Thursday 29 December 2016

Utilizing my advocacy skills in court

My first motion was scheduled months in advance and the day finally arrived. It was booked at the Newmarket Superior Court, a court that was unfamiliar to me. I am not a shy person, but the anticipation of speaking in open court made me nervous. I was consoled by my learned peers who assured me that I was lucky to be arguing a Wagg motion as my very first.

I was scheduled to speak before the Honourable Justice Di Luca...

A Wagg motion is brought under Rule 30.10 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. The purpose of the motion is to obtain relevant documents that are in the possession, control, or power of a party that is not part of the litigation. These motions typically arise in motor vehicle accident claims and are used to obtain the records of police departments and/or the Ministry of the Attorney General.

Since Wagg motions are procedural, they are rarely opposed. That made my task easier. So long as I was prepared, nothing could go wrong…

On December 21, I arrived at court with ample time to spare. I wanted to ensure that I could find out where I needed to go and fill out any necessary forms all without breaking a sweat. I was scheduled to speak before the Honourable Justice Di Luca – lucky for me I was first on the docket.

Justice Di Luca had several questions for me, but everything went smoothly. I was able to obtain the Order, which I subsequently had issued and entered. Mission accomplished.

This motion marked the beginning of an era for me. Not to sound dramatic, but what I find challenging as a student will soon become the new norm. I will no longer worry about the proper way to introduce myself, or how to address the judge or master; I will not hesitate to use proper legal jargon, and I will no longer be confused by the layout of the Newmarket Superior Court.

On to the next!

Marla R-W.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Let's Settle This!

It has been two months since my unexpected arrival at MB, and partaking in mediation has been by far the most intriguing learning experience for me. It is interesting to observe the social, economic and tactical angles of mediation…

the best settlement is one where both parties concede a little to get the deal done...


As is the case when preparing for trial, it is of dire importance to be well prepared for your mediation. Drafting a quality brief after a thorough review of your file is an essential step of the mediation process. Your goal is to bring as much ammunition to the mediation. With good knowledge of the facts and the law, you will be able to present your case from a position of strength and obtain the best possible settlement for your client.


Often times this is the first real chance to evaluate your opponent’s file on a subjective basis and evaluate your chances of success at trial. Therefore, being open and honest allows for no one to be left in the dark. In addition, it is counter-productive when you are not open, and it is usually construed as a weakness in your case.


Getting a case to mediation is a process. Starting from a properly drafted mediation brief to the opening statements, to back and forth on unreasonable offers, it all takes time. It is important to remain focused on the objectives of mediation, to settle.


Since our first day of law school, we have been drilled with the notion that there is no certainty at trial. For this reason, it is important to evaluate your risk and come to mediation with the intention, and willingness to compromise in relation to your level of risk assessed. In fact, the best settlement is one where both parties concede a little to get the deal done.

jannoon028 - compliments of freedigitalphotosIn Summary

Becoming good at mediation comes with practice, by observing others in mediation and by asking experienced lawyers questions. Finally, it is critical to be a great listener at a mediation. You can often achieve a better result for your client by listening instead of talking.

I cannot wait to develop my own style and to continue learning about the multiple angles of mediation.
David P.

Monday 14 November 2016

Pre-Trial Conferences: Down to the Wire

Television shows like The Good Wife or Suits often glamourize the life of the lawyer, and make it seem like trials are an everyday occurrence. Many of these legal dramas showcase a different trial in each episode. The reality, though, is very different. The scarcity of judicial resources, coupled with the financial burden and the extraordinary length of time spent litigating matters means that the legal system is inclined to push for settlement before trial. However, there are times when matters simply cannot be resolved. It is then that lawyers must take on the task that we see so often on television, and proceed to trial, complete with witnesses, robes, and sometimes even juries.

...the parties agreed that a pre-trial conference might be the best route towards agreement on some issues...

For the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to assist with one of the upcoming trials at our firm. The case was complex, with multiple parties and many issues in contention. In fact, the trial was originally scheduled to go on for several weeks! With the start date looming, and with the knowledge that a protracted trial would not be in anyone’s best interests, the parties agreed that a pre-trial conference might be the best route towards agreement on some issues, if not a final resolution.

Pre-trial conferences are one of the last few opportunities for parties to sit down and attempt to reach a settlement before proceeding to trial. In many ways, a pre-trial conference is like a mediation, only in a more formal court setting. A judge will offer his or her candid advice on the prospects of success for the parties at trial, and suggest opportunities for resolving the dispute. More often than not, matters will be resolved at these pre-trial conferences.

Having worked on this file beforehand, I knew that an actual settlement was unlikely. This would be the second pre-trial conference after the first had failed. The parties had strikingly different positions on the legal and factual issues. Nevertheless, I still jumped at the opportunity to attend the conference and see how things would end up.

Mr. Justice Todd L. Archibald
On the exact same day as this second conference, our firm held a client seminar on pre-trial conferences.  The attendees were very fortunate to be joined by Justice Archibald, who provided his personal insights on how these conferences are run, and how parties should approach such conferences. As luck would have it, both the mock pre-trial and the actual pre-trial conference were led by the same judge!

