Monday, 6 July 2015

Five Habits of Highly Effective Law Students

It is that time of year where many eager first and second-year law students begin putting their job applications together. In preparation for your cover letters and practicing for interviews I give you The Five Habits Law Students should aspire to develop. I can confidently say they will assist you, as they have me and my colleagues, with the transition from 'law school' to 'law firm'.

These Habits will assist you with the transition from
'law school' to
'law firm'.

Habit #1- Organization
As any other student of MB will tell you…you do real work here. This means that you are given a great deal of responsibility on a number of files from the get-go. For example, a student’s typical to-do list will read:

  • Complete an Affidavit of Documents, 
  • complete a Motion Record, 
  • call client, 
  • get an invoice, 
  • write a briefing letter to the expert, 
  • research this issue, 
  • summarize medicals and of course, 
  • write a blog post.  

As you can imagine, without a game plan this list would be a nightmare and you would easily be lost, confused and inefficient. However, if one is able to chart out the above list and check their timelines and due dates with the assigning lawyer for the purposes of prioritizing assignments, the list becomes more manageable. In turn, you become more effective as a student.

Habit #2- Time Management 
As a student, you will soon become familiarized with the concept of “capturing your time”. Ultimately, what this means is that you should strive to make every minute of your workday count. In accomplishing this, it is helpful to create a self-imposed timeline for your tasks (when one isn’t already given that is). For example, when a lawyer assigns something without telling you when they want it back, you should ask “how long should something like this take me”? Even if the task was assigned on a no-rush basis, this will allow you to stay on track with regard to managing your time.

Habit #3- Be A Good Mentee But Don’t Forget To Be A Mentor As Well 
As a new student, you will quickly learn how little you actually know. This is normal (or so they tell me). At MB, everyone will be your mentor in one way or another. For example, you will always have guidance whether it is to show you the particular office you are looking for, how to use a particular machine, or to explain how to properly do a damages brief after already asking three times. That being said, as a new student you should always seek out opportunities to be a mentor yourself. This could not be truer of the students at MB, where we relish the opportunity to assist and guide each other.  This in turn will contribute to the collegial atmosphere of the firm.

Habit #4-Be Curious
As a student, you will see that it is easy to simply complete an assignment without really knowing the case or delving into the issues. For instance, a common assignment can be to ensure that opposing counsel has provided all of their undertakings. However, you will learn much more much faster, if you take the time to be curious. For example, after examining the undertakings, go back to the file and take a minute to read the Statement of Claim, Statement of Defence, or even the discovery transcript. This will allow you to see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together, and how your role as a student contributes to the assembly of that puzzle.

Habit #5-Trust Yourself 
You should probably come to terms with it now; as a student, you can expect to sometimes be lost or confused. In these instances, from time to time, after you have asked all the right questions and got all the right answers, you should simply rely on and trust your intuition. It has led you to where you are now and through many obstacles (LSAT, 1L, OCI’s to name a few) and it will continue to do so (so I hope).

To the prospective students: these are some of the skills and habits I have found helpful in my transition from school to the workforce. Hopefully, they will help you too. Good luck with your applications.

Shayan K.