Tuesday 23 July 2024

Balancing Life as a Personal Trainer turned Law Student


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As a law student and personal trainer, I knew transitioning from student life to a professional environment would be challenging. How would I balance my time between a demanding job, getting to the gym, and staying on top of my nutrition? Would I have to forgo all social events and personal activities I enjoy? Definitely not!

Balancing the demands of law with my passion for fitness has taught me invaluable lessons about maintaining both physical and mental health.

This summer, my strategy for staying healthy, and productive included finding ways to eat nutritiously on busy days, doing exercises that alleviated pain from sitting at a desk, and creating routines to reduce stress.

Prioritizing Healthy Eating

One of the biggest changes in my life was the shift in my eating habits. Working in law is demanding, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of convenience foods. However, I’ve found that maintaining a healthy diet is crucial for both my energy levels and mental clarity. When I haven't the time to make lunch, I choose“healthier” on-the-go food choices at my favourite coffee shop!

Stretches and Exercises for Back and Neck Pain 

Spending long hours studying or working at a computer takes a toll on my back and neck. These are the stretches I do regularly to prevent pain.

Reducing Stress

I found creating a structured daily routine is one of the best ways to achieve success. It helps me get clear on my priorities, organize my time, and boost productivity. To make the most out of my 24 hours and limit procrastination, planning my day allows me to stay focused on my goals and direct my attention to the important things that I can control.

These are the things I considered when creating a productive schedule:

  • Morning Routine: I start my day with a healthy breakfast and a quick workout to boost my energy and focus.

  • Work and Study Blocks: I set specific times for working, ensuring I stay on track with my assignments.

  • Breaks and Physical Activity: I incorporate short breaks and physical activity throughout the day to keep my mind and body fresh.

  • Evening Wind Down: I dedicate time in the evening to relax and unwind, which helps me maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Finding Balance

In conclusion, change is inevitable and isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Success depends on how I choose to approach the circumstances changing around me. Balancing a career in law has its challenges, but with the right routine and mindset, it’s possible to do less and achieve more.

I also found inspiration reading the ultimate self-help book, "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. It's infamous for a reason and it’s included in the Spotify Premium membership. So, grab your headphones and get walking!

by Zlata B.

Friday 12 July 2024

Buckle Up… We’re going on a Field Trip!

image from pixabay

When I originally looked at firms participating in the Ottawa recruitment, the first quality that stood out about MB was their commitment to students for hands-on participation in all areas of civil litigation. This was reiterated in every step of the interview process starting with OCI’s and all the way to in-firm interviews. 

Everyone kept going on about the ‘field trips’. 

While this was an intriguing aspect and something that certainly drew me to the firm, I still never expected to have so many ‘field trips’ available to me in my summer term (and it’s not even over yet!)

During our first week, Ashley, the Student Director, set up guided visits to the Ottawa and Toronto courthouse libraries. By the end of the second week, she had started coordinating appearances so that we could witness various steps in the civil litigation process!

My first ‘field trip’ – assigned to me from “The List” – was a two-day examination for discoveries on a commercial litigation file. I had no expectation of how the two days would go, and although it was much faster-paced than I had expected, I still learned a lot about the process. Then, I had the opportunity to attend discoveries for an MVA file. Having previously attended the commercial lit discovery, I thought I knew what I was walking into. But because it was another lawyer and a different type of law, it was completely different than the first one!

I have also had the opportunity to attend a mediation, where I spoke directly with an adjuster from an insurance company about their role in the process. I've also sat in on calls with clients when they’re being prepared for discoveries, and I have attended case conferences with judges!

Seeing how different lawyers approach various steps of the litigation process has been an unforgettable start to my legal career and an invaluable and unique way to learn about the legal profession. One of my biggest takeaways so far this summer is that every ‘field trip’ is different, and I will undoubtedly learn something new from each one I attend!

by Lauren M.

Friday 5 July 2024

Finding my Sea Legs

Image by Jaesung An from Pixabay

I am working on a file that involves admiralty law, a practice area I had hoped to encounter this summer. What interests me about admiralty law is its reach and impact span every corner of the globe. Where there is water, there is shipping, where there is shipping, there are contracts, and where there are contracts, there are terms limiting liability. That's the prominent takeaway from my work on this assignment (so far anyway).

The incident at hand is not exactly a marine disaster, but it involves the carriage of goods by sea, nonetheless. The assignment has me feeling as though one part of me is on solid ground, while another is adrift at sea. It’s not as though I’ve capsized in a hurricane, it’s more of an issue of finding my sea legs.

Although Admiralty Law 101 is not a course offered at my school, I waded into the waters as best I could. 

Questions on my mind included: what are the relevant statutes, what are customary practices of the trade, what is a “bill of lading,” what happens in case of conflict of laws, and does this specific issue exist in the case law? After scouring the depths of WestLaw and Canlii, I felt as though I had assembled a watertight understanding of how the issue could be dealt with.

