Friday 19 October 2018

A Letter to the Next Generation of Law Students

Dear Future Lawyer:

You’re probably very busy, so I’ll keep it brief. I’m three months into my articling term, and there are definitely a few things I wish I knew as a summer student.

First of all, breathe. Like most law students, you’re either a) a perfectionist, b) a high-achiever, or c) eager to please (and if you’re anything like me, you’re (d) all of the above). As such, you’ll get frustrated when receiving your first few assignments. You’ll probably ask yourself: (1) “what are they even asking me to do?”, and (2) “why is it taking me so long?” Relax. You’re not unintelligent, and no, your firm did not somehow hire you by accident.

"What you’re feeling, imposter’s syndrome, is normal."

My first assignment was a brief, two-page initial report on a small claims file – I needed three full working days and numerous meetings with the supervising lawyer before it was submitted to the client. The good news is, I can now draft most reports in a matter of hours. “But when will I be able to work faster?” you may ask. Unfortunately, there’s no exact answer. But by month no. 3 of the articling term, there is a great improvement in both the quality and the efficiency of our first drafts. Also, your mentoring lawyers want you to work hard, but not drive yourself crazy! They’ll never give you work you can’t handle, and they’re always happy to answer questions.

Second, follow your instincts. You will hear all kinds of suggestions from all sorts of people. As a self-proclaimed advice-soliciting aficionado, I can guarantee that some of the answers to the same questions will conflict (and may even fully contradict one another). I’m sorry to disappoint you, but there is no “one size fits all” on how to approach something (i.e. how to choose your attendances, manage your workload…etc.) Individual critical thinking skills are essential. You “do you”, and if your style needs tweaking, you will get help along the way. And while I’m on the topic of carving your own path, I’d like to quickly mention the use of assignment precedents: they’re amazing time savers, but they are just a guide. We are training to be lawyers and we are expected to be able to draft documents to suit the situation. Also, overuse makes you prone to typos and other sloppy errors (seriously, how many times have I forgotten to change the court file number at the top right corner and needed to reprint the first page). Three months into your articling term, you’ll find yourself having enough confidence to say things like, “well, I can draft a motion record, I don’t need a precedent and if I do use one it will be mine…”

Finally, never turn down an opportunity to learn. Lawyers will ask you: “what’s your capacity like?” Unless you’ve been awake for the last 72 hours straight, or have several last-minute assignments with limitations expiring the next day, you’re not at full capacity. Some of my favourite files started off as a walk-in request while I was neck-deep in other work. In addition, you stop learning the minute you shift responsibility onto something (or even someone) else. Even though support staff can be very helpful; it’s incredibly important that you learn how to do administrative tasks as well. But mistakes will happen, even three months into articling. And when they do happen, do your best to fix it while reminding yourself that it’s all a part of the process (albeit a more painful part).

Students are told that the key to success is to be respectful, humble, and hardworking. I’d also like to add that it’s important to be kind to yourself as well – everyone has to start somewhere.

Yours very truly,

Émilie-Anne P.

An Articling Student

P.S. Coffee is not a meal substitute, always bring a pen and paper with you everywhere, and remember to pay it forward to the next generation. Good luck

Monday 8 October 2018

Articling Student Style: What to Wear on Interview Day

When preparing for OCI and In-Firm interviews, one of the most daunting decisions is: what do I wear? Although seasoned lawyers live in their suits, in law school we often attend class in very casual clothes. For many, a summer position at a law firm may be the first time that you have worked in a professional environment, so figuring out how to dress can be intimidating.

I remember spending hours stressing out with my friends in law school over which colour of suit was the most professional, and what type of shoes were appropriate. To save you the same headache, 

the articling students at McCague Borlack have provided tips on what to wear
(and what not to wear) on interview day along with some photos.

What We Wore
or a dress & blazer with flats
like Karolina...
You're sure to Impress!

