Friday 17 November 2017

So You Got an OCI Job… Now What?

To all the 2L students who just went through the OCI process...

First of all, congratulations! You made it over yet another hurdle in your legal career. Even if you did not receive an offer on Call Day, you should be proud of all the hard work you put into the process. Preparing an application package, interviewing, and networking with lawyers are skills that everyone in the profession needs to cultivate. And remember there are so many incidents of great lawyers who have experienced similar bumps in the road.

When do I start?

How do I get there?

Will I be ready?

For those who will now be starting at a firm this summer, you likely have some anxiety and many questions. When do I start? How do I get there? Will I be ready? I may not have the answer for every question – or for every firm, for that matter – but here are some things that I thought would be helpful. Some of my comments will be general and others specific to McCague Borlack (or as we call it - “MB”). In either case, I hope you find something to help you out!

  1. Most firms will e-mail or write you in advance about your start date. One of the great things about MB is that we start a little bit later in the summer – usually after the Victoria Day weekend. In my 2L summer, the extra time off between school and work allowed me to travel and catch up on some much-needed rest.
  2. Different firms have different levels of formality when engaging students for the summer. Some firms will send you multi-page contracts to sign, while other firms will simply send a letter confirming your start date and that they are excited to work with you! If you have any questions or concerns, do not be afraid to reach out to the Student Director at your firm. I remember that our own Director was more than happy to answer my questions and help prepare me for my first day!
photo care of pixabay ohurtsov
So, on that note…
  1. Before you start, try a “practice commute” from home to your office. That way, you can see how long it takes you and ensure you arrive on time for your first day. I would also suggest determining in advance what elevator takes you up to your office. Some buildings have multiple banks on different floors (e.g., concourse, main floor), or elevators that only go to certain floors (e.g., odd, even). In-firm interviews are usually such a blur that you sometimes forget these details. For future MB’ers, just remember that we are the second bank of elevators – I’ve made the mistake too many times of going to the first bank and rushing out in a panic before the doors closed!
  2. Last but not least, your first day can be nerve-wracking. You may be at a firm in a different city, or you may not know anyone else from your school who works there. Do not be afraid to spend some time getting to know the other students! They are probably just as nervous as you but also as eager to make friends! I am grateful that the other summer students at MB (now my articling colleagues) were friendly and outgoing from the start.
Good luck! Enjoy the rest of the Fall Semester! You are almost halfway done with law school and off to a great start for your next summer.
Michelle L.

Friday 3 November 2017

Let the Games Begin: How Negotiation Competitions prepared me for my First Trial

I am happy to report that I argued my first case in the Small Claims Court and lived to tell the tale! I was representing the plaintiff in a hotly contested matter against an experienced opponent. The deputy judge reserved judgement so while we don’t yet know whether the court ruled in favour of my client, I felt well-prepared for the trial and can’t wait for my next opportunity to appear in court.

I was representing the plaintiff in a hotly contested matter against an experienced opponent.

I encourage any law students reading this. Get as much advocacy practice you can while you’re still a student. In my third year of law school, I spent a great deal of time preparing for and participating in national and international negotiation competitions. Along with a partner, I negotiated in front of practicing lawyers, businesspeople, and academics who had volunteered to judge the competitions. The judges were eager to provide feedback which encouraged participants to become better negotiators and advocates. Of course, these are mock negotiations without real clients and real money on the line. As a result, these competitions are an effective place to learn and practice advocacy skills before finding yourself in a real negotiation or, in my case, a real trial. It’s still early in the school year – seek out these opportunities to practice.

Not yet convinced? Think these extra-curricular competitions will eat up too much of your time during 3LOL? I’ve prepared some closing submissions on the matter.

The fact that I had participated in negotiation competitions helped me calm my pre-appearance nerves. I was able to remind myself that I had been in situations before where talented professionals were judging my performance.

My negotiation competition experience also allowed me to practice my public speaking skills. I knew that I would be able to express myself clearly and confidently in front of my client, the opposition, and the deputy judge.

Further, these competitions taught me to think on my feet. Particularly during my cross-examinations of defence witnesses and during my closing arguments, I was required to listen carefully and react to answers from witnesses and to questions from the bench. I was glad to have practiced these skills previously.

Although I happened to practice advocacy skills in the context of negotiation competitions, you can acquire and practise these skills in a variety of settings. For instance, many of my fellow articling students participated in moot court competitions and will attest to the fact that they benefitted greatly from the opportunity to practice appellate advocacy, public speaking, and other skills in moot court. Many of us also took trial advocacy to prepare for our summer and articling terms at McCague Borlack.

Make the most of your law school experience – seek out opportunities to practice advocacy skills before you begin articling; I’m very glad that I did.

Emily K.

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Adieu to Bad Law School Habits

The day-to-day student life is incomparable to that of real-world work life. So many changes transpire from the instance you graduate from law school to settling in as an articling student. You truly enter a different world. Those old school days filled with procrastination, poor diet and sloppy apparel, common for law students and in fact sanctioned within student culture, must be left behind and good habits introduced. Bringing bad habits onwards in life is not only highly detrimental to one’s personal health but also to one’s success as a lawyer.

