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.