While at the seminar, Justice Archibald shared his thought process when presiding over a pre-trial conference. At the very beginning, His Honour would speak to counsel to obtain a lay of the land. This would afford him an opportunity to gauge the matter and each parties' respective positions. This also allows counsel to be candid about their positions without the added pressure of having their clients present. Justice Archibald then holds individual caucuses with each party and their counsel. He attempts to be as honest as he can be, and tell each party where they stand; where their positions are strong, and where it may be a better idea to back down. By being forthright in his opinions, Justice Archibald has been able to settle a vast majority of the cases put before him. In fact, he was similarly able to quickly settle the mock pre-trial conference held at the seminar in a record 60 minutes! (But he did stipulate that these proceedings would, in fact, take a day or two to get all parties to this stage.)

MB's Transportation Mock Pre-Trial
Having heard all of this at the seminar, I was eager to see how Justice Archibald would be like in a real pre-trial conference. It quickly became clear that everything he shared was true. From his approach to speaking with the various parties, to his incredible ability to quickly cut to the chase, Justice Archibald showcased all the methods he discussed when managing this conference. And, just like at the seminar, Justice Archibald was able to settle this real legal case too.

So, unlike those legal dramas I mentioned earlier, I won’t get the opportunity to watch this case unfold under the auspices of a courtroom. But, what matters most is that everyone involved obtained results that led to a just and final settlement.

Go to MB’s Mock Pre-Trial Handouts page to read the Mockuments: Fact Summary, Pre-Trial Memos, and the Case Summary.
Victoria M.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Reflecting: An Articling Must

During our articles so far, we have been so busy with new experiences, learning new concepts, research, and deadlines that it is hard to believe we are almost three months in. The time has simply flown by!

I schedule a few minutes into my busy schedule to reflect on my experiences and Milestones.

Articling is the period where you are allowed to learn, explore, ask questions and make mistakes (in drafts only!) It is all part of the learning process. Therefore, it is important to stop, take a breather, and reflect on how far we have already come as articling students.

I personally like to take this breather every two weeks. I schedule a few minutes into my busy schedule to reflect on my experiences over the past 14 days and make a list of my accomplishments and what I have learned.

This list of accomplishments varies week by week and consists of milestones as small as learning what a “proof of loss” document is and why it is a key document in insurance defence, to larger milestones such as being assigned carriage of my first small claims file and drafting my first mediation brief.

These lists are a great tool to measure how far I have come from the first weeks of articling until now. For me, these lists are a proud reminder of how much I have learned about litigation and the practice of law in general so far. They are also great indicators of how my confidence is slowly growing. With each reporting letter and research memo, I can see myself becoming more confident in my research and writing abilities.

compliments of freedigitaldesigns
It is even interesting to compare a current list from the previous list. You wouldn’t believe how much learning is packed into a short period of time! For example, in the last 14 days, I have had the opportunity to speak directly to clients, draft my first (and second) mediation brief, and how to prepare for my first settlement conference.

I also like to use this exercise to set new goals for myself. I do this by reflecting on assignments and situations that I have found particularly challenging in order to identify areas where I would like to improve. Articling is a learning process and I have learned that it is important to target my own personal weaknesses so that I can set goals for myself.

It is both nerve-wracking and exciting to see what the next seven months have in store for us. Spending some time to reflect on accomplishments, and articling milestones and measuring your success through weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly intervals is a great way to keep tabs on how far you’ve come and how far you have to go. You will be amazed to see how much you have already learned!
Cassandra K.

Friday 30 September 2016

Life Outside the Office

Two months into my articling term, instead of writing about some of the amazing experiences I have had thus far, I have decided to write about something that has allowed me to make the most of these experiences—and it is not related to work! In fact, it has to do with “life” outside the office.

there are many benefits associated with taking part in activities outside of work...

Yes, the topic of work-life balance may seem a bit cliché, but, in my defence, it is something that is far too often preached but seldom practiced. Fortunately, at MB, with effective time management, it is a totally achievable feat.

Outside of work, I regularly participate in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), spend time with my friends and family, and still try to make it to the gym at 6:30 a.m. on a daily basis with Mahdi, another articling student (still trying to get the others onboard). At the same time, I have been successful in managing my workload and the stress that is associated with articling.

Admittedly, these activities have bettered my experiences at work. For one, I feel that I am much more productive while I am at the office. Additionally, I feel more energized throughout the day, which allows me to stay focused while working on a task.

Many other individuals at MB participate in interesting activities outside the firm. The perk of this is the unique blend added to the firm’s overall culture. Here are a few samples below:

Michael Kennedy (Partner)

Other than being in a band up until the summer of 2015, when he is not in the office, Michael likes to spend time with his friends, snowboard throughout the winter and spend time with Elsa. Michael believes that as a successful lawyer, there will always be more work than one has time for and that the key is to learn to prioritize.

Eric Turkienicz (Associate)

Eric has been writing and performing comedy for over 10 years and has done performances in Chicago, Montreal, and across Ontario. In 2012, Eric was part of a group that was nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award. Today, Eric is a regular contributing writer to a satirical online newspaper. He says that these experiences outside the office let him explore creative expression in other areas, which coincidentally help him master the skills that come up regularly as a litigator!

Shayan and Cheyenne
Sandy Mark Lee (Legal Assistant)

When Sandy is not in the office, she selflessly makes it her mission to volunteer and give back to the community! Ultimately, she decided to combine her love for dogs and working with the elderly. So naturally, she picked St. John Ambulance. She and her beloved Cheyenne (yes, I said “Cheyenne”) visit long-term care homes, Bridgepoint Rehab Hospital, university, and colleges, attend fundraisers and soon they will be part of a team visiting travellers at Toronto Pearson Airport. Sandy says that the work she does outside the firm helps her with meeting the daily demands of her job at MB.