Whether you choose a skirt
with heels like Emilie...
After polling the women, it is clear that navy or black is the interview colour of choice. You can’t go wrong with either a pant or skirt suit or a dress with a blazer. Some of us wore heels (anywhere from 1.5 inches to 3 inches) and others opted for flats (so you don’t have to hurt your feet if you don’t feel comfortable in heels!)

When it comes to women’s office wear, Priya...
and Jess know black is the new black.

Yousef & Andrew looking tough
& office appropriate.
For the men, blue suits and grey suits were the clear winners. Lighter coloured dress shirts were the most popular, with either white or light blue being the most reported.


We love Lee’s tie – it really livens up his
outfit while keeping things professional!
All of the students stressed letting your personality shine through your accessories, such as a funky tie, crazy socks, or your bright blue glasses. If you wear your hair naturally curly, then keep it curly for your interviews. Don’t feel like you need to sacrifice your identity to fit into a mould, so be yourself and don’t be afraid to add some personality to your look.

Where to Shop

  • Le Chateau (Jessica)
  • Banana Republic (Emile)
  • Winners and HBC (Karolina and Priya)
  • Suit Supply (Yousef)
  • Strellson (Andrew)
  • Calvin Klein (Theo)
  • Moores (Lee)
  • Suzy Shier (Howard Borlack)

What Not to Wear

The overwhelming response we received from the articling students is to make sure your suit fits – if your suit is too big or too small, it detracts from your presentation. The same goes for hair. Keep your hair and facial hair well-kept/groomed. Any hairstyle is fine – just keep it neat.

The students suggest leaving the sundresses and wedges at home as it’s a bit unprofessional – and out of season for November. I also received very specific advice: no electric blue suits.

Another point that was repeated was to avoid wearing anything you don’t feel comfortable in. It’s hard to smile if you’re breaking in new shoes. You want to be confident in your interview, so don’t include anything that makes you feel self-conscious!

Theo, from our Kitchener office,
keeping it cool.
Tips to Keep Fresh all Day

If it’s within your budget, it’s nice to have a place downtown where you can keep a spare shirt/suit in case you spill something on yourself. The students reported booking Air-BnB, splitting the cost of a hotel with a friend, or staying with a friend or family member who lives downtown.

I also suggest bringing a pocket-sized sewing kit. At my interview, I opted for a button-up shirt under my blazer. It looked great, but two minutes before I met my interviewers a button popped off! Luckily the receptionist at MB came to my rescue with a pin – but imagine if that wasn't available!


All the students were in unanimous agreement that you shouldn’t stress out about your interview outfit. As long as you’re prepared, confident, and polished, you’re going to do well.

Below is a checklist of all of the items to bring along on "interview" day. Print it off and use it as you pack your bag for In-Firms.

Check-list of helpful items for In-Firms

  • Multiple copies of your resume and cover letter and any other parts of your application.
  • A notepad and pen – you’ll want to have this to write down your impressions after the interview. It will really help when you’re writing your thank you emails. Believe me, the day will become a blur.
  • Breath strips – they dissolve so you can talk, unlike mints/gum.
  • Hand sanitizer – for keeping your hands fresh for handshakes.
  • Tide-to-go, or similar.
  • A briefcase/large purse.
  • Flat shoes – if you’re opting for heels make sure you give your feet a break by hiding flats in your bag for when you’re running between offices.
  • Snacks – bananas, granola bars. You will get hungry, and you probably won’t have time to stop for lunch.
  • Water
  • Lip balm
  • Band-Aids – try to break in your shoes ahead of time, but keep these handy just in case. o Tissues
  • Deodorant – it’s a loooong day.
  • Phone charger – If you’re unfamiliar with Toronto, GPS is super helpful. You’ll also want to stay on top of your emails throughout the day.
  • A small mirror – very useful for making sure you don’t have any food in your teeth from lunch.
  • Floss – see above.