Thursday, 28 June 2018

Let’s Get Cracking: Tips for 2L Summer Recruitment Prep

The dreaded first year of law school has come to an end — grades have been released and summer is in full swing. Although the hardest part of law school is now in the past, the hard work is far from over since prepping for the recruitment process is just around the corner.

"One of your main takeaways of 1L should have been that
procrastination can be detrimental to your success."


Honing your time management skills by planning in advance and leaving yourself some buffer time can go a long way. Approach the OCI process in a similar fashion. Start early — your nerves will thank you.

What is the 2L recruitment process?
  1. Submitting your applications;
  2. Receiving your OCI schedule;
  3. On-Campus Interviews (OCIs);
  4. Call Day for scheduling in-firm interviews;
  5. In-Firm Interviews; and
  6. Call Day for final offers.
I’ll expand on the first stage in this blog post, since breaking down the entire process may be overwhelming at this point. Don’t fret — you can access several online resources as well as get advice from your peers and the Career Development Office at your school, to help guide you through the entire process when the time comes… At this stage, just focus on perfecting your application to leave a good first impression on your chosen firms.

How to Successfully Prepare and Submit your Applications

The recruitment process begins with students drafting their applications and submitting them electronically to their chosen firms. A typical application will include a resume, cover letter, transcripts, and a list of anticipated upper year courses. It may sound straightforward, but prepare to spend countless hours adjusting font size and scrolling through Thesaurus.com looking for synonyms that make you sound like a unicorn.

pixabay - jeshootscomAlthough most firms will accept your completed application through an online server that will be set up specifically for this recruitment process, some firms (like McCague Borlack) will only accept applications through e-mail. The online server has an added bonus for anxiety-prone students — you’ll be able to see exactly when each firm opens and reviews your application, which will subsequently send you into a spiral of anguish and overthought. Thus, do yourself a favour and don’t look! I would compare this feature of the online server to that time we all sat and refreshed the acceptance forums on lawstudents.ca when we impatiently waited to get accepted into law school.

Make sure to do your research by looking at each individual firm website to learn what documents they require and how they would like to receive your completed application. Firms are looking for diligent students who can follow instructions and pay attention to detail, so triple check your application before hitting “Send” because a mistake this early on would give firms an easy reason to take you out of the running.

An easy way to organize your prep for applications would be to make an Excel spreadsheet that lists the following:
  1. firms you’re applying to;
  2. documents each firm requires;
  3. how the firms would like to receive your documents (i.e. through the server or e-mail);
  4. who to address your application to;
  5. the area of law the firm specializes in (i.e. corporate or litigation);
  6. three notable things about their student program (or the firm generally);
  7. a list of people you have met or want to meet at the firm; and
  8. anything else you think you should know about the firm for application purposes.
This spreadsheet will make your life a lot easier because you won’t have to keep scouring the internet when you’re finalizing your cover letter. All of the information you will need to know for the purpose of drafting the firm-specific cover letter will be neatly laid out in front of you. This spreadsheet will also come in handy during Step 3 and Step 5 of the recruitment process. Not only will you have a list of people you’ve reached out to at each firm (so you can slip their name in during the actual interview), you will also be able to remind yourself of what you wrote months ago in your cover letter (OCIs take place 1-2 months after applications are due).

In order to ensure your application is perfect and polished, send your completed cover letter and résumé to a friend and/or mentor who would be willing to read it over in order to catch any last minute spelling and grammar errors. This is an extremely important step — don’t be that guy (or girl) who mixes up “their”, “they’re”, or “there”.

Final Words of Wisdom

The best advice I could give students about the application portion of this process would be to start early. The application deadline is set for August 20th, 2018, by 5:00pm. McCague Borlack is accepting applications via email to StudentApplications@mccagueborlack.com. If you plan on networking prior to the process kicking off (which is always a good idea), I would recommend starting no later than the beginning of July. You are expected to tailor each application to the firm you’re applying to, so what better way to get a feel for the firm culture, student program, and summer student work tasks than to ask the current 2L summer students, associates, partners, and student recruiters.