Although working at a law firm is challenging and fast-paced, there are many benefits associated with taking part in activities outside of work. However, it is undeniable that there will be times where you will have to make sacrifices due to the nature and the demands of the job. Just remember, there are 365 days in a year and 24 hours in a day, you can definitely spare a few hours on yourself!

Shayan K.

Friday 9 September 2016

Preparing for the Fastest 17 Minutes of your Life - OCI Interviews

On-Campus Interviews (OCIs) for the firm’s summer student program are around the corner. Here are some tips from the articling students that will help you succeed.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation - When You’re Done, Prepare Again...


You’ve picked out your favourite interview gear. You’ve practiced your firm handshake. You’ve practiced saying: Hello, my name is [insert], it’s great to meet you.  What’s next? Learning about the firm!

The importance of learning about the firm and how it differs from other firms you will be meeting during OCIs, and the ways in which the firm’s interests match up with your own preferences will be key. Undoubtedly, one of the first questions you will be asked will be: what made you interested in our firm? Or more informally, so why us? Knowing how to navigate this question will set you apart from the other candidates.

How do you learn about the firm? Check out the firm’s website to learn about the areas that the firm primarily practices in. From there look at the recent cases the firm has been involved in. Make sure to look at the recent publications section of the firm’s website to gain a glimpse of the substantive areas the firm practices in and to gain insight into future developments of the law from the vantage point of the firm’s lawyers.

Once you’ve done your homework and learned as much as you could from the firm’s website, email an articling student with a few questions you may have about the firm. Feels like ages ago, but when I went through this process, I met for coffee with an articling student who gave me greater insights into the firm. Most articling students have done the same and would be more than willing to return the favour, just remember to pay it forward when you are an articling student.

During the Interview: The Fastest 17 mins of Your Life

image courtesy of digitalart
The interview process will last approximately 17-18 minutes. Flows very naturally and in no time the buzzer will ring and you’ll be off to your next interview. Tips to make sure you make the most of your time with the firm?

Have a checklist of things you want to discuss. These will be aspects of your life - be it personal or academic that could not accurately be displayed in your cover letter or resume. Most importantly, and this cannot be stressed enough, be your authentic self. If you have a set of unique interests, make sure to share them. The firm is always interested in meeting interesting individuals and interests are what make particular candidates memorable. No one forgets meeting the student who rides equestrian.


Send a personalized thank you email to each person you interviewed with.

Best of luck!
Mahdi H.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Summer Student Application Tips

With the deadline for summer student applications fast approaching in many Toronto firms, here are some tips from someone who knows what firms are looking for, MB’s student coordinator, Ashley Faust.

Personalizing the cover letter to the firm...

It’s About the Right Fit

Firms are looking for a good fit. Sure your 1L grades matter, but they are not everything. It’s not just about someone who can do the work well, but about finding people who will also be happy at the firm. MB in particular hires with the hope that you will stay as an associate (all of you; the students are not in competition for limited associate positions). The best way to show that you know what you are applying for is not to make mistakes in your cover letter. That means if like MB, the firm does not offer rotations, you shouldn’t be referring to them in your cover letter. Personalizing the cover letter to the firm, even a little, shows you’ve thought about whether you want to work there and mentioning that you spoke to someone at the firm or read their website or blog shows you cared enough to put in the research time.


Fit also comes down to personality. Firms are not all looking for the same thing and there will be some places that you will be happier than others. At MB, students get “litigation immersion” which Ashley described as a “sink or swim environment with all the life preservers and assistance you need to succeed”. In many ways, you are treated like a lawyer from day one and you will learn fast. Does the application suggest you could thrive in this program? Do your past jobs show you are a hard worker or a self-starter? Do you seem like you can work well in a team with the other students? Where reference letters are required or optional, these can help too.

Areas of Interest

Make sure the firm does what you are interested in. Not all firms do everything. MB does litigation, so if you aren’t inclined towards this, you might prefer a full-service firm with a wider variety of practice areas to try. When applying to a boutique, it’s ok if you have done things that show an interest in other areas of law. That said, your application should show some interest in that firm’s area. For litigation, there are a lot of ways to show interest, whether that is working at a clinic, mooting, or taking relevant classes.

Don’t Shy Away From What Makes You Interesting

Include the interesting things about you. Even if your application is not the strongest, the firm may meet with you just to meet a former professional ukulele player. At the very least, it will give you something to talk about in an interview.
Karen B.

2016 Summer Students have left the building...

The 2016 Summer Students are gone, but only until articles - they are all coming back next fall! They have left us with some final words of (newfound) wisdom...
  1. The best thing about your summer at MB
  2. Best piece of advice given this summer
  3. Best field trip/and or assignment
  4. What you wish you'd known at the beginning of the summer term
  5. Best place for lunch