I completed what I thought I was supposed to do and met with the assigning lawyer, eager to discuss my findings. While I may have been on the right tack (pun intended), the lawyer’s words took the wind out of my sails: "Does this help our client?” In other words, all the research I immersed myself in may have been on point, but was it useful to the case? That's the sort of reframing I needed.

I suppose this is what my law professors have been implying when they have said “You need to learn to think like a lawyer.” As in, it’s one thing to “know” the law, but it’s another thing entirely to apply it in practice. Though it would be nice to learn as much as possible about this area of law, it's not practical. More importantly, it's not helpful. I am grateful for this interaction, as it helped me chart a new course of research on the matter. In the future, I will formulate a more concise research question before diving in.

While I may not land on the other side of this assignment as a decorated maritime lawyer, I have been exposed to an area of practice I would not otherwise have encountered in law school. I'm glad that my summer experience has so quickly expanded my legal lexicon, and I have my eyes trained on the horizon for more of these experiences.

by Joseph C.

Friday 21 June 2024

Survey Says...

image from vecteezy.com khan.zein554159

On Monday morning Ashley, the Student Director, emailed each of the eight summer students: “Please complete the attached questionnaire and send it back to me.”

The questionnaire was a survey with a list of tasks such as “drafted statement of claim”, and “worked on a personal injury claim, etc.,” with the option to select “yes” or “no” upon completion of the task.

Monday marked four weeks since we began working as summer students at MB, the time flew by, which wasn’t surprising. What was surprising, however, was the multitude of tasks we had been exposed to in those four short weeks. I filled in “Yes” to nearly half of the survey.

During OCI’s and In Firm Interviews last September, everyone in the interviews boasted about MB’s summer program and the hands-on experience the summer students receive. I’ll admit I was skeptical. How could such a program be possible? I had always been told that summer students -- especially those at downtown firms in Toronto -- would be tasked with nothing more than file production, research, and memo writing. Pre-OCIs, I expected my summer to be spent on Westlaw.

Then, in November, when I first visited MB in person, I was elated to learn that the summer students are exposed to meaningful litigation experiences during their term. While still skeptical, the MB articling students, outside of the interview, really drilled in the notion that things are different here.

In fact, Ashley has made it her mission to ensure that every single summer student attended both a mediation and an ED in their first few weeks. I was taken aback by this commitment. I thought I would be lucky if I attended a single ED all summer; I had no idea that exposing the summer students to these proceedings was the expectation, not the hope.

While not all work can be as exciting as attending a heated mediation, I’ve found that even the more “tedious” tasks -- i.e. drafting damages briefs or affidavits of documents -- are stepping stones to learning about the entire litigation process. The best way to learn about the development of a case is to analyze every single relevant document. I now have a much greater understanding of the way a file progresses, and how and why certain steps in the litigation process are taken.

Drafting statements of claim, statements of defence, mediation briefs, and initial reports has kept me engaged in client files. These tasks all serve their own unique purpose in the development of a case, which is why I am grateful for the opportunity to work on them.

After four weeks at MB, I am delighted at how many meaningful tasks we have been allowed to work on. Come August, I’m certain I’ll be able to complete Ashley’s survey to nearly 100%.

By Jordan J

Thursday 13 June 2024

My First Assignment and Other (Not-So) Scary Things

The first day of work is always daunting, there’s no way around it. Thanks to the orientation program at McCague Borlack, I felt as well prepared as I possibly could be. But of course, I was nervous when that email went out announcing:

"The Summer Students are available to take on assignments." 

So many questions ran through my mind – What if I don’t know where to start? What if I take too long to complete my tasks? What if I can’t keep up with the workload?

The Summer Student program works off of a list system for assigning tasks -- a.k.a. "The List". A lawyer's work request comes through a group email account and is assigned to whichever student is next on the list. Within the first few days, I realized how useful this system is. It ensures that no one works exclusively with one lawyer or in one area of law and that we experience different types of work and working styles. It also ensures students aren't competing for assignments, making it much easier to work as a team.

Back to that first assignment

When the list came around to me, I was incredibly nervous for my first meeting with the assigning lawyer. Luckily, everyone at MB is supportive and understands that this is likely our first time doing this type of work. I felt comfortable asking questions and was given useful precedents to get me started.

I was also surprised at how nervous I was when handing in my first assignment. A new set of questions ran through my mind – What if it’s not what they wanted? What if I did it wrong? What if they don’t check my work and an error slips through the cracks? Again, these worries were unwarranted. The assigning lawyer thoroughly checked my work and discussed changes with me so I understood what was needed for next time.

After a few weeks in

The nerves wear down with each new assignment that comes in, and I've found MB truly has a great support system where no question or concern is left to fester. With these first few weeks on the books, I realize what an amazing team I get to be part of, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn in a supportive environment.

by Emily O.