Tuesday 28 May 2013

My first solo trial... what a rush!

As the Articling term started to wind down, I was gearing up – for trial! Last week I had my first Small Claims Court Trial. I was defending a veterinarian against allegations of professional misconduct and lack of informed consent. To prepare, I pored over medical notes and records, including consent forms and authorizations, met with the veterinarian to prepare her for examination-in-chief and cross-examination and got very familiar with the rules regarding expert evidence.

"...having studied the case law on expert evidence, I had a strong feeling these articles were inadmissible as evidence."

You see, in professional misconduct actions, the law is very clear that due to a professional’s specialized knowledge in their area of expertise (i.e. a veterinarian in veterinary medicine), expert evidence is needed for the plaintiff to satisfy its burden of proof. Without an expert report, or expert opinion evidence, it is highly unlikely that the plaintiff will be able to succeed.

In this case, the plaintiff served us with a Document Brief which included numerous articles on veterinary disease. When I received the Brief, having studied the case law on expert evidence, I had a strong feeling these articles were inadmissible as evidence.

At the outset of trial, I asked the judge to make an Order excluding most of the plaintiff's Document Brief on the basis that it included articles on veterinary diseases and there was no one qualified to introduce the exhibits. The judge agreed, granted my request, and as a result, plaintiff’s counsel was extremely limited in her questioning. The Judge ultimately dismissed the claim as the plaintiff had not met his burden of proof!

It felt great to succeed at my first trial and even better to make the client happy. While the trial was a lot of hard work, it was a great experience and I can’t wait for the next one….  What a rush!

Friday 17 May 2013

Flies and honey...

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ve noticed that my colleagues’ posts have been full of helpful articling tips. So much so that I wondered what else I could possibly provide in terms of tricks of the trade. As I reflected on my experience in the last ten months, I remembered something a mentor of mine told me at the outset of the articling term - a good reputation is more valuable than money.

"...we have one thing that sets us apart from one another: our reputations."

Any lawyer (in Toronto especially), will tell you that the legal profession is a small community. The six degrees of separation are arguably most evident in our world. You probably went to the same law school as your principal’s wife’s sister, and she is probably dating that guy you knew from 1L Contracts. The bottom line is…we’re all connected. We are all educated, skilled and trained in the same laws but we have one thing that sets us apart from one another: our reputations.

First impressions are important but the lasting impression you leave with opposing counsel, is the one you want to be concerned about. The Law Society imposes on all of us a good character requirement but independent of a formal requirement, it’s probably a good business decision to conduct yourself with integrity and grace. Advocate vigorously but kindly; fight for your client not with opposing counsel; exchange pleasantries; grant reasonable indulgences. There’s a difference between advocating for your position and being unnecessarily aggressive. I’m throwing in a cliché here, but you really do catch more flies with honey….

The legal profession is hardly “Law and Order-esque”. We are all colleagues. We might not all know each other’s names but we remember when someone was reasonable and pleasant. We will also remember those who give us a hard time…

And these sentiments aren’t just applicable to our interactions with the profession at large. I’ve learned that your relationships with your colleagues are of the utmost importance – especially as a litigator. There are deadlines, upon deadlines and constant unpredictability. Who knows when you’ll need a helping hand and if you’re good to your colleagues, you shouldn’t have trouble finding one. At MB, there are no name plates on the doors. Most people know each other and when they don’t, they introduce themselves. Although we started as a small firm, as we grow, the air of collegiality among colleagues is ever-present.

Everyone is busy but no one is too busy to smile at a colleague, to build a relationship, to make a friend and grant an indulgence here and there. We all want our clients to like us so why wouldn’t we want our colleagues to as well – both inside and outside of the firm. I guess what I’m really trying to say is - it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice!

Friday 10 May 2013

The Trucks are Out!

One thing they don’t tell you about having an office job is that it becomes increasingly difficult to sit inside as the weather improves. We've had a little preview of summer sunshine this past week and more than a couple times I have found myself lingering outside a moment longer on my way into work. Toronto truly becomes a different city in the spring: suddenly there are flowers blooming, happy people milling about and ice cream trucks on Bay Street. I will admit that the beautiful weather got the best of us last Friday and the students took a short afternoon break to unwind and visit said ice cream truck.

The recent change in seasons got me thinking about my summer plans. One of the (many) perks of articling is that we are allowed a break between finishing our articles in June and starting our “big boy/girl” careers as associates in September. I plan to jam-pack my summer with travel, friends, family and lots of fun. I want to make the most of this break since it’s hard to tell when I will get the same opportunity again… the next “long break” could very well involve bridge games, daily naps and early-bird specials.

"I love that I will constantly learn new skills, meet new people and solve new problems."

While I’m really pumped about my summer plans and having some time to myself, I’m equally excited about the career I will officially embark on in the fall. I love that each new day will bring new challenges. I love that I will constantly learn new skills, meet new people and solve new problems. And I love that when things get overwhelming, I will always have friends who will accompany me on an afternoon excursion to the ice cream truck.

Monday 6 May 2013

Words of Wisdom...

After reading Natalie’s post, I found myself reflecting on the variety of advice I have collected over the past few years, both during law school and now during my articling term. Before beginning articling, I had my own idea of how I imagined the experience to be. This was largely based on the information passed down to me from those who had gone through the process before me, who never hesitated to share their stories and advice.

One piece of advice that stands out and rings true now, more than ever, came from someone whom I considered my mentor when I was concluding my final year in law school and thinking forward to the start of articling:

Articling is what you make of it.

...take advantage of the learning opportunities available to you as best
you can.

Articling, by its very nature, is meant to be a learning experience and there is no better time to learn and gain invaluable experience. Having completed approximately nine months of articling here at MB, I can say that though articling tests and challenges you on a daily basis, it can be very rewarding. That is why it is important that, though you may find articling to be an exceptionally busy time, you must also take advantage of the learning opportunities available to you as best you can. Following the advice given to me, I have made efforts to work with a variety of lawyers on a variety of legal issues. I have also tried to attend as many examinations for discovery, court appearances, and client meetings as possible, as I find them to be great learning experiences.

Aside from the hands-on learning experiences, I've also had the chance to attend many educational seminars and lunch & learn events on a variety of informative topics ranging from how to conduct examinations for discovery to how to run a file.

While work will always find its way to you when you’re articling, it is also important to seek out the work that YOU want. I've found that being proactive and volunteering to assist with work you’re interested in is a great way to make the most of your experience.

And speaking of making the most of an experience… I am going to take this opportunity to give a Shameless plug for Toronto’s beloved Maple Leafs who have finally made it back to the playoffs…GO LEAFS GO!!!