T o r o n t o 

  1. The people.
  2. Work in as many practices areas as possible.
  3. Attending a motion to strike.
  4. The Rules of Civil Procedure.
  1. The culture and the people.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  3. Working on small claims matters.
  4. Civ Pro!
  5. Fresh West
  1. Working in a professional and stimulating work environment to solve client problems. No in-school simulation can replicate what it is like out here in the real world – you truly learn most by doing.
  2. Seek advice and be inquisitive.
  3. Attended a motion for summary judgment. I was the one who had drafted these documents for the moving party. It was exciting to see my work product in the hands of the motions judge.
  4. I would have been happy to know just how varied my summer term would be. Each day brings new challenges, which keeps me engaged and interested in the work I have been assigned. 
  1. Being able to apply what I learned at school and meeting great people
  2. Stay organized and prioritize.
  3. Discoveries and drafting the ED report.
  4. Lawyers have different styles and preferences on how to complete an assignment.
  1. Meeting a great group of students and being able to learn the ropes of litigation together.
  2. Always seek clarification about something if you are unsure – don’t be afraid to ask questions!
  3. Research on regulatory offences and quasi-criminal work.
  4. Everyone will have a different way of doing things – don’t assume that there is one right way only.
  5. Crave or Picnic – I can’t decide!
  1. The friendly and supportive people at MB made my summer experience enjoyable and I learned a lot under the lawyers' mentorship and guidance.  
  2. To ensure the lawyers are happy with your work product and to save time, ask questions regarding their preferences or the scope of the assignment (formatting, length, the amount of time to be spent on the assignment, asking for precedents, etc.)
  3. A pre-trial for a case that was highly publicized in the media, and for which I worked on several related research assignments.
  4. How varied the work would be and that there is no 'one' way of doing things. This was a perfect opportunity to learn from different lawyers, and get confidence in developing our own style.
  5. The burrito bowls at FreshWest are great! 

O t t a w a 

  1. The people!
  2. Ask lots of questions, you’re here to learn.
  3. I had the opportunity to go to a settlement conference on my own.
  4. Take it all in because 12 weeks go by fast!
  5. Bier Markt
  1. Having opportunities, that I would never have thought possible for a summer student, to tackle files “hands-on”
  2. Do not rush anything. The focus is rather on accuracy and correctness, rather than speed. The more you do a task the faster you get at it.
  3. Having the opportunity to go to an Examination for Discovery, and observe the process in action.
  4. One word: Precedents.
  5. Pretty much anywhere on Sparks Street. It’s only one block away!

Friday 12 August 2016

They can't teach you this in law school: Litigation as a vocation

In law school, one learns the law. We learn the black letter legal principles, strategies, and the art of legal analysis. Specifically, law students learn how to examine a particular set of facts, apply the common law, and come up with a determination of the potential and likely outcomes. However, what law school does not teach you is the vocational aspect of litigation practice. Not surprisingly, since the beginning of my summer with McCague Borlack, I have had many opportunities to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of litigation; things you simply can't learn in a classroom.

There is a significant amount of strategy involved in the litigation process that is fact-specific...

One learns best by doing, for example:
  1. There is a significant amount of strategy involved in the litigation process that is fact-specific and therefore is tailored to each individual case. Based on my observation of the senior lawyers, this process has almost become muscle memory to them and has given me a goal to strive for.
  1. In my first week, I was given the incredibly daunting task of analyzing a file with thousands of documents on short notice. Through the assistance of the lead lawyer and support staff, I was shown efficient tricks of the trade in order to effectively tackle and complete this task prior to its due date.
  1. The first time I had to write a Statement of Defence, it seemed like it would be easy enough, right? Well, not quite... Drafting a legal document involves more than just knowledge of the law and excellent proofreading skills. You also need to understand the strategy of how the pleading is written and what should be included. My mentor reviewed my first attempt and discussed with me what strategy she thought to take. This method taught me how to examine particular facts beyond legal liability, and to approach each case individually.
compliments of freedigitalphotos - basketman

They don't teach you this in law school.

During my time here at the firm, I have been fortunate to have been given tasks that involve knowing more than just the Rules of Civil Procedure and the law. Through the valuable feedback of my mentors and the “hands-on” nature of my work, I have learned a great deal about the process of litigation, and this mentorship has been invaluable to my evolving legal skill set.

However, one thing is certain, I still have a lot to learn.
Alexander S.

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Reality Check: With OCIs around the corner...

I thought I would take the time to write a blog that touches on my OCI experience and give you a glimpse of reality now that I am midway through the summer. I still get chills reminiscing about all of the stress and excitement during the summer and fall of 2015.

I wanted an experience where I was able to work hands-on with files and gain exposure to different areas of law.

During applications for OCIs, I read, for what seemed like days, about all of the opportunities that firms are willing to offer their summers students. I learned very quickly from past summer students that not all of these touted opportunities are a reality. Many students spoke of doing one single task for the entire summer, whether it was endless research or summarizing records all day long. I did not want this to happen to me. I wanted an experience where I was able to work hands-on with files and gain exposure to different areas of law. Without sending caution to the wind, I spoke further with some students who expressed their array of learning experiences at one firm, in particular, McCague Borlack, and I thought to myself, 'this firm sounds like a perfect fit for me!'

Needleless to say, after 7.5 weeks I can confirm that the student experience and opportunities that MB promotes for its summer students, is bang on. In less than two months, not only have I had the opportunity to work closely with partners on files, but I have also had carriage of my own small claims court files and even became published! How is this possible in only 7.5 weeks? The key is the firm’s teamwork mentality; working closely with lawyers has given me the opportunity to have real responsibility. The firm really does promote a “learn through experience” environment.

Throughout the summer I have been assigned an assortment of tasks, some with tight deadlines and some with deadlines that will outlive my summer here. I have been able to attend court proceedings and watch my work be put into action. I’ve even performed some delivery law, which provides students with the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the court system.

The atmosphere at McCague Borlack definitely centres on training students and giving us the tools we need to prepare for articling. I can see why MB prides itself on the work quality of their young lawyers since they are not only shown the ropes but also given the opportunity to test them out.
Melissa P.