Bad law school habits to break when graduating law school in order to succeed in the legal world.

Bad Habit #1: Procrastination

Ok, I admit, I was guilty of this one. You bet when I was at home with intentions to complete that 200 pages reading for class the next day, I would rationalize the need to get that laundry, cleaning, gym session, etc., in at that time instead. Although the readings would eventually get done (maybe), the consequences of such procrastination were minor, if any, and only affected me personally.

On the other hand, to haul this bad habit forward into the beginnings of your career carries weighty undesirable effects. The quality of your work and efficiency suffers significantly if the task is postponed to a later date. For example, drafting a Discovery Report takes a lot less time and is significantly easier to do right away when all the details are still fresh in your mind. You will organically develop an efficient practice if you commence a task as soon as possible; you eliminate time wasted having to make sense of the notes you jotted down whenever it was that the assigning lawyer was giving you the instructions.

Bad Habit #2: Asking for assignment extensions

Facepalm, I had to extend the deadline for this blog post! Understandably, with urgent tasks perpetually coming in, I had to prioritize and delay my post by a couple of weeks.

This bad habit often presents itself as the aftermath of bad habit #1. Asking for extensions at school is never a good thing as your final mark decreases every day your assignment is late, but, once again, it only affects you personally. Now there are real limitation periods that must be met, and several individuals that trust and depend on you to complete the task by its due date. Prioritize your assignments routinely as they come in to ensure that a deadline is never missed and you won’t have to rely on asking for an extension.

Bad Habit #3: Poor Diet and Dress Code

It is so easy to spot a first-year law student versus a third year in the school hallway. If you see a sharp-dressed, not a hair out of place, alert being with healthy snacks and all his/her school supplies in order, high chances that’s a first-year student. If you see a barely awake, yoga/sweatpants wearing, messy hair being with takeout food in hand and asking others to borrow their laptop power cord, high chances that’s a third-year student.

I personally do not have any justification to present for this laxation in appearances and diet but what I can say is that the presentation and attitude students possessed during their first year of law school is the philosophy that is necessary for articling. First, you need healthy and balanced meals to fuel your energy and maintain sharpness for those long days at work. Further, since you are no longer just congregating with other fellow students at school, you need to put in the effort and continually maintain a professional appearance in the likely event you have to meet a client or head to court.

Bad Habit #4: Overspending your loans

Many students don’t think twice before dipping into their OSAP loans or line of credit for whatever thing seemed absolutely necessary at that moment, like getting out of the country and travelling during the summer months. Now those (non)essentials are knocking at your door as it is repayment time.

Articling is already a very stressful time and you do not want to add on to it by financial pressures. Do not continue spending in order to partake in the “lawyer lifestyle”; you do not have that liberty just quite yet as your paychecks have more than one owner. Better yet, identify your repayment obligations and applicable interest rates early on so you are most able to prepare a realistic and workable budget. Having a plan in place will afford you peace of mind and it will be one less distraction during your articling year.

Keep these tips and lifestyle changes in mind while you are at school. As you end your law school journey, try to integrate them into your routine as early as possible to best prepare for articling.

Gabriela C.

Monday 25 September 2017

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year… No, Not the Holidays!

The Ontario bar exam is a stressful time for law students. It’s a massive commitment and getting through all the material can be a challenge. Before I started studying for the bar exam, I called all my friends who wrote the exam in previous years to see if they had any study tips that would help me pass. I even searched Google to see if there were any blogs on the topic. I was really looking for anything that would alleviate the stress of the unknown prior to diving straight into thousands of pages of material. I was surprised to find that there weren’t many *blogs on the subject and decided I should write something to help those who will be writing in the future.

... once you are done highlighting your books, they will look like a piece of art.

Organizing your time is one of the most important aspects to prepare for the exam. I suggest you break up your materials into smaller chunks to make them more manageable and to create a sense of direction. I personally found that 50-pages per day was a reasonable goal and it allowed me to take a few days off before writing. Unlike some of my peers, I decided to read through the weekends and bank my days off to do practice tests and relax in the days leading up to the exam. Regardless of your study choices, I suggest you leave the last day to prepare snacks and relax. Nothing is gained by cramming the night before a seven-hour exam.

Use Highlighters
Highlighters are your friends! With so many pages to read everything starts looking the same. Nothing puts me to sleep more than reading about corporate taxation and insolvency. That being said, the act of highlighting and using bright colours will help keep you awake and will give you something to do during those less than exciting chapters, whatever they may be for you.

I personally only used three colours: yellow, blue, and green; yellow was to highlight anything I thought was important, blue for all legislation, and green for dates. No matter what colours you choose, I would suggest using only three or four colours maximum. Even though highlighting keeps you awake, you don’t want to become distracted by drawing during your study time. Plus, too many colours on a page will be hard to decipher on exam day. Most importantly, be consistent and use the same colour-coding strategy throughout. Nothing is more stressful than not understanding your own technique when you need to the most.

Trust me, once you are done highlighting your books, they will look like a piece of art. You will not want to abandon your materials after the exam or relinquish them to the LSUC proctors.

