in action. Being imperfect is not something to worry about, failing to learn from our mistakes is.

A Nearby Gym or Studio

Without our health, we have nothing. When we are sitting long hours, we end up with sore and stiff necks and backs. For this reason, it is so important to stay active during articling. Find a gym or studio (spinning, yoga, etc.) near your firm that you can walk to with little effort. Work it in to your schedule either before work, at lunch, or in the evening. Working late? Leave for an hour to go work out or do a class. You’ll feel so much more focused and fresher when you return.

A Workstation that “Sparks Joy”

If you have a type A personality, like so many lawyers and aspiring lawyers do, make your desk a place that “sparks joy”, as Marie Kondo teaches. Even after a long day, take a few minutes before you leave to put things away, throw things out, and get organized for tomorrow. That way you can start the next day fresh. If you have space, bring in a plant or family photo. Make your desk somewhere you like to be.

A Good Set of Headphones

Long work hours turn in to longer work hours when you are easily distracted. Most of us have student debt to pay off, but I still recommend investing in a good set of headphones and a Spotify account. Your investment will pay off in your work-life balance and general mental-health.

A Friend

Articling can be a stressful time. If you are lucky enough to find a friend in a fellow student at your firm, you can be each other’s greatest resource. Ask each other questions, confide in each other about your concerns, and help each other achieve your goals. It will be that much more rewarding when you cross the finish line together.

Friday, 23 August 2019

"Articling is a marathon, not a sprint", and other advice

Almost three weeks ago, the six 2018 summer students returned as articling students. On the first day, we walked into the board room, one by one for our arrival time at 9:15 a.m. Everything looked the same, but it felt very different. We weren’t as nervous; we felt comfortable and excited to be back at the firm.

It is now the third week of articling and the “floodgates” have been open for almost two weeks. When sitting at my desk I hear either keyboards clicking or phones ringing…everyone is busy. All of the articling students have received a variety of assignments from various lawyers at the firm.

Even though we feel comfortable, having been summer students at the firm, having the title as “articling student” can feel overwhelming at times. Howard Borlack, the managing partner at the firm, gave us advice during training week that has stuck with me and been helpful in the past few weeks:

“Articling is not a sprint, but a marathon.”

As articling students, we were advised to pace ourselves with accepting assignments and avoid burning out at the beginning of the articling term.

This advice is similar to what I was told in my first year of law school. As many people know, the first year is very competitive, but it cannot be treated as a sprint because students should not be burnt out for their final exams. Similarly, although it is tempting to use all of our energy right away, we were reminded to spread out our hard work and assure that we are improving throughout the term and maintaining our hard work.

“Maintain a work-life balance.”

We were fortunate to be reminded that it is important to maintain a work-life balance during articling.

Although we will need to meet deadlines, we were advised to still make time for the family, friends, gym, or things we enjoy doing during our free time. This helps combat feelings of being burned out, stressed, and overwhelmed.

“Articling is a time to learn from your mistakes.”

We were advised to take advantage of this opportunity to learn and have lawyers advise us on ways to improve as “baby lawyers”.

We were reminded that we have the benefit of learning as much as we want to and are able to in the next 10 months. So far, the supervising lawyers on my assignments have been extremely helpful in answering questions I have had and explaining why I was wrong when I made a mistake.

With that being said, I look forward to the next 10 months of being a sponge for knowledge; making mistakes, but learning from them.