Tuesday 24 September 2013

The Balancing Act

One of the most common phrases I heard in law school was “If you think you are busy now, just wait until you start articling – you will have no life!” I tried to ignore these negative cautions but was still more than a little apprehensive that I would have give up my life for the next 10 months to eat, sleep, and breathe at the office.

"...the key to maintaining a balance is learning how to manage your time efficiently in the office, so that you can get out of the office and back into the other aspects of your life."

Thankfully, my experience at MB has not been reflective of all the negative stereotypes surrounding articles. Although all articling students work hard (those of us at MB are no exception), we are also able and encouraged to find time to “play” and enjoy our lives. Personally, I find the key to maintaining a balance is learning how to manage your time efficiently in the office, so that you can get out of the office and back into the other aspects of your life. This is still something I have yet to master, (and I have definitely had to put plans with friends and family on hold because of work) but I am trying hard to find that perfect balance.

In order to have the life I want outside of work, I need to be aware of my own time limits when accepting work and keep in mind my goals for balance. While I want to take on as many assignments as I can and go to court as much as possible, it’s also important that I schedule in some “me” time, including horse-back riding, running, and dinner and drinks with friends. The most challenging balancing act I have faced so far was being in court for 3 full days last week. While it was a fantastic learning experience, being out of the office most of the day meant I needed to stay late each night after court, to keep on top of the rest of my work. So this week, while I was in court for my first (and second!) motion, because I knew what I could manage and worked around the schedule I set for myself, I was able to stay on top of my work and make it out of the office for dinner.

The bottom line is that while there are never enough hours in the day, time management is a skill we all need in order to succeed in this demanding profession. While I think law students generally overreact to the expectations of articling (as they do with other things, has anyone else been following the saga of pineapple appreciation at Osgoode?), the life of a lawyer requires long hours (and some sacrifices) and articling is no different. Creating a successful balance will allow you to enjoy all the things that matter most to you. Tonight, I have tickets to Avicii; tomorrow, I will be summarizing transcripts.
Alyssa C.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Off come the Training Wheels (regarding Client Contact)...

At the conclusion of our first month as full-fledged ‘students-at-law’, there have been many firsts for us articling students: the first time we successfully printed off a batch of labels, the first time we discovered that must-eat treat in the PATH (Prairie Girl cupcakes are both the best and ‘worst’ thing that have ever happened to me), or the first time we figured out how to set multiple timers on the computer docketing system. I have to say, however, that the most memorable first was also one of the most frightening: my first file working directly with a client as the main contact.

"McCague Borlack is exceptionally open to allowing its students to interact with clients..."

Let me explain. McCague Borlack is exceptionally open to allowing its students to interact with clients, whether it be via email or in person at a firm event. When I summered with the firm last year, I was in constant communication with clients, providing them with updates on files or assessments on the chances of success of a file; however, all of those missives went through a vetting process with an associate or partner at the firm before I hit ‘send’.

Last week I was introduced via telephone to a client whose file I would be handling. The lawyer told the client my name, where I had gone to school (Queen’s pride, woo), and that I would be their direct contact for the file going forward. What was so unique about this most recent interaction was that the next time I communicated with the client, I would be doing it without the safety net of a supervising lawyer. By that I mean, my supervising lawyer will still be available to discuss the file and answer any and all questions, however, I will be the face of the firm for the client.

Fortunately, we were in the lawyer’s office when this news was announced, and not at a client meeting, so I had the opportunity to get over my initial trepidation prior to meeting the client face to face. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to work with this person and have the opportunity to take on more responsibility at the office. It was just…like riding a bike without training wheels for the first time: exhilarating and terrifying. Now that I’ve had a few days to let the knowledge settle in, that I am the person this client will contact with questions or information about the file, I’ve become much more exhilarated than terrified (which, incidentally, was the same for the bike ride).

As I write this, I have a settlement conference coming up with this same client, where I will meet them face to face and represent them before a deputy judge. I am determined that I will be prepared, professional, and poised when this happens.
Kati A.

Monday 9 September 2013

What it's like…

The first day back for articles was busy and filled with heartfelt greetings from colleagues I hadn't seen since my stint as a summer student the year before. After the first week of a thorough orientation from Ashley, the guru and student mentor, we were deep in the trenches of challenging legal work.

Now, a month later and 150 billable hours behind me, I am grateful for the opportunity to write the first Student-at-Law blog and reflect on what it's like… articling at MB.

"I decided the best course of action would be to serve a formal Offer to Settle and that's exactly what we did."


From the beginning I was assigned carriage of files and, under the supervision of a partner, trusted to take the necessary steps to protect the best interests of our clients. My first file was defending an insurance company against a self-represented litigant. I decided the best course of action would be to serve a formal Offer to Settle and that's exactly what we did. And it is in this respect to which I speak when I say that as an Articling student I am valued and entrusted with a lot of autonomy and a high level of responsibility.

File Completion

With the articling term being 10 months vs. 2 for summer students, it was exciting to realize I have a better chance to see several of my files through to completion. For instance, I was given a new subrogation matter and issued a claim; since then a defense has been filed and a settlement conference date has been set. To think, before articling is over, this case - and hopefully several others like it - will be settled and closed! It's very rewarding to assist a client right through from beginning to end.

Quality of Work

Again due to the longer work term, I have the opportunity to contribute to large, multi-million dollar, law suits. More importantly, I have the chance to tackle complicated legal issues and challenging fact patterns involving many parties. More time allows for deeper and more thorough analysis, therefore gaining me access to a much higher quality of work than ever before.

Articling is a whole new adventure with a brand new set of challenges. It is exciting and rewarding and I can't wait to see what other interesting work I get assigned in the coming months.
Justin A.