Below are more tips for tackling the bar exam from my fellow articling students:

Make a reading schedule with enough time for practice tests and revision of difficult concepts. Also, make sure you have a good index; a good index is crucial! While reading the materials, try to search for the terms in the index to ensure it is comprehensive and add terms that are missing. Personally, making time to go through as many practice tests as I could, assisted me in preparing more than reading the materials several times.

The bar exam is expensive. On top of buying the LSUC materials, you’re going to spend a lot of money buying an index, binding the materials, travelling to the testing site, etc. Your goal is to write and pass the exam on the first try, so spend the money on a commercial index. That way you don’t waste valuable time making one yourself or with a study group.

Set a realistic study schedule and stick to it. Maintaining a study schedule made the process manageable and allowed for zero guilt when enjoying some hours, a day, or even a weekend off from studying.

I used colour coding highlighting for cases, statutes, and dates. Also, I found it useful to tab the chapters with the chapter names to become familiar with the content in each chapter. Don’t forget to read professional ethics multiple times and make sure to get loottsssss of sleep (8-10 hours per night). Last but not least, start studying early.

Time yourself while taking practice exams. This will help you learn how to use your index so you are comfortable on the big day. Oh and be sure to bring lots of snacks, but make sure they aren’t too noisy or else the proctors will be all over you.

I started studying right away. Getting a head start on my studies helped me feel prepared and more at ease once it came time to write the exams. Also, four words: chocolate-covered coffee beans.

Good luck!

Mark B.

p.s. Previous MB Blog Reference: *Tips For the Bar Exam

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Articling: A Snapshot

Articling is a training period where we can learn, ask questions, and explore areas that pique our interests. It is important to use this ten-month period to absorb as much possible and develop strategies to become competent lawyers.

... we also have the opportunity to seek out work in areas of interest ...


In order to get a varied experience, students receive a bulk of their assignments off the List. The List is a rotation system that determines the order in which students respond to work. This system ensures we get exposure to different types of assignments and avoid staying in our comfort zones. However, we also have the opportunity to seek out work in areas of interest. As a result, we get a truly comprehensive experience.

Field Trips

Students are consistently approached by lawyers asking whether they would like to attend motions, discoveries, settlement conferences, and mediations. These out-of-office experiences are truly valuable since they allow us to observe theory in practice. It is also a great chance to ask the lawyer attending with you any questions you may have about what you observe, in addition to picking up tips on how to develop your own style.


At the start of the articling term, each student was assigned a mentor. Lawyers are committed to helping us grow and become better lawyers. They have an open-door policy and welcome us to ask questions, chat about our experiences, and give us feedback. Although we are encouraged to ask questions, it is important to respect our mentors’ time. Therefore, we write down their explanations and instructions. These meetings with our mentors are a great time to reflect on our strengths, weaknesses, and work together to make our articling term as productive as possible.

Although it has only been two weeks into our articling term, we have already received several tasks we have never been exposed to before. I have had the opportunity to conduct research on an interesting area of law, draft a productions brief and an initial report, and communicate directly with clients. We are excited to see what the next nine months have in store for us. Each day presents new opportunities to develop valuable skills, paving the way for us to become better lawyers.
Taskeen A.

Thursday 10 August 2017

Summer Student in Motion (Court)

My interest in litigation was first sparked by my experiences mooting in law school. So, this summer when I was asked if I would like to personally go to court to bring a motion I was very excited to have the opportunity to experience the “real thing”. In this blog entry, I wanted to highlight some of the takeaways of what was one of the most exciting parts of my summer experience.

Unlike what you see on TV, litigators do not spend all of their time in court.

Putting Pen to Paper
Unlike what you see on TV, litigators do not spend all of their time in court. In fact, some of the most interesting aspects of the litigation process involve formulating arguments and drafting legal documents. So, before I could bring the motion I had the opportunity to actually draft it. Being able to draft the materials I would be submitting to the court was also a very helpful way to prepare.

Getting Ready: Mentorship and Self-Prep
The lawyer supervising me on this task sat down with me to answer my questions and go over what had happened on the file to date, and what I should expect when I went to court. He very kindly answered my dozen or so questions about everything from court decorum to what floor the courtroom would be on.

Even after all of that preparation, I still woke up early on the day to go over all of my materials, make sure I knew where all my documents were located in my binder, and prepare responses to the list of possible questions I’d be asked. I also printed off all of the possible legislation I could be drilled on.
The Big Moment
I arrived early to court and waited for the courtroom to be unlocked, then I filled out the requisite forms and waited for my turn. I was glad that I had participated in so many moots in school because it definitely helped tame my nerves!

When it was my turn to speak I answered the Master’s questions and gave my reasons where necessary. Court, it turns out, at least at this level, was less about the Master trying to trick you with difficult questions (like in moot court) than it was about the Master trying to figure out why you were there. I was still very happy I had spent (so much) time preparing for questions because it made me feel poised and confident!

In the end, our order was signed and I was left with an amazing experience! I can’t wait until the next time I’m able to step up to the podium!
Jessica M.

