Wednesday 5 September 2018

Firsts: Arguing a Motion On My Own

On just my second day of articling, I went to court to argue a motion. While this was my first time arguing a motion on my own, it felt entirely routine. When I received the assignment, an associate handed me the motion record and said, “Here, go argue this tomorrow”. A brief wave of panic came over me until I realized it was a simple, unopposed motion, and more procedural than anything else. I also realized that while articling students are allowed to argue motions, my firm wouldn’t throw me into one on the second day if I could get everyone into trouble.

That afternoon, I brought myself up to speed on the file and courtroom etiquette, and I was ready to go. As a summer student here last year, I would never have imagined arguing a motion on my own. Now, as an articling student, I can imagine it because I’ve done everything leading up to it. I spent last summer working on motion materials and observing other lawyers argue motions. The world of motions was somewhat demystified.

"There’s something to be said about being thrown into things and learning on your feet."

The next morning, I arrived at the courthouse early to settle in and find my way around. I worked as a court reporter in my previous, pre-law school life and was very excited to be back in court. The Superior Court of Justice in Brampton is one of the larger local courthouses, and home to all kinds of matters—criminal and civil alike. It was unsurprisingly busy.

While this was my first time at that courthouse, everything was instantly familiar. While each courthouse has its nuances, once you figure out the process, you can navigate most of them. I flashed my LSO card through security (for the first time!), found my matter on the docket, and proceeded upstairs to my courtroom in under 5 minutes. As I was early, I sat in the waiting area, where I re-read my motion materials and checked, several times, that I was indeed at the correct courtroom—and I’m not going to lie, correct courthouse.

Once the doors opened, people filed in en masse—and I, with them. As I filled out my counsel slip, I noticed that everyone else was gowned. I, of course, was not gowned because I don’t have a gown—yet. One of the lawyers noticed this too and asked me about it. When he learned that I was a student, he was surprised to hear I was on my feet on only my second day of articling. “Oh, it’s just a WAGG motion today”, I replied casually. Of course, I was arguing it, what a great opportunity to get on my feet early—and in a safe environment, as my motion was unopposed.

That day, I really understood what lawyers at this firm have been telling me all along. As a student, I would be thrown into the water and learn to swim—with lifejackets and lifeguards on standby, of course. Here I was, arguing a simple, uncontested motion on my own, and my experience here last summer prepared me well. As a summer student, my first assignment was to bring an urgent motion. By the time the summer was over, I had drafted motion materials over and over again and became familiar with the different types of motions. As a bonus, my experience here also helped me when I took Advanced Civil Procedure and studied for the bar.

As for this motion, everything went well. I got our order, didn’t get yelled at, and I remembered where I parked.