Friday 15 July 2016

Sherlock Holmes of the Legal Profession

As law students, we learn the importance of research in the legal field. Law school is designed to teach us to think like lawyers and equip us to learn and adapt to the ever-changing common law. As such, Principles of Legal Research is one of the mandatory classes law students must take in their first year of law school. We learn about the many legal research resources. The websites. The books. The famous McGill Guide.

...research is a key aspect of practicing law.

The first half of my time as part of the MB summer program has taught me that what my law school professors have stressed throughout the past three years of my education is correct: research is a key aspect of practicing law.

Yes, I have done research regarding case law, statutes, regulations, the ever-famous Rules of Civil Procedure and how legal principles apply to different cases and situations of fact. However, I did not expect to become the legal Sherlock Holmes.

On more than one occasion, the research I have done as a summer law student involved contacting individual courthouses to determine their own procedures and customs. I have tracked down documents and exhibits. I even determined the date of death of an individual in order to subsequently identify their executor.

These are not the kind of investigations that law school prepared me for. However, they are the kind of assignments that develop the skills required to become the kind of lawyer I hope to become: a resourceful individual who identifies the information needed to successfully represent her clients; an individual capable of finding answers whether they are easily accessible or not.

Jessica M.

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Approaching The List like Goldilocks

For the summer months, law firms often delegate student work through a rotation list. Each student has a spot on the list that determines who will accept the different assignments in the cycle. Some might be large, others small, but one thing is for certain – sticking to the list ensures that everyone gets a taste of the different work available and that there is coverage for all assignments.

Approaching the lawyers directly allows me to show interest and initiative...

I can remember feeling apprehensive when I first started at McCague Borlack. I was assigned a spot in the middle of the list, meaning that on some days the cycle did not always reach me. I wondered if I would get a chance to work on assignments that were interesting and exciting to me, and what I should do while I was waiting for my name to come up.

Luckily, my mentor and student director encouraged all of the students to actively seek out work from the lawyers. Part of getting the most out of your summer student experience is always looking for the next opportunity to dive into legal work. Approaching the lawyers directly allows me to show interest and initiative, as well as obtain work from those who might not use the rotation list.

Overall, this double-pronged approach ensures that I am comfortable and happy with my spot in the rotation. I never get so bogged down with work that I feel overwhelmed, but I also get steady and interesting work. Kind of like Goldilocks, I have found the spot that is just right for me.
Michelle L.

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Trust the Process

I entered the Summer Student program with enthusiasm and a hint of trepidation. How will I fare? Will I be able to meet what are no doubt high expectations? These and many other concerns can become all-consuming in and out of the workplace. As law students, each new experience in our legal education brings new stressors, but they also bring opportunity. This blog post is a reminder for me (and perhaps a few readers) to be intentional in my work and to continue to look for opportunities to learn. In short, I’m trying to be mindful.

Exactly what is mindfulness and how can I apply it to my summer experience?

To counteract the stresses of life, we are regularly urged to “be in the moment.” Exactly what is mindfulness and how can I apply it to my summer experience?

Trust the Experts

I believe that it starts with trusting the experts – trusting that many successful lawyers have walked this path and that our mentors are eager to help us make the most of our summer experience.

Trust Ourselves

Then we must learn to trust ourselves – trust that we will work hard, and we will meet expectations. One lawyer I have worked with quite a bit over the last few weeks mentors us Socratically (a teaching style most readers will be familiar with from law school, no doubt). Instead of answering my questions right off the bat, the lawyer will ask me to try to answer my own question. More often than not, I do know the answer. This lawyer’s mentorship style has made me more confident in my own abilities.

Trust the Process

Next, we must trust “the process.” The practice of summering allows us to gain invaluable practical experience as we are mentored and guided while actively engaged in the practice of law. One month into the job and I have carriage of my own files! Along with many other one-off tasks from various assigning lawyers, I will see a file from its infancy through to the investigative stage, onto the pleadings stage, and beyond. Under lawyer supervision, I will communicate directly with clients and opposing counsel to move the files along. It is amazing how quickly we learn by doing.

Finally, we must trust that taking time away from the office to gather interesting experiences is time well spent. Seek out opportunities to shadow lawyers as they conduct examinations for discovery, participate in mediations and settlement conferences, and appear in court. While it is paramount to meet work deadlines, it is often possible to finish your assigned task at the office and still go on a field trip. As my mentor said, soon enough we will have a great deal more responsibility and far less time to spend away from our own files. I have found that by going on these sorts of field trips, I am better able to understand the human aspect of the file. Meeting our clients, the opposing parties, the opposing parties’ counsel, and mediators is always insightful. In what is an adversarial process, we are able to find common ground and build relationships.

When we undergo a transformation – be it training for a marathon, taking a big risk, or beginning a career – it is important to be accountable to the process. We should remember that there are opportunities to learn around every corner. To bring the mantra of mindfulness into the workplace, we need to trust the process, to approach new challenges with intention. Each new experience is helping me build a stronger foundation upon which to build my future law practice.
Emily K.

Monday 20 June 2016

Mathematics in Litigation

Despite the fact that law students vary immensely in their personal tastes, experiences and cultures, there is one thing that is widely common among legal thinkers – we are not fond of numbers and steer clear of mathematical equations. Simply put, it is scarce to uncover a law student that is a skilled mathematician and passionate about numerals and equations. Our weaknesses in calculations and our deliberate attempts to avoid the irksome symbols, which force activating a different part of our brain, are obvious and a source of routine amusement inside law school classrooms.