Monday 31 July 2017

Critical... Thinking Allowed

Remember in elementary school when your teacher taught you that every student learns best through a specific teaching style? Some students were visual learners, some auditory learners, some kinesthetic learners, and so on. Of course, I was stubborn and didn’t believe in this sort of thing so I declared myself to be a “just show me how to find the answer” type of learner. Yeah, I was that kid. Years later, as a summer student, the concept of teaching styles has become relevant once again – but this time I can appreciate the lesson.

The concept of teaching styles has become relevant once again...

At McCague Borlack, we students are given a diverse set of assignments, most of which we didn’t have a chance to experience in law school. Fortunately, we have a team of lawyers who are happy to help us continuously improve our work. Naturally, each lawyer has their own teaching style and preferred method to show us how we can increase the quality of our work. Here are some of the teaching styles that we have experienced so far:

The Socratic Method:

Whenever I felt uncertain about a task, I would ask the assigning lawyer for clarification. Below is an example of how this conversation would go with a Socratic mentor:

Me: “In this letter I’m drafting, should I include XYZ?”

Lawyer: “Do you think the letter would benefit from XYZ?”

Me: “Well here are the benefits of adding XYZ.”

Lawyer: “Are there any drawbacks?”

Me: “I don’t think so.”

Lawyer: *Smiles*

Although this exchange may seem odd, the Socratic Method allows students to work through any issues on their own. Consequently, we develop a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter than if we were just given the solution.

This method has helped build confidence in my work and has shown me that I already have the answers to most of my questions. But if I am still unsure, a lawyer will review my work when I am finished to ensure that we have a good product.

Thinking Out Loud

When it comes to editing our work, some lawyers sit down with us and walk through the needed changes. The lawyers utilizing this method begin by explaining why certain parts of a document should be revised. Then, they “think out loud” so that I can understand the thought process that helped them generate their solution. This method allows students to understand exactly why specific changes were made and what key points should be applied to the completion of the next assignment.

Track Changes

Sometimes the work I produce has minor errors so the revisions don’t require a long explanation. It can be a case where there is just a better way to phrase what needs to be said, or the structure of the document should be modified for clarity. Since these changes are simpler and easy for the lawyers to identify, they will use Microsoft Word’s “track changes” feature while they make their revisions. This method provides a visual comparison between my original draft and the revised version. It also requires me to analyze the changes to come to my own conclusions as to why the changes were made. However, if I can’t figure out why a particular change was made I can always get clarification from the assigning lawyer. There is certainly an art to drafting documents. By reviewing other lawyers’ completed documents, I am able to better understand where to set the bar for my own progress.


Mistakes are part of the learning curve. The lawyers are happy to mentor the students and help us understand how we can continue to improve our work. And we appreciate it, no matter the style.

Yousef E.

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Can You Keep a Secret?

How was work? What did you do today? Did you get any interesting files?

I stare at my parents blankly, as my mind races to find an acceptable answer that adequately balances my obligation to protect the firm’s sensitive information and the need to appease my family’s boundless interest in my budding legal career.

   ...discussing work
the office...

On one hand, I completely understand their curiosity. After all, they have been emotionally and financially invested in my journey to get called to the bar since the moment I picked up my first LSAT prep book.

Nonetheless, I am restricted by section 3.3-1 of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits lawyers from discussing their files unless authorized under certain circumstances. The commentary extrapolates on this rule by advising against “shop talk” with others and suggesting that gossip is unbecoming of the legal profession, even if a client is not specifically identified during the conversation.

Fine, I would respond. I met with some lawyers. We discussed a file. I drafted some documents. It was clear from their defeated expressions that my answer left something to be desired.

So, I decided to meet with Theresa Hartley, a partner at McCague Borlack LLP, who graciously made time to speak with me about client confidentiality. With hopes of shining a small light on one of the grayest areas of law, I used my conversation with Theresa to create some helpful tips to keep in mind when discussing work outside the office:

Never mention a client by name.
It almost goes without saying that identifying your clients to others breaches confidentiality. Even if the client is a large, renowned corporation that presumably retains several other lawyers on all sorts of different matters, you should never name drop in a conversation outside of work.

Use General and Vague Descriptors when discussing your work.
You should never describe a client in such a way that they are identifiable. This guideline is also applicable to the fact patterns in your file, as describing a situation in enough detail can inadvertently reveal a client’s identity.

Be Discrete with your conversations.

You should never cite “it’s public record” as an excuse to openly discuss files with anyone. Clients appreciate our discretion when handling their cases. Also, be selective as to where your work-related conversations take place. If you are surrounded by many people (like in an elevator or the food court), the conversation should stop. This guideline should be kept in mind for those who choose to work while commuting on the bus or subway; you never know which of your fellow passengers are looking over your shoulder (and into your business!).

Firm-Client Confidentiality. 
It’s usually acceptable to discuss files with other co-workers at the firm. In fact, many lawyers will describe cases to their peers when developing a legal strategy. The privileged relationship typically exists between the client and the other legal professionals at the firm. However, there is one important caveat to keep in mind: when the file has a confidentiality screen. A screen is usually established when there are conflicts of interest or if there exists an incentive to keep the media at bay. If ever assigned to such a file, you should refrain from discussing it with those who do not have access.