Lastly, please note that not every firm sends out confirmation e-mails acknowledging receipt of your application, so, unfortunately, you will have to put your faith in technology and hang tight until the OCI schedule gets posted.  Good luck with the process!

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Articling in Ottawa - Yours to Discover

The 2L recruitment process is all about Bay Street. But if Toronto’s Big Law scene isn’t for you, don’t let yourself get caught up in feeling pressure to apply. Instead, look around to see what else is out there – you might be pleasantly surprised!

For students like me who didn’t participate in the Toronto recruitment process, it’s hard to find information that will help inform your opinion about firms. Where to apply, what each firm is about, and which firm is your “top choice” quickly become daunting questions.

"Take your time learning about each firm online.
Reach out to students and lawyers.
Call them. Go to coffee. Ask questions."


Also, learn about the city you are considering. Many law firms hire their future lawyers from their students, so consider whether each firm is in a city you can see yourself building a life.

For those of you considering Ottawa for summer work, let me tell you what you can look forward to. Ottawa has its own unique culture. We are hard-working but laid-back and collegial; we love pubs, live music, and summer festivals; we have beautiful outdoor spaces, and an endless number of hiking and biking trails, including Gatineau National Park. We also have a much-underestimated foodie scene, with tasty bites in the hipster Hintonburg area, trendy Glebe area, and of course, the well-known historic Byward Market. Or, if the sun is shining, opt for a picnic along the Rideau Canal or on Parliament Hill!

smile4yourself - pixabay
As a law student, you will love visiting the Supreme Court of Canada to imagine your future office or touring the Parliament buildings, including the beautiful and authentic 1876 Library of Parliament. Right downtown you’ll also find the National Arts Centre, National Gallery of Canada, Canadian War Museum, Canadian Museum of Nature, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and many more Museums and historical sites.

Moral of the story, Ontario has a lot of beautiful and well-rounded cities to work and build a life in. If Bay Street isn’t a good fit for you, discover other beautiful cities in Ontario.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Step from Law School to Law Firm

Since I was hired at the firm, I had been anticipating my first day at work and had a few queries.

"Has law school adequately prepared me for working in a firm?
Will I be a good fit? Is it going to be like the show Suits?"


Having completed one week of orientation and almost one week of assignments, I can reflect on my experience so far. But first,  I can confirm, that although the filming of Suits takes place down the street, the show is quite removed from reality.

Orientation Week

We began with introductions and throughout the week attended seminars on topics such as civil litigation, affidavits, motions, insurance law, legal research, docketing, Westlaw, and “How to McCague”. It sounds substantive, but the oatmeal cookies made up for it.

The students toured the firm, the Great Library of Osgoode Hall, a courthouse, and fit in our own unofficial tours of some food places in between.

Aside from learning about the law and the firm, the students were given time to learn about each other. By the end of the week, we agreed that the firm did a great job of hiring such a compatible group of students.

by rawpixel at pixabay
First Impressions & The Importance of Mentorship and Helping Each Other

The mentorship between the employees at MB is apparent and has made the step from law school to law firm more manageable.

The six Toronto summer students are placed in an open concept workspace so that we can help each other as much as possible, which has proven to be effective. Whenever one of us has a question, we do our best to ensure the question is answered. Truly, no man (or woman) is left behind.

On our first day, some of the articling students took the summer students for a tour of the food court downstairs. Over lunch, they provided us with incredibly helpful tips and their own informal “How to McCague.”

Diverse Assignments

My second week working as a summer student has already been rewarding. So far, we have received at least one assignment per day. Examples of assignments are drafting pleadings, memos, affidavit of documents, arguing motions, and attending a trial. Thus far, I have been given assignments in four areas of litigation and hope to explore more. While each assignment has a challenging element, taking one step at a time is essential.

photographer Christopher Burns on stocksnap.io
Like any experience, each one is unique. Taking the step from law school to a law firm has been a positive experience for me.

I look forward to what the rest of the summer has in store for us!