...full force mathematics requiring precise calculations that correlate to specific percentages for three possible judgment outcomes...

My distress over numbers was quickly triggered when I received one of my first tasks as a summer student at McCague Borlack: preparing a Bill of Costs. After discovering what exactly this meant I was nervous and anxious. Full force mathematics requires precise calculations that correlate to specific percentages for three possible judgment outcomes. I remembered the definitions of partial, substantial and full indemnity rates from my Civil Procedure Professor at the University of Windsor and how he referred to cost awards as the bonus round of litigation but applying lessons into actual practice is easier said than done.

Luckily, McCague Borlack encompasses a team that is approachable and genuinely interested in teaching new students. Not only did I receive help from the legal team but was pleasantly surprised at the patience and invaluable assistance I received from the mathematics experts themselves, the accounting department. Needless to say, support at McCague Borlack does not end with the lawyers; the whole firm unites to help one another. After receiving amazing tutelage from accounting, I now feel at ease and prepared to confront any task requiring calculations.

Numbers and computations form a big role in litigation, something law students need to become acquainted with and stop running from. Besides, there is always the trustworthy and loyal calculator.

Gabriela C.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Bridging the Gap: Who Wants to Play 21 Questions?

Although it’s only week two of the summer program at MB, I’ve quickly come to realize how important it is to ask questions when receiving new assignments. Despite receiving an excellent legal education at the University of Ottawa, I have never had the opportunity to draft damage briefs or affidavits of documents, let alone draft motion records and book motions at the Superior Court.

...bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical legal work...

In order to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge of the law and the experience required for practical legal work, it is imperative to ask questions. Asking questions not only allows you to provide the best work product but also helps with the learning curve and provides a sense of confidence when attempting something new. That being said, it is always best to make an attempt at any assignment or problem on your own first. Although the lawyers at MB are approachable and friendly, they like to see that you’ve thought about the issue before coming to them with questions, plus you want to show that you at least learned a few things at law school, between all that “socializing”.

Bottom line: don’t be afraid to play 21 questions with the lawyers that you are working for. More often than not they will guide you in the right direction and you will quickly learn that no question is a stupid question. As summer students, it’s important to approach problems confidently but also realize how much more there is to know before we become excellent lawyers.

Last but not least, don’t forget to bring some paper and a pen when going to ask questions. You’ll feel like a private eye but at least you won’t miss any of that important information.
Mark B.

Thursday 2 June 2016

Hit the Ground Running

It is our second week at MB as summer students and if I could describe the experience so far, it would certainly be to say we have hit the ground running. During our first week, we immersed ourselves in learning about the various practice areas the firm specializes in, the art of docketing, file management, research skills, and getting to know many wonderful and talented people. This week, it was time for us to put theory behind us and begin the real work.

it is always exciting to find out what our tasks are for the day...

At MB, work is mainly assigned through 'The List'. Students are placed on this List alphabetically and respond to assignments in that order. So far, it seems to be a great system that equally provides everyone with varied opportunities. We do not get to cherry pick assignments or decide who we want to work with in terms of the assignments that come off the List, so it is always exciting to find out what our tasks are for the day and with whom we will be working with. In just two days, I have had the pleasure of working with two partners in conducting research for a file, drafting an Affidavit of Documents, and a Damages Brief. My peers have also received several interesting assignments, including drafting a Notice of Motion and a statement of claim. In addition to the List, we can always seek out work in areas that particularly interest us or from lawyers we are eager to work with.

Although we are very excited to begin our journey as summer students at MB and gain all the practical skills of lawyering, the learning curve is steep. There is a world of a difference in learning the theory behind drafting a particular type of document versus actually doing it. The key to success in this program is to work hard, take initiative, have a positive attitude, and be open to trying new things and understanding that you might not get it right the first time (or the second). My first Affidavit of Documents required multiple drafts and revisions, and entailed several hours of pouring over thousands of pages of documents, determining which of them were relevant, and then sorting them into the appropriate schedules. It is important to stay motivated and avoid focusing on mistakes. Making mistakes and asking lots of questions is an important learning tool. It also helps that the lawyers here are all more than willing to help and it is clear they want to see us succeed.

Also, the summer students have quickly bonded with one another and have formed great friendships. MB encourages collegiality, teamwork, and cooperation. Rather than focusing on competing against one another, we focus on pushing ourselves to learn as much as possible. We know we can always lean on one another for support and motivation should we need it. We are all looking forward to seeing what new experiences the weeks ahead of us are going to bring!

Taskeen A.

Friday 27 May 2016

Make the most of it

The bar call is just around the corner, marking the end of the articling term. But while the call to the bar officially means the end of our days as law students, the learning process undoubtedly continues well into our careers as lawyers. I believe articling serves as a very critical and foundational step in this career-long learning process, so if I had to give just one piece of advice about articling, it would be to learn as much you can during your articles. 

seek out and take every opportunity to try new things and to challenge yourself...