Be Professional when conversing about encounters with opposing counsel.
It’s typically acceptable to tell others if you’ve met a certain “famous” (or infamous) lawyer, provided that not a single detail of the related file is mentioned. That said, be mindful of your stories about others. It’s unbecoming if you are criticizing counsel on a personal level (i.e. he’s a jerk; he got really cranky and started yelling), as opposed to politely commenting on their strategy (i.e. I felt that our client did not respond to his abrasiveness).
Remember – every situation is different. Trust your instincts, and use your judgment. As Theresa said to me, “if you’re unsure, ask!” Client confidentiality is fundamental to our profession and is not something to brush aside for the sake of a good “after work” story to tell family & friends.

Emilie-Anne P

Friday 23 June 2017

Through the Looking Glass: The Reality of Working at a Litigation Law Firm

Almost any lawyer or summer law student will tell you that practicing law is very different than studying the law. I developed an interest in advocacy from my experiences in law school – among them, participating in moots and working in a legal clinic – but the truth is that I, like most law students, only had a vague idea of what the litigation process is really like. So, as I finish my fifth week at McCague Borlack, I find myself reflecting on the similarities and differences between theory and practice:

At one of the mediations I attended, I had the pleasure of hearing my research mentioned briefly.

Field Trips

In law school, you spend most of your time either in class or at the library poring over books. But this summer I have had the opportunity to attend examinations for discovery, mediations, motions, and other pre-trial appointments, which has easily been one of the most exciting aspects of being a summer student. Not only do you get a front-row seat to watch brilliant lawyers advocate for their respective clients, you also get to witness different strategies, techniques and styles of the different lawyers you have worked with – all of which is a huge learning opportunity as an aspiring litigator.

At one of the mediations I attended, I had the pleasure of hearing my research mentioned briefly. It was a very small part of the case, but a huge moment for me as a summer student!

The Human Element

In school, it can be easy to detach yourself when reading cases in class - especially when it’s an ancient tort case about ginger beer and a snail. At a law firm, however, it is very engaging to know that the file you are working on will have real-life implications for a number of people. Nowhere has this been more apparent than at my first mediation where I heard our client and the opposing side speak passionately about their positions – something that a law textbook cannot offer.

This “human element” is a motivating factor that has helped all of us summer students do our best work.

Substantive Work

In law school, students focus on theory – but at a law firm, you have the chance to actually create legal documents. This summer has already been a huge learning experience. I could never have imagined that I, as a summer student, would have the opportunity to draft affidavits, pleadings, motions, and other documents that are part of the litigation process. Even more surprising is how much autonomy the firm gives us while working. This, paired with the guidance and feedback provided to the summer students, has allowed us to learn at an astounding pace.


In law school the first year is a real bonding experience – after the blood, sweat, and tears of 1L, it’s hard not to feel close to those who have shared the same experience. Luckily, as a summer student, I’ve experienced the same comradery through the joint excitement, and even uncertainty, that I’ve shared with my fellow summer students.
by Jessica M.

Tuesday 13 June 2017

Learning to Walk

One of the articling students affectionately calls us “baby lawyers”...

One of my fears during the recruitment process was that my summer and articling experiences wouldn’t prepare me for life post-call-to-the-bar. During OCIs, McCague Borlack LLP stood out from other firms. The promise of responsibility, opportunity and support in the summer student program was backed up by endorsements from previous students and junior associates.

This was important to me because the thought of being a litigator, with full carriage of files, is intimidating. I want to be as prepared as possible for when that day comes, and the way to do that is to practice and learn as much as I can in the meantime.

Baby Steps

One of the articling students affectionately calls us “baby lawyers”, and now I understand what she means. We are baby lawyers—learning basic skills while being in an immersive and supportive environment. In the last 8 days, I have learned to crawl, and in some respects, I am already walking.

There is No “Typical” Day

There is no such thing as a typical day in the office. You never know what’s going to come through The List, or to you, personally. I realized this on my second day, when I had grand plans to sink my teeth into a very interesting file, but dropped everything to draft, serve, and file something urgent, instead.

Since then, no two days have been the same. In the last eight days, I have:
  • Drafted motion materials
  • Researched and drafted an article about legal developments in a niche area of law
  • Updated a lawyer on a file
  • Put together a book of authorities--and learned that there are designated colours for covers in the Rules of Civil Procedure. If you don’t believe me, see Rule 4.07
  • Attended arbitration and observed a cross-examination
  • Received file carriage of a small claims file
Parting Thoughts

I currently have examinations for discovery, motions, and mediations lined up, and who knows what The List will bring tomorrow. I’ve come a long way since my first day and first assignment, and I look forward to reflecting on my progress at the end of the summer. It might be too soon to tell, but I think my summer experience is preparing me well for articling, and eventually, life post-call.

Karolina I.

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Team Player

The most common advice I received since entering law school has been to be a team player. The phrase “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”, became more cliché every time I heard it. I knew that teamwork would be important, but I had no idea how valuable cooperation and comradery would become.

Asking questions is imperative to producing quality work efficiently...

