Tuesday 23 June 2015

Introducing the Personal Side

As we approach the one-month mark of our Summer Student program, I think it is safe for me to say on behalf of everyone, that we have already learned a lot. In addition to gaining broad exposure to many areas of civil litigation, we have also been fortunate to meet many new and friendly faces throughout the firm.

Friendly Faces
at the Firm

The rumours are true – everyone really is happy to teach, lend a hand and answer our infinite follow-up questions. The open-door policy at MB has been a pivotal part of learning both practical civil litigation skills as well as learning about our colleagues. This year there are 8 Summer Students, 6 in Toronto and 2 in Ottawa. After spending one month working very closely with, learning from and maneuvering through new areas of the law together we have all become fast friends. I want to take this opportunity to share an interesting fact or two that I have learned about each of my Summer Student colleagues – through personal biographies and candid photos (authored by me, with their consent, of course). So here we are in alphabetical order...

Karen is a Doctor – a Ph.D. that is. Karen’s travels as a Paleopathologist have allowed her to spend at least one month on every continent, except Africa and Antarctica. Pretty cool. Appropriately, Karen’s favourite book is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Mahdi is no stranger to working closely with other people around his age. Mahdi has six siblings, and considers his family 'small'. We can all thank Mahdi’s family for making him so friendly and cooperative!

Melanie (Me!)
I am an extrovert at heart, with an unwavering love for musicals, specifically Grease, red velvet cake, and mid-distance running. While I can be found generally happy in most of life’s situations, I am easily debilitated by my fear of birds. ALL birds.

In addition to his kindhearted nature and friendly demeanour, Shayan has established himself (among the student group) as something of a fashion icon. Most notably are Shayan’s regular rotation of colourful suit socks. They have become quite the conversation starter!

Cassandra is an Ottawa native, born and raised. As a former competitive figure skater, Cassandra enjoys the Ottawa winters and can appreciate the Rideau Canal in all its frozen beauty. Cassandra, however, does not appreciate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Victoria is a lady of many talents, outside the office she can be seen scoring touchdowns, running the field and playing defense on her Ultimate Frisbee team. Victoria also has a flair for fashion. The only thing larger than the documents in her AOD is her collection of shoes!

Whether she is keeping track of assignments that come through “the list”, analyzing documents for a Damages Brief or preparing a Motion Record, Marla keeps organized through her beloved Agenda Book. Constantly being prepared entitles Marla to indulge in her favourite treat – DQ’s chocolate-dipped ice cream!

Although Tiffany enjoys her time in the Ottawa office, when she is outside the office she is quite the thrill-seeker! Tiffany has exercised her dare-devil edge through sky diving, hang gliding, parasailing and scuba diving, just to name a few! Stay safe, Tiffany!

Melanie J.

Friday 19 June 2015

The List: The Real Work has begun

Student work at the firm is distributed through a rotation system commonly referred to as “The List”.

It is our third week at the firm as summer students; the articling students have left and the “real work” has begun. Student work at the firm is distributed through a rotation system commonly referred to as “The List”.

The nature of The List means that on any given day, you may be asked to assist a lawyer with a motion record, an accident and benefit claim, a subrogation file, or even a damages brief. This is exciting since you are not aware of what interesting file awaits you when you arrive in the morning, also it means we have to practice excellent time management in order to keep up with all work assigned.

The strategy we have developed as a group -- and thank you to the articling students for this tip -- is to work together as a team on all new assignments. For example, due to the nature of The List, one summer student was able to complete a number of damages briefs. This is a complicated but essential document for any pending litigation and settlement discussions. If for instance, a damages brief appears on my desk tomorrow, and I have a few incidental questions, I know that I can always stick my head over to the next cubicle and the other student will not hesitate to assist me and pass on any suggestions that might be helpful. Beyond assisting each other on files, we have committed to regularly having lunch as a group to share helpful tips and best practices.

photo by cuteimage from freedigitalphotos
In addition to assigning work, The List also determines which student gets to accompany a senior lawyer on discoveries or motions. Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of attending a lengthy motion with a Partner and witnessed her zealously advocate for one of our clients on a very fine point of law. I left the courthouse with a better sense of what was expected of us as future members of the firm, and most importantly, I left with a greater appreciation for exemplary oral advocacy.

‘Til next time,

Mahdi H.

Wednesday 10 June 2015

An Ocean’s Eleven of Law Students

Articling is over. Our final day together as students, after the long and challenging haul, was spent in relief and satisfaction, over beers and in each other's company on a cool patio night.

...remove yourself from the competitive maelstrom of law school and prepare for a more collaborative firm environment.

I cannot say enough about this group of individuals, who shared their knowledge, effort and support without expectation or delay.

We were each other's bulwark, an Ocean's Eleven of Law Students, each putting their unique talents to work in earnest collaboration. These people, and the lawyers at McCague Borlack, were at once my professional exemplars, my safety net and my confidantes. I cannot imagine a better learning environment than the one I experienced over the past 10 months.

  To McCague Borlack's incoming summer students, I urge you to lean on each other and draw from the resources provided by the firm. An honest assertion of yourself and a sincere interest in the success of others is truly all you need to succeed. To those law students who will soon summer or article, I urge you to remove yourself from the competitive maelstrom of law school and prepare for a more collaborative firm environment. And to my fellow articling students, I look forward to many more days as newly called lawyers at McCague Borlack this Fall.

Friday 5 June 2015

Orientation Week: Summer Students 2015

It has been said at least twice in previous blogs that the weeks leading up to the first day as a summer student are a mix of anticipation and anxiety. I couldn’t agree more. In my case, my anxiety increased the closer I got to my start date. I loved that students at McCague Borlack get lots of responsibility, but it struck me how little I knew about the tasks that I might be assigned. I didn’t know if I could handle everything.

...my anxiety increased
the closer I got to
my start date...

Thankfully, the transition from law school to law firm was as gentle as it could possibly have been. For three days, all of the summer students were taught the practical side of being a lawyer, such as how to docket and manage files, as well as substantive legal concepts, like civil procedure and the basics of insurance law. Each lesson was taught by a different person, all of whom told us that we could come to them, or anyone else, with any questions that we had. In fact, that was a theme of this week. Nearly everyone we have met has reassured us that they are happy to answer any questions we have.

When training ended, it became clear that this was not just something people said. When I was given my first assignment, one of the articling students explained to me exactly how to do it, gave me an example to follow, and gave me feedback before I submitted it. When I met with the assigning lawyer before I started the assignment, he not only gave me a little more detail on what he needed me to do, he also explained to me an aspect of accident benefits that I had been struggling with. When I was given small claims files, the articling student who transferred them to me explained exactly what was happening in the proceedings and what I would need to do next.

As promised, the work has been hands-on, but manageable. In addition to the work distributed through the student email list, more than half of the summer students, including myself, have attended discoveries with lawyers. Two of the eight students have attended motions. Many of us have been given carriage of small claims files; at least one of mine will likely have a settlement conference scheduled for this summer.

The articling students in particular have been a tremendous asset, willing to answer all of our questions, no matter how basic. We are all slightly dreading Monday morning, when they are gone and we are on our own. Thankfully, all of the summer students are willing to help each other out, offering advice when another student gets an assignment they have done before. I’m grateful to be working with such a good group of people.