As an articling student at McCague Borlack, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to gain experience in a number of areas of law. I found this to be one of the most valuable aspects of articling, so I suggest you seek out and take every opportunity to try new things and to challenge yourself.  Not only will you gain knowledge and experience, you may also discover where your interests and strengths lie. Diversifying your assignments also allows you to sharpen your researching capabilities. It’s best to start mastering the art of legal research as early as possible, as strong research skills are essential to your success as an articling student, and you will continue to require and hone these skills as a lawyer. 

image courtey of freedigitalimagesSpeaking of research, another great way to maximize your learning as an articling student is to take the initiative to develop your own research assignments. Start delving into areas that interest you, or develop your knowledge in areas that you’re not as familiar with. Be inquisitive – ask yourself questions and look for answers. And for those questions that you can’t find answers to, ask someone. 

While it may not seem always feel like it, articling really does go by surprisingly fast. So make the most of your last ten months as a student, and get as much out of it as you can.
Shene H.

Tuesday 3 May 2016

When possible, just pick up the phone

As a student, it can sometimes be quite intimidating to make a telephone call, especially, to a client, a witness or opposing counsel. It can seem easier to revert to the safety of an email for the purposes of communication. After all, with an email, you can take your time; write, review, re-write, and finally send with a click of a mouse. However, at times, it is much more efficient to just pick up the phone.

A frank conversation about the issues at hand can go a long way in finding a resolution that satisfies the needs of both parties.

There are numerous instances where a phone call is preferable: two common scenarios come to mind.

Opposing Counsel

It can be tempting to elaborate on your position to opposing counsel in an e-mail, to ensure that you get your point across clearly and convincingly. However, in some cases, a phone call is all it takes to understand the other party’s position and to get a better grasp on what it will take to settle the file. A frank conversation about the issues at hand can go a long way in finding a resolution that satisfies the needs of both parties.

Insured or Witness

To understand facts of a certain complexity, and to get a good sense of the events surrounding the claim, it is very useful to talk directly to the insured or a witness. For instance, I was working on a file that involved the failure of a septic system. I read the file contents and reviewed documentation on the internet, yet reading could only take my understanding of septic systems so far. After a telephone conversation with our client, where he clarified some of the more technical aspects of the claim, I had a much clearer idea of what had transpired. Sometimes, that’s all it takes!

image compliments of
In Summary

Of course, telephone calls are not always ideal, for reasons such as timing and availability for example. However, where possible, picking up the phone and getting right down to it can make our job a lot easier. As well, sometimes it’s simply more pleasant to have a chat with someone, rather than e-mailing back and forth. Just remember to keep a record of your conversations - see Aryeh’s post.
Alex R.

Wednesday 9 March 2016

All Work and No Play? Think Again…

Here at MB, articling students are invited to most client events hosted by the firm so we really do get to know the clients. Some examples of events I have already attended include: “Lunch & Learn” seminars, the glamourous “Christmas in January” cocktail party, the epic "Winterfest Ski Day”, as well, there is a “Bowling Night” coming up right around the corner. These events should not be underestimated as they provide an environment to build personal relationships and gain insight into our clients’ world.

It is crucial to build relationships and maintain a good rapport with clients.

Naturally, as articling students, at first, we are more concerned about producing good work product and being thorough in our research and analysis of the law, than about client contact. It is easy to keep your head down and focus on tackling a problem by yourself, especially in this day and age where people communicate via email which is a more constricted and impersonal manner. Therefore, it is important to also remember that client interaction comprises a large part of our roles as lawyers whether it is to report on the status of a file, seek instructions, or attend meetings, mediations and settlement conferences with clients in attendance. As such, it is crucial to build relationships and maintain a good rapport with clients. Personally, I believe having the opportunity to practice this skill early on in our careers is vital to building our future practice. It is also important that this is done in a stress-free environment where the clients and the lawyers can interact with each other face-to-face and not just over the phone, or by email, discussing only work-related matters.

Photo by Leona location @ MB's Winterfest Ski Day
So far, I have found that each person I have connected with has interesting stories to share about their career paths, as well as their experiences with lawyers and in legal matters. At the end of the day, the client is another individual and communication is key to any good working relationship. Besides, everyone could use a well-deserved (and excused!) break from work, especially when it is a gorgeous day and you’re skiing alongside the Georgian Bay!

Leona K.

Monday 8 February 2016

Case Summary: A Cautionary Tale

In a very recent summary conviction appeal decision out of the Ontario Superior Court, Justice Kenneth Campbell in Shofman stressed the importance of a lawyer's “contemporaneous, reliable, objective records.”

I have a practice of sending off a quick email to the person whom I just spoke to, confirming what was said.

As articling students, we are often fielding phone calls from clients, opposing counsel or unrepresented litigants. We have been taught by our mentors and articling principles at McCague Borlack to make contemporaneous notes of these calls that detail what was said and in what context. If appropriate, I have a practice of sending off a quick email to the person whom I just spoke to, confirming what was said. I find that this provides a relatively accurate time-stamp for the conversation and allows the other party an opportunity to clarify any issues that they may have with my recollection.
photo courtesy of savit keawtavee - freedigitalphotos

In this case study, the decision by Justice Campbell reinforces the importance of documenting key interactions that are relevant to a file. Not doing so may have unforeseen consequences, months or years down the road.

Read the case study: Judiciary to the Bar: Make Contemporaneous Notes and Take Written Instructions.

Aryeh S.

Tuesday 2 February 2016

Managing Stress

While the legal profession offers many perks, it also has stressful elements. Below are some of my tips for managing stress as an articling student.

Whenever I get a new assignment, I immediately add it to the list...

Make a list. 