The seven of us students, five in Toronto and two in Ottawa, began our first-day meeting in a boardroom. “Good morning”, we all echoed. Our team had met after months of anticipation. Together we learned about docketing, motions, research and everything else we need to know in order to successfully “McCague”. Lawyers entered and left our progressively less nervous boardroom to teach us new lessons - leaving us with knowledge, wisdom, and mostly, lots to think about. I learned quickly that the team I envisioned was composed of more than the summer students battling the tasks thrown our way. Everyone at the firm has a different, but important role, we rely on each other and succeed together.

After training, we received our first assignments, and naturally had lots of questions. We freely turn to each other for input and advice — without which, we would be far more confused and less productive. While we have a great support system amongst ourselves, we save the tougher and substantive questions for the lawyers, especially the ones who gave us the assignments! Initially, I was concerned about asking too many questions, despite being assured that questions are important and encouraged. However, once I spoke one-on-one with more of my colleagues, my concerns disappeared. I learned from various lawyers that asking questions is imperative to producing quality work efficiently. One lawyer told me that it is a waste of time to sit at a desk staring at the screen and waiting for the answers to magically appear. Of course, she was absolutely correct.

While asking questions is encouraged, I, just like everyone else at the firm, still respect my colleagues’ time. Consequently, I try to never ask the same question twice. To accomplish this, I write down all the tips and explanations I am given. I now have a collection of notes with instructions from others pinned on the walls around my desk. By the end of the first day, I created an excel sheet with the instructions I was given for each task. Following the spirit of the firm, which emphasises teamwork, the summer students have decided to put our notes together and create a database with basic guides to our assignments.

The second week is coming to a close and we already have a variety of assignments to complete. The students have all agreed that one of the biggest highlights of our time so far is the diverse set of tasks that we were given. Drafting initial reports, pleadings, motion records, affidavit of documents, and damages briefs are just some of the new things we are working on, and we love it.

Yousef E.

Monday 15 May 2017

Parting thoughts and final farewells from Toronto Students!

It almost seems inconceivable to say that we are at the end of our articling term. Ten months ago, we all sat in a boardroom on our first day of training, filled with trepidation at what the next months would bring. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that, despite our anxieties, our time spent at McCague Borlack gave us the incredible opportunity to learn and prepare for our future careers as lawyers. As an added bonus, our collective experiences throughout our articling terms have brought us closer together as a group, and helped us become what I am sure will be life-long friends.


As it is time to say goodbye to McCague Borlack (at least for the summer), we hope to leave you with a few parting thoughts before we say our final farewells!


Parting Words: Take every opportunity you can – you only get one chance to learn as an articling student. You’ll never know what you’ll enjoy until you try!

Summer Plans: Enjoying the opportunity to do absolutely nothing.


Parting Words: Work hard. Stay humble.

Summer Plans: Travel and work.


Parting Words: Seek out the work that interests you; don’t wait for it to come to you.

Summer Plans: Work! (Specifically out of our Barrie office this summer!)


Parting Words: Articling is like a rollercoaster; terrifying yet thrilling. Don’t let your fears stop you from enjoying the ride.

Summer Plans: Relax and rejuvenate!


Parting Words: Every day of the articling experience makes the next one more manageable. There’s a steep learning curve but we’ve all made it through.

Summer Plans: Hiking the West Coast Trail in BC and the Kalalau Trail in Kauai, Hawaii


Parting Words: This year has been an incredible learning experience! Greater than I could have imagined.

Summer Plans: Spending the summer at home in B.C.

Thanks for the memories MB!

by Victoria M.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Ottawa Articling Students - Personalized :)

The Ottawa Articling Students have had the opportunity to work very closely together (literally-our desks are across from each other!). We have had some great times and some challenging times, but we are always willing to bounce ideas off one another and help each other out.

Before we go, we would like to better introduce ourselves and give a little glimpse into our backgrounds and what we like to do for fun in Ottawa.


Growing up…

David is an Ottawa Native. He is born and raised in Orleans, Ontario, a suburb in the East of the City. David grew up in a primarily French household and went to a French high school. However, he is also completely bilingual. Prior to law school, David worked at the Canada Revenue Agency.

In his spare time…

David loves to keep active. As a former competitive hockey player, he enjoys watching his favourite hockey team, the Calgary Flames, and continues to play recreational hockey on a weekly basis. Besides hockey, his favourite sports to watch on television are Football and Baseball, although he has never played either. Go, Saints! Go Jays!
David's Dog, Daisy

In the summer, you can find David on the tennis court and on the golf course or spending time with his family, friends or his adorable dog Daisy. David particularly enjoys going to concerts, and music festivals. He truly appreciates live music. Most recently, he saw the Lumineers in concert and was thoroughly impressed!

David decided to go to law school because…

David has always enjoyed problem-solving. However, throughout his young life, David gravitated towards the idea of becoming a dentist, an English teacher, an accountant or a paramedic. It was not until the end of the first year of his undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa, that it occurred to him that he should become a lawyer. David thanks his older cousin for inspiring him to pursue a law degree. After hearing about the interesting experiences his cousin was afforded during his time at law school, David decided to apply and was accepted to the University of Ottawa, and the rest is history!


Growing up…

I am originally from Montreal, but I grew up in Ottawa, where I completed high school, my undergraduate degree, my master’s degree and my Juris Doctor degree. Like David, I am from the suburb of Orleans. In fact, growing up, David and I lived down the street from each other, but had unfortunately never crossed paths until we met at the office!

In my spare time,

Cassandra’s dog, Missy
I enjoy skating on the Rideau Canal and hitting the ski hills in the winter. In the summers, I enjoy working on my golf game and have been taking lessons in the hopes of sharpening my skills. I also enjoy spending time with my dog, Missy, and taking her on walks through the Gatineau Hills.

I decided to go to law school because…

Like David, I enjoy solving problems and I have always had a curiosity about the law, generally. I planned my career trajectory early, as I decided to become a lawyer in the twelfth grade. Therefore, most of my university choices were geared towards reaching this goal. Now I am about two months away from accomplishing what I set out to do in grade twelve and I couldn’t be more excited to start my career as a lawyer!

Friday 31 March 2017

My Experiences at Settlement Conferences

During my time in Law School, I took several negotiation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) classes. In these classes, we experimented with different types of negotiating styles and strategies. Throughout my articles with MB, I have had the opportunity to apply what I learned in school to real-world scenarios and to further develop them in the context of settlement conferences. Accordingly, here are the top five lessons I have learned:

Managing client expectations can be critical....

Know your File

Knowing the ins and outs of your file will allow you to take part in meaningful discussions in order to possibly settle the file. Even if the matter doesn’t settle, I have found that knowing your file well will allow you to ask the right questions, enabling you to fill in any gaps of information in the file, which will assist you in the long run.

Put your Money where your Mouth is

The ultimate purpose of a settlement conference is to settle a matter. This will not be possible if one attends without the authority to settle. This is why it is critical for you to attend with settlement authority or with someone who has such authority. Interestingly, Rule 13.02 of the Rules of the Small Claims Court requires the party and their representative (if any) to participate in the conference either by personal attendance or by telephone/video conference.

Manage Expectations

Managing client expectations can be critical to maintaining a positive ongoing relationship with the client. I have found it fruitful to take some time prior to the settlement conference to speak with the client and go over what to expect such as the risks of going to trial and the weaknesses of the case. This discussion can make settlement much more likely to occur. For instance, when discussing the potential issues when enforcing a judgment, a client may prefer $5,000 immediately as opposed to expending further resources to collect $10,000 over a period of time.

Integrative Negotiating

I have found that this method works well for me and has led me to obtain successful results. This form of negotiating refers to uncovering the deeper interests/stakes of the parties so as to allow for a more meaningful discussion. The famous “orange” example demonstrates this model of negotiating. Specifically, two individuals are fighting over an orange. As a form of resolution, the two individuals simply split the orange in half. On the surface, this appears to be a fair deal. However, if the parties had taken the time to uncover their true interests, they would have realized that one of them only wanted the orange peel for its zest and the other wanted the orange for its juice. Had the parties employed this method they would have each gotten 100% of what they wanted rather than just 50%.

Live to Fight Another Day

I have found that sometimes a file is simply not ready to be settled. Perhaps all necessary documentation has not been exchanged or another issue has come up such as the spoliation of evidence. Therefore, rather than attempting to force settlement and risking an unfavourable settlement, it may be a better idea to obtain consent of the parties and adjourn the matter to a later date.

Shayan K

Monday 6 March 2017

Assisting on a Jury Trial: A Quick Reference Guide

A month into the articling term, I was asked to assist on a three-week jury trial alongside a partner and an associate at the firm. To assist future students, I have prepared a quick reference guide that I hope will prove beneficial.

...create a reference binder for yourself of all the key documents...

Master the Background Material

To ensure you are able to assist in the best manner possible, learn the case from both a plaintiff and defence perspective. An excellent starting point is reading (and re-reading) the pre-trial memorandums prepared by both plaintiff and defence counsel. It is important to understand not only the difference of opinions of the law but also the factual details in dispute. Facts matter.

After this, create a reference binder for yourself of all the key documents, including the pre-trial memorandums, expert reports, memorandums and summaries that have been prepared by you or your colleagues. So when receiving instructions from the partner or associate, you will have quick access to key documents in order to be ready for any inquiry posed by them.

On-Call 24/7 for Each Day of the Trial

The nature of a trial means that unanticipated tasks will need to be completed before the trial commences for the day, while the trial is being held, and after the trial convenes for the day.

The partner and associate will undoubtedly be preparing well before the trial’s start-time of that day and may need assistance with the preparation of documents, or assistance with the witnesses who will be testifying later that day. As such it is imperative that you are physically accessible to assist them before they leave for the day.

Moreover, as the trial progresses throughout the day, unanticipated issues may arise. The partner or associate may take a few moments during a break to email you a quick research task. It is important that you are available, efficient, and effective during these small windows of opportunity.

When the trial convenes for the day, again be on-hand to assist the lawyer as they prepare for the following day of trial. This may include, researching points of law, drafting submissions, and preparing other court documents that will be used during the trial.