Whenever I make a to-do list, my head seems a lot less cluttered and my outstanding tasks seem much more manageable. I keep a to-do list with all of my outstanding assignments on hand. Whenever I get a new assignment, I immediately add it to the list so that I don’t have to worry about forgetting something.

At the end of each day, I also make a to-do list for what I want to accomplish the following day. This list helps me stay focused and deal with one thing at a time.

Get some exercise.

Admittedly, this is sometimes easier said than done. At the end of a long day, it can be tempting to go home, crawl into bed and watch Netflix. However, my mind is a lot clearer and I’m able to focus better at work (not to mention feel better) when I exercise regularly.

Finding a form of exercise that I actually enjoy and look forward to makes it a lot easier for me to follow through. I’ve started making a point of going to more yoga classes. They help me relax and they allow me to get some exercise. If there’s one thing I appreciate as an articling student, it’s being able to kill two birds with one stone.

Talk it out.

The people at MB are a great support system. The lawyers are always happy to help, and the articling students regularly grab coffee or lunch together to chat about stressful assignments and bounce ideas off of each other. It acts as a great reminder that we’re all in this together.

With that being said, I also find that it helps to talk to people who aren’t in law. Whether that be friends or family, a quick phone call can quickly put whatever you are stressed about into perspective.

some images from freedigitalimages
Sleep on it.

I feel less anxious and assignments seem a lot more straightforward when I’ve had a good night’s sleep. It can be difficult to turn your brain off at the end of the day, but putting work out of your mind and realizing that it will all get done is a skill that is worth mastering. Pro tip: turn off your phone and laptop, and read a chapter of a book in bed to help you fall asleep.

Overall, remember that articling is an opportunity for you to learn a lot. Enjoy it!

Carol-Anne W.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Summoned to Old City Hall

So I’m on the phone with a client late one Friday afternoon. In a worried voice, the client says she's been summoned to Old City Hall for the following Monday; her family business of over 20 years has been charged with a provincial offence and she fears a harsh penalty will be coming their way.

I speed walk to an associate's office who is familiar with the process...

My supervising lawyer quickly tells me to attend with the client. Now, sitting at my desk I realize, I have no idea what to expect when it comes to a provincial offence matter and I have never stepped foot inside Old City Hall.

Getting Direction
The morning of the court date, I speed walk to an associate's office who is familiar with the process. He informs me to locate the prosecutor prior to the hearing and discuss prospects for settlement. I wonder to myself, what type of penalty is the prosecutor looking to advance? The lack of disclosure from the Crown only adds to the suspense.

Briefing the Prosecutor
Later that afternoon, I arrive at Old City Hall and first console the client, and then look for an individual who is carrying "a boatload of files”. I walk into the courtroom and find a long line of individuals waiting to speak with the prosecutor. When it is finally my turn, I brief the prosecutor and indicate that my client would like to resolve the matter same day. She looks up quizzically and asks me to wait at the end of the line, as an officer of the City has not yet added the matter to the court list.

courtesy of wiki file a Deal
I wait nervously at the end of the line. Just as I begin to discuss prospects of settlement with the prosecutor, the Justice of the Peace walks into the room. I think to myself, oh no I was never instructed to obtain an adjournment, what now? The prosecutor proceeds to call up all matters but my client’s. Just as I think the hearing is coming to an end, the prosecutor requests a recess. I breathe a sigh of relief and hurry to negotiate a deal for my client. Speaking to the  prosecutor, I emphasize that it is a family business, the client has a clean track record and I also suggest a way for my client to avoid any future non-compliance. Success! The prosecutor agrees to a lower fine by 25%. At the end of the day the client is happy to pay the lowered fine, as it means escaping the damaging alternative of shutting down the business for a day.

Taking a Breath
Remember, there’s always a first for everything. Take it one step at a time and remind yourself that in hindsight most things are not as daunting as they appear.
Christine L.

Friday 8 January 2016

Half-Way Point: People, Places and Things...

It feels like it was only yesterday that I wrote the bar exam and commenced my articles. On the sunny morning of August 4th, I started as an articling student and thus far the experience has been more than I ever could have expected. Thinking of all of the opportunities that have been made available to me including the people that I have been able to meet and places that I have attended, I definitely believe that I would not change this profession for any other.

I would not change this profession for any other.

Some of the tasks that I have been assigned include drafting motion materials (that were presented to the Regional Senior Justice), making submissions to a Judge at a settlement conference, participating in examinations for discovery and conducting cutting-edge legal research on novel areas of law. All-in-all it feels like I learned more in 5 months of articling than in 3 years of law school (no offence Windsor Law).

Secondly, the articling experience at a law firm like MB brings with itself the opportunity to meet some of the brightest minds and reinforces how much we have yet to learn. I have been able to work on many interesting files with lawyers and partners at MB that have allowed me to grow as a future lawyer and expand my writing and advocacy skills. Advancing legal arguments to Judges at different levels of Court, whose intelligence and eloquence are outstanding is a true privilege. I have been very fortunate to experience first-hand the dynamics of working with our clients who are leaders in their respective industries.

“Businessman At The Airport Terminal” by stockimages courtesy of freedigitalphotos
Lastly, the places I have been able to visit while working at MB have made this experience even more pleasant. To name a few, I attended hearings in Toronto, Barrie, Niagara Falls, Newmarket, Kitchener and this March I am even flying to Timmins! Travelling while articling has made the entire experience that much more exciting.

Now that I am at the "halfway" point, I can only hope that the other half of articling contains just as many interesting things to do, people to meet and places to visit.
Bogdan M.