Observe & Learn

While assisting, ask the partner and/or associate, which days would be best for you to attend and observe the trial. This will allow you to witness not only a part of your work come to life, but also the strong advocacy from both plaintiff and defence counsel, their interactions with the jury, and equally important, their exchanges with the trial judge.

Fortunately, I was able to witness the opening statements by the partner from our firm, as well as the senior opposing counsel, where each took a different strategic approach when addressing the jury. I also witnessed a contentious cross-examination of the plaintiff, whereby, part of the background factual research I conducted earlier in the day was used to effectively cross-examine the witness.

After three fast-paced weeks, the jury came back with a verdict in our favour!
Mahdi H.

Friday 10 February 2017

Half-time Status Check

They say "time flies", and so it should not be surprising that the first half of our articling experience has been a whirlwind. Our mid-articling reviews provided a valuable opportunity to stop and reflect on what we've done and what we would like to do for the remainder of our time.

Each of the students has provided feedback about their experiences so far, specifically:
  1. What has been your favourite experience?
  2. What is the most valuable skill you've learned?
  3. What is something that surprised you about articling?


1. Drafting factums. Researching the law, coming up with the strongest argument, and writing it in the most convincing way possible. I look forward to arguing a motion based on a factum I wrote in a couple of weeks!

2. Organization. At any given time you are working on multiple files and tasks, each with its own timelines. It is essential to have a strategy for managing them.

3. How much do we get to see of a file. Because we don't rotate, we often get to take on multiple tasks on the same file over time, so we really get to see it through.


1. Assisting with a jury trial.

2. Organization is paramount.

3. How fast things become second nature - ie. motions, drafting legal arguments etc.


1. Settlement conferences, because you can see the intersection between the law and realities of business.

2. Research skills.

3. Learning: specifically how much you can learn in such a short amount of time.


1. Small Claims: I enjoy running my own small claims files and have especially enjoyed attending settlement conferences with clients.

2. First Writing: I learned how important point first writing is. This skill is especially important when drafting materials such as mediation briefs, where it is important to put your strongest points front and centre to emphasize your position.

3. Balance: The biggest surprise about articling is how important it is to maintain a good work and personal life balance.


1. Small Claims: Being able to run my own small claims matters from start to finish.  I've really learned a lot about the thought processes that go into the various different stages of litigation.

2. To summarize things succinctly. I like to talk (and by extension write) a lot, but writing short, simple, and to the point is a much better way of getting an idea across.

3. How time flies so quickly! Because we're so involved and busy with different assignments, there hasn't been too much time to be bored.

David Perron

1. I really enjoy appearing for motions. From the preparation of well-drafted motion materials to the actual attendance and having to quickly answer any question that may be thrown at you.

2. Properly drafting either pleadings, mediation briefs and letters. This is a skill that I am continuously improving and will continue to improve for the rest of my career.

3. The opportunities we are given to learn. We get to attend court on our own and draft key legal documents, like pleadings, mediation memos, and factums.


1. I enjoy attending discoveries – it's a great way to see how the evidence unfolds. Counsel must prepare questions to support their theory of the case, and the witnesses bring personality to the story.

2. Revision, revision, revision. Brevity is key.

3. I am surprised by the variety of cases that fall within insurance law. I have gained exposure to areas that I did not initially realize would be of interest to me.


1. The litigation experience. From going to discoveries to conducting an examination in aid of execution on my own, I have really loved the pace and strategy behind oral advocacy.

2. How to think on my feet! While it is important to be prepared, you can't prepare for everything and you often need to be able to respond well quickly.

3. The number of different people that you work with on a daily basis. It's great to be able to learn from everyone individually and get to see a wide range of other people's working styles.


The poll was done by Karen B

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Where do you rank 'mentorship' in law firm selection?

During our first week of training, a line from one of the presenters really stood out to me: “We like to pride ourselves on being like a teaching hospital.” As soon as I heard this line I envisioned the six of us articling students were like characters from Grey’s Anatomy on the first day of their surgical residency, but instead of cutting people open, we got to draft statements of defence.

My mentor emailed,
  "I have an idea..."

One of the most mysterious aspects of the articling program is the role of the “Articling Principal.” The law society requires that one lawyer act as a principal to every articling student. On the first day of articling, we were each assigned a lawyer within the firm who would act as a mentor to us throughout the year. During my initial meeting with my principal, we discussed some of the challenges that I was anticipating, and he gave me advice on how to navigate my way around the firm. After this initial meeting, I knew that this was a relationship that would prove valuable to me over the course of my articling term. My principal and I have met on several occasions now, mainly as a “check-in” system to talk about my experience and some of the challenges that I face. He has offered me support and guidance on how to deal with these issues and has been diligent in following up with “how are things going?” emails.

His most recent email stated, “I have an idea.” That idea turned out to be giving me my “own” file, meaning that I would be responsible for the progress of the file (which he would oversee, of course). Throughout this process, I have been challenged to think for myself, come up with answers in short periods of time, and really become well acquainted with managing files properly and how to work in the client’s best interest.

Some may rank mentorship low on their list of priorities when looking for an articling position, however, through the determination of my articling principal to educate me and ensure that I am getting the most out of my articling experience, I can wholeheartedly say good mentorship is invaluable.

Rachael S.